Be very afraid: What happens when Marketing runs Customer Service?

Within a few years, social customer service is likely to become part of a single customer-facing team headed by Marketing. Why does that statement sound so scary?

Marketing - scary monster

Within a few years, social customer service is likely to become part of a single customer-facing team headed by Marketing. Why does that sound so scary?

Marketing - scary monster

I’ve been banging on about social customer service for 2-3 years now and the evidence of it’s rapid rise in value and importance is pretty compelling: a 2013 JD Power survey headlined with the finding that ‘67% of consumers have used a company’s social media site for servicing, compared with 33% for social marketing‘. This is the reality of our customer-driven environment and yet 60% of companies still say their primary activity on social media is marketing.

Sooner or later, something has to give, surely.

Actually, it gets worse. An econsultancy report from last year found that 70% of companies say it’s cheaper to retain a customer than acquire one. The implication of this is that focusing on relationship-building activities (such as social customer service) to promote customer retention is both cheaper than customer acquisition and can deliver a higher ROI. I’ve presented this idea in various formats, suggesting that – in a customer-driven social media environment – Marketing needs to rework it’s goals; but the message hasn’t always found it’s mark.

Finally, though, things are changing.

At the Social Customer Service Summit 2014 in May I was delighted to see a healthy sprinkling of Marketing-funded roles, from Social Media Managers to CMOs. In the day we were presented with several marketing campaigns that were, essentially, service-driven. A great example being the Social Flight campaign, when Iberia Airlines filled a plane with social media fans and flew them to New York for the day.

While this was about Marketing and the goal was to generate buzz and new customers, the ethos of the campaign chimed with Iberia’s service goals: to listen to customers, to help them, to delight them and then let them do the talking. Alongside the use of customer listening to improve marketing messaging and close the ‘expectation gap’ between what Marketing says about a product/service and the day-to-day experience of customers, this is part of a triumvirate of measures that forward-thinking organisations are implementing to bring Marketing and Service into step.

As I alluded to before, the final picture of social customer engagement is likely to be a single, customer-facing team headed by the richest, most aggressive and ambitious department in any organisation: aka Marketing. If that were to happen today, for most organisations it would make for a decidedly ugly picture – the majority of marketeers have never set foot in a contact centre and most contact centre agents have no idea when the next marketing campaign is going out – but it’s where we need to go.

Rest assured, for the time being we’re still – metaphorically speaking – kicking sand into our own face then wondering why we can’t see where we’re going.

I’ll be exploring this topic in depth in a webinar on 18th June with Rorey Jones, Global Customer Community Manager, Spotify, and Ben Kay, Head of Digital Strategy & Social Media at EE and Leon Chaddock, CEO of Sentiment. 

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