Back when I began my career in my marketing, my first job was with a furniture manufacturing company. The corporate office was set up like this: The “Executive Offices” consisted of the Marketing department, Sales, HR and Accounting. That was the front of the building. The “back” of the building consisted of shipping & receiving, the manufacturing plant and, oh yeah, customer service. To my 21 year-old mind, Customer Service looked unimportant. And I wonder now if that’s the way the company felt, too. It sure looked like it.
Things have certainly changed since the early 90s. But one thing the C/S dept. has always known better than most was how to listen to their customers.
Oil and Water
When I moved to the agency side of the industry just a few years later, I began sitting in meetings with clients (we typically met with a brand’s marketing department). The recurring problem among most of our clients was that the marketing and sales departments disagreed. They had different agendas, different objectives, and different ideas of how to make their business succeed. I learned quickly how to bring the two departments together, listen to both sides, encourage collaboration, and create programs that met shared objectives.
Social platforms allow every department the opportunity to listen to what’s being said, shared and asked.
Content is King
These days, when I meet with clients to discuss building a social media presence, and creating a blog for their brand, one of the first things we talk about is how to create content for that blog. My first recommendation is always to talk to the customer service department. What questions do customers call in with? What complaints do they have? What are they most interested in? Who are they?
We’ve got to put Customer Service higher up on the priority list. And not just customer service as a verb, but as a noun. The department – the people who work in C/S should know how important they are. Some best practices for getting the most out of it:
- Make a note of common questions and problems your customer service department handles. These are the topics you should be writing about on your blog and sharing via social channels! This is where your SEO comes from! This is what your customers are typing in Google’s search engine!
- Keep a white board where customer service folks can write down words and phrases they hear over and over. These are your KEYWORDS folks!
- Hold weekly brainstorm sessions. Bring together your C/S folks, your marketing dept., even your accounting department, to discuss issues, concerns and ideas.
Customer Service holds the key in today’s business environment.
Several years ago, I wrote a blog post about how the idea of a Community Manager was evolving into that of a Communications Executive. I stand by that idea. Just a couple years later, those titles are changing again. But regardless of what you call it… Digital Marketing, Social Media, Engagement marketing… it’s all the same. It’s a brand speaking – and more importantly, listening – with one voice across all channels.
And because every department, each person, has the potential to listen – and speak to your customers every day, here’s another very important Best Practice: Hire Well. The one thing every employee should have in common is the desire to see the company succeed, the ability to work towards a shared goal – the goal of making customers happy. We are in an age of transparency. Inside sales, outside sales, customer service, marketing, creative… Every person you hire will have different qualifications for her specific position or department, but one thing they must have in common is the ability to listen, to respond kindly, and to have a PMA (positive mental attitude). Are they engaged? Excited even?
Your company can’t afford to have a disengaged customer service rep, to share content customers aren’t interested in, or suffer bad reviews. Your audience is vast, they’re highly engaged and their listening. They can’t wait to talk about you – good or bad. Which side do you want to be on?
Tapping into your customer service department’s knowledge base is one of the best ways to find blog topics and learn which keywords and hashtags to use on your social platforms. Your blog should be the go-to resource for your customers (and potential customers). Not sure how to get started? Let’s connect and create something fantastic!