Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Who Speaks Louder: Marketing or Customer Service?

Posted by Becky Carroll on July 15, 2008

Overheard the other day from a cashier at my local grocery store (a large chain, by the way): “Can I get a bagger over here?  You aren’t paying me enough to have me bag the groceries, too!”  I heard this as I was coming up to the check-out counter with my purchases (which were only a few items).

Wow, what does that do to the brand’s marketing messages?

The issue here is this: the customer doesn’t differentiate between what marketing is saying and what they hear from customer service personnel.  All messages, regardless of medium or origin, add up to communicate the brand’s image to the customer.  Yet too often, marketing and customer service are managed separately in a company or organization, they don’t speak to each other, and they don’t have common metrics (you know, those things that drive the behaviors?).

When we look at it from the company’s perspective, we see silo-thinking, each department focused on their own area.  When we look at it from the customer’s perspective, what do we see?  One brand, with everyone working together for a great customer experience?  Or many experiences, looking like many brands, with the experience differing based on how customer service personnel are asked to behave?

Customers Rock! was started to focus on highlighting companies that understand these concepts.  Customers Rock! doesn’t mean the customer is always right.  It means we should view our customers as one of the most important assets that we have; therefore, we should plan each step of how we are going to get, keep, and grow these assets.

Who is speaking more loudly to customers at your organization?  Do you need to bring those messages into alignment?  What do customers think about your brand, from all perspectives?  These are critical questions to answer as companies consider how to weather the current economic storms.

“The relationship that is formed when marketing and customer service meet is like saying that you’re making good on your promises.”  Meikah

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8 Responses to “Who Speaks Louder: Marketing or Customer Service?”

  1. Hi, Becky! Thanks for quoting me. :)

    In any case, your questions are valid. In every situation there, you will find answers in the book What to Say to a Porcupine? Grab a copy if you can.

  2. KermitFan said

    I believe that many times, customer service speaks louder than Marketing. (And this is coming from a Marketing professional!) When I think back on some of my recent interactions with a major Midwest-based retailer, all of my impressions are of the employees and the customer service that I received, not of the multi-million dollar advertising campaigns that are thrown our way. I think of a few weeks ago, when as my purchase was being rung up by the checker, she yelled over my head at her manager “I think it’s time for me to go on break now! John is back, and if you don’t let me take my lunch right now, I’m going to pass out and hit my head here, and [company name] is going to have to pay for my medical bills!” No joke… she didn’t even finish with our purchase before she yelled this over our heads. That’s my lasting impression of the store, not the quality and savings that I may have received from the items that I purchased.

    What you say, and how you say it, makes a lasting impression on customers — from Marketing, to customer service, to accounting, every word and action counts.

  3. Becky,

    It goes beyond marketing and customer service to every employee who shares anything about work with anybody. That is why companies that ignore treating employees with respect and dignity and fail to train and communicate daily are hurting themselves, their bottom and top lines and their brand image. Excellent observation and post.

  4. In a B2C (business to consumer, or mass consumer) companies interactions with customers happen in over 80% of the times through customer service. Funny thing that happened when we moved to a service economy, service became the most important part of an organization (sorry marketing).

    If most of your customer interactions happen through service, that is where you efforts and resources should be. Marketing does a good job, but the reach as far as customer exposure is limited. if they work together with service, they just quadrupled their exposure.

    Even though it is not being done in most organizations, marketing and service should work together – marketing leads in message, service leads in interaction management.

    just two more cents…

  5. Meikah, thank you for the comment, and thanks also for the book recommendation. I will add it to my (long) list of books to read. :)

    KermitFan, great to see you here (been awhile)! Interesting observations on customer service. I think the impressions we have of a brand, based on each interaction, all add up to a total brand experience. As you pointed out, this can be good or bad depending, often, on what kind of customer service we get. Thanks!

    Lewis, if customers are the foundation of a company, employees are its lifeblood. These examples cited were most likely not from companies that are valuing employee contributions. It all has to work together. Thanks for the insight!

    Esteban, I think this is important also for business to business companies. When I used to work at HP in the B2B side, we made a point of creating joint goals between marketing and customer service. This helped bring everyone together so that all interactions, whether from billing, customer service, tech support, or marketing, are consistent and supportive of the brand experience. Thanks for your “two more cents”!

  6. Becky,

    I agree with your position on B2B — with one corollary: small B2B organizations are exempt from that rule. While HP’s size and scale makes most of their B2B appear B2C, for lots and lots of other organizations that is just not the case. That is why I continue to differentiate between B2B and B2C (ever after the acronyms went out of style and became “back to basics” and “back to college”) :)

    Nice Job, liked the post very much…

    Esteban

  7. Chris said

    Becky,

    Awesome, awesome post. I am constantly amazed at the number of establishments without a clear services marketing plan. In light of the way so many companies are becoming commoditized (restaurants, grocery stores, home improvement stores, electronics stores, etc., etc., etc.), service provision becomes the only way companies can differentiate. HR and Marketing need to be working together with every new hire, not only to bring on capable employees, but to bring on employees who will actually contribute to and increase the value of the company’s brand. I think that strong internal marketing can benefit any company of any size with any client-type.

    Again, my profuse compliments.

  8. [...] Who Speaks Louder: Marketing or Customer Service?- Wow. Please read this post by Becky Carroll at Customers Rock. The essence of services marketing and branded service provision. If you have an interest in internal branding at all, you’ll love this post. « Two Branded Service Anecdotes [...]

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