Why Great Customer Service is Great Marketing

Marketing and customer service are often thought of as two separate and unrelated functions. In this view , marketing is about acquiring new customers and is considered a top line driver of growth. Customer service is about holding on to the customers that you already have and is considered a cost center that needs to be managed to help drive profitability. This perspective couldn’t be farther from the truth. The companies that consistently outperform their rivals understand that great marketing begins and ends with great customer service. The key to understanding this perspective is the power of word of mouth and personal referrals.

More and more companies have adopted the Net Promoter Score methodology (also known as NPS) to measure customer satisfaction. NPS is a deceptively simple practice that yields valuable insights into what customers really think about your brand. It relies on asking two simple questions:

  • On a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 means “highly unlikely” and 10 means “extremely likely”, how likely are you to refer this brand/product/service to a friend or colleague?
  • What’s the reason for your score?

NPS is deceptively simple because behind these two questions lies decades of research that demonstrate that they are the best indicator as to what your customers really think about your brand and ultimately how well your company will perform. Companies that score higher than their competitors on NPS typically outperform their competition by as much as five times across any number of key performance indicators. So why is that the case? And what does this have to do with the assertion that great customer service is great marketing?

To answer these questions, you don’t have to look any further that your own experiences and behavior. We’ve all had someone close to us ask us for a recommendation. In the case of a service, it’s usually phrased something like this:

Can you recommend a good (insert type of service provider here)?

In the case of a product, it’s usually phrased like this:

I’m think about buying a (insert product type here). Which one do you think I should buy?

Most people pause and really consider their answer before they respond. The reason they do this is because there’s a lot at stake for the recommender. If they make a suggestion and their friend or colleague isn’t happy with the purchase, that may affect their relationship negatively. They may lose that other person’s esteem. So most people will only offer up a recommendation if they have personally and consistently had a great experience consuming the brand themselves.

So what happens if someone has an awful brand experience? Interestingly, customers will go out of their way to broadcast these negative experiences to their friends and colleagues even if their friends and colleagues aren’t considering a purchase. The old adage “bad news travels fast” applies. This negative word of mouth can effect purchase behavior long before a purchase is ever considered.

So what are the effects of the customer experience on marketing efforts? Great customer service makes marketing much more efficient. Marketing’s job centers on reinforcing and amplifying existing perceptions about your brand, which is much easier to achieve. Poor customer service makes marketing extremely inefficient. Marketing’s job centers on changing existing perceptions about your brand, which is very challenging and expensive to pull off. For those of you who have read the book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. It’s hard to change people’s minds when they already think about your brand in a certain way. And when you consider how expensive it can be to acquire new customers, you begin to understand why companies that understand that great customer service is great marketing consistently outperform their rivals.

So if you’re ready to transform your company into a market leader that consistently outperforms its competitors, here’s are some immediate next steps that you can take:

Start measuring perceptions about your brand and your customer experience by launching an NPS program.
Measuring brand perceptions is a crucial first step, and one that you need to continue on a regular basis. It’s also a lot easier than you might think to pull off. If budget is a concern, you can use email and free general purpose survey platforms like Survey Monkey at no cost. If you’re willing to make a modest investment, then I highly recommend services like Promoter.Io. Not only is Promoter.Io affordable, but it’s specifically designed for the NPS methodology and makes the job of analyzing your results a lot easier.

Start thinking about customer service as a growth engine, not a cost center.
This shift in perceptions will lead you to make very different decisions about where you invest time and money, and how you leverage your customer service resources. Great brands like Hubspot invest heavily in providing great customer service, and then leverage these great resources to create compelling content that amplifies positive perceptions of the brand. This helps explain their amazing growth, which has averaged 50% Y/Y in the last 3 years.

Start collecting great customer stories that communicate your brand’s unique selling proposition (USP).
Make it a point of having your customer service teams capture and share great stories that reflect your mission, core values and brand promise. And don’t just share these stories internally, but share them externally through whatever mediums make the most sense. These stories will not only help you reinforce and amplify positive brand perceptions, they will also help your teams understand and model the right behaviors that drive customer loyalty and growth.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to turn great customer service into great marketing, or need some help getting started, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].