Underrated Series – Part 7

Welcome to the latest edition of our new weekly blog series, The Underrated Series. Each week, we will highlight an important, often underrated component of marketing success.

Last week’s underrated topic was brand recognition.

What are we underrating this week? Customer Service.

I’m sick of hearing from marketers and other business “experts” that customer service and marketing are two different things.

Of course they are. I’ve never said otherwise.

BUT…and this is key…they are more connected than ever before. And so, as marketers, you are more than likely underrating the effect that customer service is having on your efforts.

Why? Because it’s your job to make promises on behalf of your product and organization. Maybe those promises are true, maybe they’re exaggerations. Regardless of what those promises are, ultimately it is not your job to deliver on those promises.

The product must deliver. The salespeople must deliver. And customer service must deliver.

Customer service matters because it’s done in public. When someone has a question, they may call and speak to someone individually. Or they may post about it on social media. Or they may submit it on a public forum. When someone has a bad experience, they may give you a negative review. They may tell their friends not to purchase from you.

Customer service is there to prevent this, as much as possible. They are on the front lines, protecting your business from negative reviews and word of mouth. The best marketing campaign in the world can’t overcome a firestorm of negative press.

So, marketers, learn to work with your customer service teams. Help them understand their role, as it relates to the messages you’re putting out into the world. Seek their feedback on marketing messages and find out what customers are actually saying.

Getting on the same page with your customer service team and developing that relationship can be the key to keeping the promises you make to consumers.

Have something you think deserves more attention? Send us your suggestions for the Underrated Series using the comments below or submit them here.

How to Handle Customer Service on Social Media

Customer service on social media is not for everyone. There are pros and cons that each company must actively weigh before making the decision.


  • It’s public facing, so good customer support will be rewarded, acting almost like marketing
  • It’s where many customers want customer service, so you’d be catering to them


  • It’s public facing, so bad customer support will be visible for the whole world to see
  • It requires a slightly unique skill set to that of a more traditional phone-based or email service rep
  • It is one more channel to keep track of and monitor, if you’re using social media in addition to phone support, email, live chat on your website, in store service, etc.

The world, in many ways, is much more complicated than it used to be for businesses. Customers will air your dirty laundry on social media regardless of whether or not you choose to actively engage with them there. So most companies see the need to take care of certain customer service issues publicly.

The ones that do it well are rewarded with higher customer service ratings and more positive reviews. But if your company makes that decision, you have to do it with 100% confidence that your team has the tools and skills necessary to do it right.

A half-hearted effort at customer service, when done in such a public forum, will have negative effects. It will be worse than just letting customers complain without a response. Because when you have unhappy customers, and you can’t give them the answers or solutions they need, all you will do is compound the problem and look incompetent in front of thousands or millions of potential customers.

If you do choose to handle customer service on social media, aim to:

  • Delight
  • Excite
  • Offer compassion
  • Turn negative experiences into positive ones
  • Make customer service a key component in your branding efforts
  • Train the very best customer service reps and give them the freedom to make decisions that keep customers happy

Top Customer Service Mistakes

For those who don’t see the connection between customer service and marketing, I ask that you broaden the way you think about marketing. A marketer’s objective is to tell a story, to connect that story both to the brand and products he represents as well as the target market of consumers. The goal is to reach consumers, get them interested, bring them to the door, and sell to them.

For many, it ends there. But I would argue that one of the most important jobs a marketer has is to make sure that story they are telling is true. When customers’ experiences don’t match up with what they expected, they’re not going to be happy. They’re not going to purchase from you again. And they might even ask for a refund.

Customer service is an extension of marketing because it’s a direct point of contact between the company and the customer. It is a continuation of the story marketers are telling.

Here are the top 7 customer service mistakes a company can make:

