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Customer Service Is Your CMO's Blind Spot

Three Areas Where CMOs Are Falling Short With Customer Service

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Your marketing team has planned a blowout launch party. You've shot glossy product photos and unveiled an awesome ad campaign. Your website is open for business.

But after all this hard work, does your CMO know what it's truly like to be a customer of your company? Does the CMO know the concerns your customers are voicing directly to the customer service department on a daily basis? Does she know what your packages look like when they arrive at the customer's door?

Many CMOs and marketing leaders don't have direct knowledge of how service is being delivered to the customer, and they possess a significant lack of understanding of how the brand message they've painstakingly crafted is translating to customers in their everyday interactions.

In today's fast-moving digital era of instant gratification and expectation, the idea that a marketer does not have a thorough knowledge of how the brand experience is being delivered to customers is unacceptable. Here are three common areas where marketers often fall short, and how to turn them around.

1. Fragmentation

I've attended meetings where the CMO introduces herself to the head of customer service for the first time. Your leads in these areas need to work together (or at the very least know one another) to keep their counterparts abreast of major projects or concerns from their departments. Customer service is a huge part of marketing, so it should not be shuffled into some forlorn corner of human resources. By keeping your teams completely separate, you're missing insights important to the brand and business operations.

An example? Lululemon's see-through leggings fiasco last spring. The deluge of customer complaints and returns meant marketing -- and other teams involved in crisis communication -- needed to be in close collaboration with the contact center delivering its messaging to customers.

Similarly, when Target's security was breached, its marketing team was ill equipped to deal with public demand for answers and the team had to turn to crisis PR instead of proactive marketing. Companies should be prepared to move at the first sign of a problem or at the first complaint from their customers. This especially goes for companies working in ecommerce, where all transactions occur online.

2. Brand Consistency

It's essential that your marketing and customer service efforts match up in order to maintain your brand's consistency and integrity. One company that does this well is Ralph Lauren. When you receive an order from Ralph Lauren it arrives in a box with the company's logo printed inside the box, the item is securely wrapped in brown paper and a thank you card is neatly placed so that it's the first thing the customer sees when she opens the box. Nearly every order is identical, showing that the efforts of the team responsible for branding have been effectively transferred to order fulfillment.

Zappos also does a great job of making sure that its front-line employees know the brand inside and out right from the start. The company wholly revolves around excellent customer service. In fact, its CEO has referred to Zappos as a "customer service company that just happens to sell shoes."

When hired at Zappos, each employee must spend at least two weeks in the call center in order to ensure that everyone at the company understands the needs of its customers, regardless of what the person is being hired to do. It's that type of commitment to service that results in consistent answers when you call the company -- whether the customer is asking for information on return policy or rainboots.

3. Advertising

Delivering a message of great service is incredibly impactful, and more and more companies are beginning to realize its value. J.Crew recently created a bold advertising campaign when it took out a full page ad to alert loyal consumers that it had brought back a discontinued swimsuit. This campaign showed that the company is prepared to take direct action when a customer comes to them with a good idea. Its customers are now left with the feeling that J.Crew company is listening to them and is acutely tuned in to their preferences.

These three areas are often the most important and the most overlooked touch points where marketing and customer service fail to come together. The good news is, most of these issues can be solved through communication and clarity between the two teams, as we've seen from some of these leading retailers. In the past, it's been possible for companies to slide by without taking into consideration how its customer service should be affecting and informing decisions within the rest of the company, but today's level of transparency does not allow for such misses.

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