Why Marketers Suck At Customer Service (And 3 Ways To Improve)

The truth isn't pretty – but it is time we owned up to it. Most people who work in marketing would make terrible customer service people. Our job, inherently, is to influence consumers in some way to take an action that positively impacts our company. We want them to buy from us, or talk about our products, or join our newsletters. Even when marketing is more of a dialogue and offers a great authentic conversation – the function is still not the same as great customer service.

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Customer care, as I'm frequently reminded anytime I participate in an event with SOCAP, the Global Community of Relationship Experts. Today at the SOCAP annual convention, I interviewed Craig Newmark from Craigslist and then moderated a panel with Bryan Rhoads from Intel, Frank Eliason from Citi (formerly Comcast) and Helen Horsham-Bertels from Starwood Hotels. Our topics ranged from how Craigslist creates a unique focus on customer care led by their introverted Founder to what the future of customer care in a social media world may be.

Through the discussion, we touched on the frequent tension between marketing and customer care as opposing forces – and Helen shared an interesting insight about social media … that it may be the bridge that starts to finally bring the functions of marketing and customer care closer together. Hardly anyone would dispute that providing great customer care also results in excellent marketing and PR. The experience customers have with your brand when they have a question or issue can fundamentally shape their perceptions in the long term.

For marketers for whom this world has gotten much closer as a result of social media, here are a few lessons that I learned during our discussions today that may help all of us get better at customer care:

  1. Focus on resolution. In the customer care world, most organizations use a very tangible structure for understanding and resolving customer questions and problems. Their entire goal is resolution, and NOT conversion. Facts don't really matter, what matters is that a customer wants to feel heard and is ultimately looking for some type of resolution and your job is to find one that works for them but is also fair to your company.
  2. Bring in the experts. There are people paid in most companies to address customer issues and many problems occur when members of a marketing team find these issues online and then try to address them on their own. A necessity for your team is to understand what the escalation process is and get better about passing along issues and questions that you find to the appropriate team member. Not only are they paid to do it, but they probably have more tools and skills at their disposal to do a better job at it than you could.
  3. Have more empathy. One of the most telling moments for me was when I sat down to lunch a bit late with 8 people at a round table, most of whom had already finished their lunch. More than half of them, without even knowing who I was, instantly looked around for the waiter to let him know that I had sat down and needed food. Showing empathy is just part of the personality of a good customer care person, and is a skill that you can easily perform a marketing role without. We need to have more of it.

For more, see my related post: 5 Things Customer Care Teams Wish Marketers Did Differently

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