Customer Service Into A Conduit For Sales And Marketing
By Geoff Sherman, Quaero Corp.
Every industry is experiencing the increasing commoditization of its
products due to limited product differentiation. In our technological age,
speed to market is an understatement. As a result, it is difficult for
companies to stand out among competitors that are offering similar
products or services. We know that organizations with brand recognition
and superb customer service are able to differentiate themselves; however,
most focus on customer service as a business unit, rather than as a new
marketing channel for promotion. Looking at the problem from a channel
perspective rather than a business unit perspective allows a company to
leverage more effective customer service and provide a consistent brand
image throughout the sales cycle.
This article will focus on tactics to bring customer service into the
forefront as a viable marketing channel. While it is acknowledged that
fundamental differences between industries on the definition and
implementation of customer service exist, the intent of this writing is to
provide universal guidelines needed to begin ' regardless of customer
Channel Development Guidelines
Map the customer experience. The first step in the customer service
channel development process is to develop a cross-functional customer
experience map, enabling you to understand touch points between the
customer and your organization, as well as the opportunities available to
enhance your brand image and reinforce marketing messages to your
customers. Customer experience mapping can be a time- and labor-intensive
activity, depending on the amount of depth identified. However, it results
in incremental and value-added marketing opportunities based on the
specific touch point interaction.
Define the customer service marketing strategy. After customer service
touch points are identified, the next step is to strategize marketing. The
development of this strategy should include representatives from sales,
marketing, customer service and strategic planning. Each of these groups
will provide a unique customer perspective that should be taken into
account throughout the planning process.
Measurement of success. The next step in the creation of customer
service as a marketing channel is to identify the appropriate measurements
of success. One of the key elements in marketing is the ability to measure
performance. As the other marketing channels are being measured on the
basis of profit, loss, revenue and other quantifiable numbers, so should
the customer service channel be. The exact measures your organization
employs is dependent on industry and implementation factors; however,
there needs to be an appropriate balance of customer service channel
leveraging for incremental marketing opportunities and execution of the
Regardless of the measure, certain best practices should be followed:
- Benchmarks for each measure should be identified;
- Measures should be quantifiable and tied to strategic objectives and
- Metrics should have common definitions across departments;
- Metrics should be constantly evaluated for relevancy; and
- Metrics used upon implementation will evolve once the process has
After the target touch points have been identified and the defined
measures are in place, it is time to review the processes needed in
support of each of the customer service touch points. The Six Sigma
concept of SIPOC (Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs and Customer)
provides an excellent framework to support process re-engineering, by
which the focus is on the customer and on the quality delivery.
The process alignment (and in some cases re-engineering) effort should
include members of customer service and marketing functions, as each group
will be affected by the changes and may have ideas on how to best
implement needed changes. If possible, an organization should try to
present some of the scenarios of how the future process might work in a
customer service interaction. This hypothetical allows capturing necessary
feedback. Customer input of process design allows for testing prior to
rollout, accounting for potential problems and ways to proactively address
those potential problems.
Training Customer Service Representatives
Perhaps the most important step in this entire process lies in the
training of the customer service personnel who will be interacting with
customers. Without the personnel's understanding and buy-in, the
customer service channel will not be successful. The focus of this
training should be on the process and identification of business rules
that would trigger the marketing message presentment. Technology training
among customer service personnel will help to support the business rules
that are being executed.
In order to maximize the effectiveness of the training, consider the
- Avoid outsource training, and adhere to existing organizational
culture and procedures;
- Use role-playing to help employees understand how to handle specific
- View training as an ongoing activity rather than the 'one and
One of the often overlooked factors of a change in business strategy is
having the right information available to guide decisions. This is
especially true with marketing and its impact on customer service.
Determine which marketing messages resonate most successfully within a
given customer segment, and ensure that the right customer data are being
captured and understood.
To support this effort, an organization must define its customer
knowledge strategies and segmentation capabilities. Creating a common
customer profile is the basis for a universal understanding of a given
customer and is a consistent approach to customer treatment across service
channels. Within larger organizations, different groups often have
different customer profiles that are important to them. Defining the key
customer data elements for a universal customer profile ensures that
everyone who interacts with the customer has the best information
available in order to offer the right marketing messages and provide for
an overall consistent customer experience. Furthermore, this can help
guide a data quality review, critical to providing the marketing
department with the analytics for ongoing decision-making.
Analytics support the measurement capability to track the success of a
specific marketing effort through customer service. Additionally,
analytics can offer an opportunity to measure organizational effectiveness
and degrees of alignment between compensation and resources.
Technologies In Place
Once your organization has defined the new business model for customer
service, it is important to provide the best technology for the customer
service efforts. The key technologies for consideration ' again, these
widely vary based on the strategy chosen ' are typically an integrated
campaign management application and analytics.
Integrated campaign management refers to the integration between the
marketing department's campaign planning application and the customer
service application to allow for campaign execution. An important focus
within this application is the right messaging trigger to be disseminated
at the right point during the customer conversation. Whether an offer is
being presented or a particular marketing message is given at the end of a
call, proper timing is a must.
Pulling It All Together
A mature customer service organization encompasses the aforementioned
channel guidelines and is characterized by a solid foundation of alignment
with the company's strategic direction. Exhibiting industry best
practices on customer service and strong, centralized leadership are both
equally important for a thorough understanding of the business unit's
strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of the company as a whole.
Adopting a customer service channel requires commitment of the senior
leadership within the company to support and sponsor the initiatives
needed to make it successful. This sponsorship needs to encompass leaders
from across the company because of its inherent cross-functional nature.
This article has laid out the foundational constructs needed to
transform reactive customer service into a proactive marketing channel.
Organizations can ensure all facets of the channel transformation are
considered by viewing the process with these guidelines. The monetary
costs for this transformation are relatively low, considering that within
most companies the necessary resources (people and technology) are already
in place. Coupled with an opportunity to increase revenue during each
service contact, the potential for significant ROI is high and should be
Quaero's Geoff Sherman is an experienced consultant in the areas of
customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing effectiveness. His
business, as well as his functional experience in sales, marketing and
customer service, has allowed him to deliver over a dozen CRM
implementations across the consumer products, financial services,
pharmaceutical and telecommunications industries. Quaero helps companies enhance marketing
effectiveness through a unique combination of innovative ideas, best
practices and proven technologies. Geoff can be reached at [email protected].
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