Customer Service is the New, New Marketing.
The topic of empowering your customers so that they become an extension of your marketing isn’t new. Transforming people into a surrogate sales force is the dream of any service organization. The difference today is that the landscape has shifted to the point where good customer service is no longer the minimum ante to play the game. Over the next year, customer service will fuse with marketing to become a holistic inbound, outbound campaign of listening to and engaging with customers that will rewrite the rules of the game. And, most importantly, the lessons learned in the field will be fed into the marketing department to create and run more intelligent, experienced, and real world initiatives across all forms of marketing, PR, sales, and advertising.
Over the last year, Social Media has intrigued and even inspired companies to engage in the communities where their brands and products, as well those of competitors, are actively discussed by the very people they want to reach, the new influencers. Participation is no longer an option as Social Media isn’t a spectator sport. Whether you believe it or not, these conversations are taking place with or without you, so ignoring them only eliminates you from the conversation and also removes your company from the radar screens of your customers.
Marketing-corporate executives are working with PR, Advertising, to explore options and strategies on how to participate in relevant online conversations. This represents a shift in outbound marketing as it creates a direct channel between companies and customers, and ultimately people. It starts to look a lot less like marketing and a lot more like customer service.
Last year, I introduced customer service into the Social Media equation. As for every company, PR is truly is the responsibility of the entire organization. But it’s much bigger than boxing it in a PR paradigm. I truly believe customer service is the new marketing and communities are at the very least, opportunities to engage customer service.
Social Media is rooted in conversations between people and peers, regardless of the technology that facilitates them, and everyday they take place across blogs, networks, forums, micromedia, and online groups. And, each day, with every new community and social tool that is introduced, brands, products and services are actively discussed, supported, and disassembled. Some companies are listening, while many aren’t even paying attention.
Services such as Satisfaction, ThisNext, and even communities such as Ning, Yahoo and Google Groups, and Facebook are playing host to conversations between customers regarding products and services, and while they don’t invite marketing, they do seek helpful information, advice, and direction.