My last post here generated some great conversations with readers, especially among people who wanted to go deeper into the concept of marketing-as-service and how to make that happen even while you’re dealing with the realities of business life.
This recurring conversation centered on one key point: Service is something we marketers have to have at the core of our lives, professional practice and skill sets. It should be the first thing you pull out of your marketing toolbox.
What I also heard from marketers boiled down to this question: “I get that, but how do I get in touch with the service component at my company? I don’t know where to start because everybody is going off in different directions.”
That’s a great point. You begin by looking at your company and thinking about everybody who has a hand in serving your customers. It begins at the top with your CEO, your founders, your CMO, then looks at your web and customer support team, other people in marketing and sales and anyone else in your company who comes into direct contact with your customers.
I’m always telling marketers to invest a couple of hours a week in themselves to become smarter marketers. You also can apply this rule to focus on the service component of your job and your customers, too. Invest in your customer base in the same way you want them to invest in your company, whether it’s monetarily or by giving you their primary email address so you have the most dependable way to contact and identify them.
With that objective in mind, here are three easy ways to connect with the service component within your company:
1. Talk to your customer service reps.
When was the last time you sat in with people in your customer service or support department? Maybe you had a short training session when you started at your company, or you served a rotation as a marketing executive where you sat and listened in on the phone.
Your customer service/support group is your primary way to get in touch with your end users, whether you market on the B2B or B2C side. They are on the front lines with your customers every day, and they probably know them better than almost anyone else in your company.
B2B marketers: Sit in with your account execs. It’s an invaluable resource to hear what your customers want, to learn first-hand about their struggles, frustrations and questions.
B2C marketers: Put on a headset and listen to calls. You don’t have to field questions or problems yourself, but you should listen to the interaction – what’s bothering your customers, how they express their questions or frustrations and how your call-center staff people manage solutions and speak to customers.
If you’re truly in that service mindset, where you’re homing in on the age of the customer ideals, then you’ll walk away with two or three programs that you can launch via email to resolve questions.
As a marketer, part of your job is to help reduce call volume from your customer service reps. Finding ways to address issues is one way to achieve that.
Begin by asking your CS people this question: “What are your 10 most regular questions?” These are questions or issues that they can answer in their sleep without having to look at scripts or talking points.
Once you pull a list together, think about how you can solve for them. Can you answer those questions in a transactional message? Develop a trigger that sends a helpful email whenever someone meets a condition?
See if you can collect enough data to help you predict questions, then create content (emails, FAQs, etc.) to address them. This could be as easy as looking at your browse remarketing program and assigning it to a page that’s focused on customer service.
Listening to your customers through your call center (or reviewing bot or online contacts) is essential for heightening the service component of your messaging.
2. Talk to sales.
First, you learned more about your customers when they had questions, problems or complaints. Now it’s time to learn about the people who aren’t your customers yet.
B2B marketers: The best people to help you out are your sales reps. Don’t just chat with your VP of sales, though. Your top sales executives are important, but their status makes it hard for you to get close to the customers.
Like your customer-service people, your sales reps are your front-line troops. Ask them questions like the ones you posed to your CS people: “What are the top 10 questions you get from prospects? What are the top themes you hear? What are the top objections that keep people from doing business with us?”
If you’re in the right service mindset, you’ll come up with automation programs that speak to these objectives, reflect themes or answer questions. You might be able to address them in an onboarding or welcome program or in dedicated emails.
Later on, you can go back to your sales reps and see if these questions keep coming up.
B2C marketers: Talk to your web team – the people who are in charge of developing your site and analyzing the results.
If you have physical locations, head out to one or more. Walk around, and watch people as they shop. Talk to the manager and employees and find out what they see as the demographics of your company, what people ask about and what they say when they return purchases.
Talking to the people who sell to your customers will help you understand better how to craft your message. As an example, you might learn ways to use headlines, images, product descriptions and disclaimers more effectively.
3. Talk to your customers.
No, I’m not telling you to set up a focus group. Focus groups are expensive and tricky to set up. You have to structure them correctly to be sure your participants tell you what you need to know instead of what they think you want to hear.
Instead, pull a panel together from the people who have bought from you, such as customers in your loyalty group or shoppers in your local stores. Then, meet with them in person several times over a year or longer so that you get to know and trust each other. A panel like this will deliver richer, less structured information than you can get from a focus group or survey.
This isn’t as much a focus group so much as a gateway for customers to talk to you openly during the lifecycle and an idea lab for testing out ideas. For you to bounce ideas off of. They’re not the end all and be all of your decision process, but can provide insight and opinion on your terms.
Find the time, it’s there
Over the last couple of columns, I’ve asked you to do more in your job than you think you have time for. Marketer after marketer tells me they don’t have enough time, resources or money.
I get it. I’ve been there on the front lines. I’ve run and consulted for massive email operations for major retailers with brick-and-mortar locations.
The noise of the day permeates all that we do. We get into a monotonous cycle of spinning stuff out because the goal is doing a job instead of elevating a channel.
But, think a moment about what I want you to do. It’s a low-threshold ask, just an hour a month or week. It’s there if you look for it.
On average, people spend about four or five hours a day on the work they’re actually paid to do. The time is there if you look for it. And, it’s important. You don’t need a statistic or a motivational quote to justify spending that time.
Finding better ways to serve your customers is enough of a reason to make the time.
I can tell you from my own experience in real life that it’s worth it. It works. And it will make you a better, smarter marketer.
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