Customer service is the new marketing

With the advent of the internet as a medium and purchase location, has come the advent of customer service as perhaps the most meaningful component of your online marketing plan. Yes, online marketing plan.

Agencies everywhere are cringing at this notion. Won’t a fancy campaign work. Sure a fancy campaign will work — that might help create brand awareness or even brand “illusion.” But if you’re message speaks to anything involving a service or product (so I’m excluding media marketing here–band,etc.), then you better back that up on your Web site.

The Web site of a brand has created the intersection of a few things to poise customer service as a springboard of effective brand presence:

1) The web site is always up: I can always visit it for information, an FAQ, or troubleshooting. Will my child be allergic to this product? Are batteries included? What are the details of the sale?

2) It’s exceedingly easier to communicate en masse or per individual online

3) Real time feedback

Want to learn about why your customers aren’t buying your product, ask them! Want to know what three components to vary in your multivariate test, get some feedback. Want to help prioritize which features you should be in your next rollout, take a poll.

Mind you, this feedback needs to be carefully sorted and marketed around. Engage your customers in terms of useful feature sets and major news, not around, “should the site have a blue background?”

With initiation of a conversation with your audience, this provides real feedback from real people and perhaps more importantly invests those same people in the brand. eBay did this the toon of a top 5 company. Sure their sellers are not always happy with every decision, but they feel heard and a part of the success or failures.

In the age of choice online, making customer service extremely personable should be a first step in product development and should be integrated into a marketing plan. You and I as online marketers can always look at all the data in the world. We can investigate which profile of users from what distribution point are dropping of the site. But we can also do more than just theorize on why people are doing this; we can do more than investigate the value propositions on the sites they exited to.

We can ask them. And engaged consumers are usually eager to share. Engaged customers adopt a brand and increase brand value.

If you’re agency doesn’t have a strategy here, I would encourage you to push them on it.

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