  1. Not Training Properly – customer service agents need to know the ins and outs of everything you sell. They need to know the answer to every question before it gets asked, or at least who to go to when they don’t know the answer. And as marketing and product teams make changes, those changes need to be communicated to customer service teams quickly and effectively.
  2. Not Making Yourself Available – there’s nothing worse than not being able to reach a customer service rep when you need one. Phones, emails, social media, live chat, and in store, it’s critical that your customer service teams are accessible nearly 24/7. If that’s not possible, at least create a way for customers to reach out and then be sure to get back to them as soon as possible.
  3. Not Enough Technology – the right technology makes a customer service agent’s job easier by giving them easy access to product information, customer records, and the tools they need to respond to complaints.
  4. Not Giving an Inch – customer service teams need to have some flexibility in how they respond to customers. Company policies are fine, but leeway is needed to solve customer problems before they turn into larger complaints and negative reviews.
  5. Not Making the Customer Happy – continuing from #4 above, a customer service rep should do whatever it takes to create happy customers. Sometimes this can be in the form of a discount or refund of some kind. Other times it may be a replacement, or some other “make good”. Customer service can sometimes seem more like counseling, and it should be the goal of service teams to turn angry or upset customers into happy ones if they can, no matter what it takes.
  6. Not Acknowledging Your Flaws – let’s be honest, the customer is not always right. But neither is your company. Mistakes are made, and no product is perfect. Customer service teams need to know the most common complaints or issues they’re going to deal with and have a solution when they hear them. And they need to be able to voice those concerns back to other departments in the organization to affect positive changes.
  7. Not Following Up – you may not be able to solve every problem on the first try. Follow up is a critical part of customer service. When you say you’re going to find out the answer to a question, do it. When you say you’re going to ship out a replacement, make sure they get it. Show the customer you care not just by answering the phone, but by following up to make sure they are better off after you do.

Avoid these mistakes and you will make customers happier. You’ll be more likely to turn them into a loyal customer and advocate, and you’ll avoid the negative reviews that can crush a business in today’s social-driven world.

Break the Rules – Part 6

Welcome to the latest edition of our brand new weekly series, Break the Rules. Each week our plan is to highlight something you will have heard from some marketing expert as a best practice to be disobeyed at your peril. And we’ll tell you why it’s a rule you should break.

Last week’s rule was Use Social Media.

This week’s rule = Do Anything for the Sale

Your customers are your lifeline. They put money in your bank and food in your mouth. So they’re always right, right?

That’s what many people will tell you. They’ll tell you to bend over backwards for your customers. They’ll tell you to do anything for the sale.

Well I’m telling you today that they are definitively wrong.

Do I think your goal should always be more sales? Of course. I would be a pretty crappy businessperson if I wasn’t interested in growing your business.

But some of the most successful companies are the ones that have found the ability to identify good customers and bad customers. The bad customers are the ones that will cost you more time and more energy for less money. The good customers are the ones that are easier to service, that spend more money, that are happy with what your company provides them.

We all know bad customers. Some of us might even be bad customers of other companies.

Bad customers haggle on price every chance they get. Bad customers spend hours on the phone with your sales reps or customer service teams. Bad customers ask for refunds for no reason. Bad customers threaten negative reviews and BBB complaints to get what they want.

I don’t believe the customer is always right. And I recommend creating a team that is able and willing to identify these potential issues in customers and turning them away. Set firm policies on discounts and refunds. Don’t break them unless you absolutely have to.

Think about the money you save by wasting less time with bad customers, or the money you could make by instead focusing that time on other activities. Stay eager to please your customers, just know that you won’t please them all.

Have a “rule” you think we should write about? Share it with us in the comments below or post it to Twitter @zheller using #marketingrules

3 Steps to a Better Relationship with Your Customers


For any brand, it’s important to keep customers happy. In today’s world of digital connectivity, an unhappy customer can do more damage than ever before. But at the same time, a happy customer can help you grow faster, by spreading the word and referring many more customers to you.

Too often, customer satisfaction is something no one wants to deal with. If customers are not happy, we blame poor service. If customers are happy, we credit amazing products.

Customer happiness needs to be at the top of everyone’s priority list, no matter what department you’re in. And it’s up to top management to build a culture based around the customer’s happiness.

Here are three steps any company can take to create a better relationship with customers:

1.       Answer their questions.

When they call, pick up. When they email, respond. When they walk in, greet them and see what they’re looking for. When calls and emails go unanswered, when questions get lost in the shuffle, people get irritated. When a customer spends time and money on your products, they expect you to be there if they need you.

2.       Ask them what they want?

Include your customers in future decisions. You can do this with surveys about new products or features. You can talk to your customers in stores and online and ask them for suggestions. You can find out what your competitors are doing that you’re not, and begin to learn more about what your customer is looking for from you.

3.       Ask them what they thought?

Don’t let a purchase be the last interaction your customers have with you. Follow up with them to make sure they got what they expected. See if there is anything else that they need from you. Find out if they have any questions you can answer proactively. This gives you a chance to establish your brand as caring and customer focused, and you can solve any potential problems before they arise.

Not hard, right? These are three simple things any company can implement. But it’s a culture that focuses energies and efforts onto the customer that is needed before change can truly be made to stick.