Customer Service Is the New Marketing … Or Is It?


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In the high-touch, customer experience-driven world we increasingly live in, excellent post-sale-contacts are important. That’s customer service to normal folks. As I pointed out in a recent post on Marketers Are From Mars, Customers Are From Venus, customers expect excellent customer service, indeed, they believe they have already paid for it when buy a product. And if the strongest repurchase intentions are developed during the usage of a product, it stands to reason that rotten customer service is all the reason most customers need to defect. Plenty of research bears out this somewhat obvious conclusion.

In many ways, customer service is the new marketing, particularly with experience-rich products. A recent conference held in San Francisco in February explored this topic further. One of the most interesting things to come out of the conference was a Company-Customer Pact. The pact sets out five responsibilities that both companies and customers share. For example, the first responsibility for companies reads: “Be human. Use a respectful, conversational voice, avoid scripts and never use corporate doublespeak”. The same responsibility for customers reads: “Be understanding. Show the respect and kindness to company reps as you would like shown to you”. Over 150 people have already signed-up to the pact, although I didn’t spot any names from big corporations when I glanced through it.

And there’s the problem. Pacts like the one created by the conference are useless unless big corporations recognise that customer service is the new marketing. Recent events suggest that they do not. For example, Verizon are in the news this week because call centre staff in Florida are striking about customer-unfriendly processes. That’s right customer service staff are demonstrating on behalf of customers! You can understand their frustration. It is a classical example of the boundary spanning problem, whereby front-line staff have to span the boundary between what management wants (lower costs and more sales through service) and what customers want (better service and help when they need it). Life can be pretty tough for front-line staff who have to play piggy in the middle in what is essentially a zero-sum game.

What do you think? Is customer service the new marketing? Or is it all just hot air while corporations view customer service as an unnecessary cost?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager

Further research:

Marketers Are From Mars, Customers Are From Venus blog

Customer Service is the New Marketing conference

The Company-Customer Pact

Verizon Staff Demonstrate on Behalf of Customers

Graham Hill (Dr G)
Business Troubleshooter | Questioning | Thoughtful | Industrious | Opinions my own | Connect with me on LinkedIn


  1. Graham, I hope you are right that businesses will truly do more than say they give good customer service as has been the norm for many years.

    First off, customer service does not start after the sale is made. Good customer service starts the moment a prospective customer comes in contact with the business via any means – agents, eMail, web site visits, telephone calls, fax inquiries or meeting both management and employees at non-business events.

    If good customer service is really a new marketing program, it will cal for businesses to make many changes in what they are doing . . . changes that will cost a lot of money and, until prospective, current and past customers see that the firm is doing more than what has been the accepted norm has been by 90% of all companies, the return on the investment in making these changes may not come as soon as they would like,.

    It means getting rid of the Press 1, Press 2 barriers that take up customers, especially prospective customers, time which causes frustration. It means letting everyone in the business, from top to bottom, what the firm is advertising and doing that is new and different. It will mean that everyone, no matter what their job description is, know that when there is any interest shown by anyone, the anyone’s questions or interest has to be fed back to the proper persons. It means redoing all printed materials from brochures to documentation so that even those not familiar with what the business does or sell, can talk with intelligence about what the firm does with those that may know even less. It means redesigning web sites that are more “first-time visitor” friendly. If such changes withing the firm are not made, then all the costs, time and effort to make customer service a new marketing strategy, it may cause a more negative result than wanted.

    The question that came up as I was reading and rereading your article was, “will management really buy into this new marketing strategy?”

    I hope you are right and I am wrong.

    Thanks for the thought provoking topic.

    Alan J. Zell, Ambassador Of Selling, Attitudes for Selling
    [email protected]
    Awarded the 1992 Murray Award for Marketing Excellence
    Member, PNW Sales & Marketing Group
    Member, Institute of Management Consultants
    Member, International Speakers Network

    You are invited to read about good customers service
    in the business articles at http://www.sellingselling .com


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