Earlier this week I had the chance to present at one of the largest annual meetings of customer care professionals in the world, the SOCAP International Symposium. SOCAP stands for the Society of Customer Care Professionals, and among other things, its members include the folks in charge of running call centers, managing customer response teams and sometimes branching into running loyalty programs as well. If marketing is all about the outward appearance of a brand and perception, then customer care (more than any other group) is focused on the reality of what your brand actually is.
This battle between perception and reality, interestingly, is where the divide between customer care and marketing usually arises. The larger the company, the more divorced these two disciplines seem to be – often only meeting at the last stages of planning a marketing campaign to finally discuss coordinating. Not surprisingly, a key theme I quickly saw during the SOCAP event was that the communication between marketing and customer care needs to get stronger across the board. In particular, there were 5 themes that emerged for me (as a marketer) that define what customer care people would love to see from us more frequently:
- Involve customer care in strategic planning. This request could just as easily come from any other area of a business, but knowing the direction earlier that marketing and branding teams will be taking can dramatically help customer care professionals to manage current customers and even contribute to amplifying a marketing effort once it does hit the market.
- Proactively escalate and share issues. The thing many marketing teams fear most is negativity of any sort. If you are in the pharma space, this means adverse events. In a consumer space, it might be a negative experience that potentially could lead to a recall. Most customer care teams, however, have very specific processes for dealing with these issues and quite frankly are a lot better at it than any marketing team could ever be. Contrary to what many marketing teams think, the customer care team wants to know about negative experiences as early as possible. Hiding or ignoring them simply makes the customer care team's job that much harder once they actually do need to deal with it.
- Encourage marketing staff to take customer care training. This is already happening in some organizations, but it was cited more than once as an important part of helping marketing teams to understand how to deal with consumers in a positive or negative situation. Some companies already have this process in place, but for others who are considering it, it can be a great way to make sure that the marketing plans and efforts are informed by some real level of understanding of how consumers actually behave and what they really think.
- Expand customer care lessons to third party agencies. As a marketer who works for an agency, I appreciated this point most of all … and it is about making sure that any brand extends their learning and policies when it comes to dealing with consumers to the third party marketing agencies and vendors who might be acting on their behalf. This is particularly important because increasingly people are just assuming that anyone who they might interact with during a marketing effort works for a brand – agency or not, so everyone needs to be following the same guidelines and ideals.
- Ask for (and listen to) customer care insights & trends. For all the money that marketers spend on consumer research, surveys and focus groups designed to help them understand their consumers, there is no better place to start than by understanding what your current customers who are already contacting you think. And the people they currently speak to are the customer care team. Before your head off with your newly approved marketing research budget in hand, make sure you are leveraging and paying attention to what your customer care team already knows (and would love to share with you).
NOTE: This post was originally published on the 360 Digital Influence team blog.