Customer Service is a Valuable PR Tool
Every time I have to dial a 1-800 customer service number, my stress levels increase accordingly. First, I’m greeted by a recording that instructs me to choose from a nine-number menu. Of course, my problem never falls neatly into one of the categories, so I’m forced to listen to the nine options once again, before sighing and going with the option that my issue best matches. Next, more automated greetings; I’m asked to give some obscure pass code that I apparently created when I first opened my account. After I fumble around and incorrectly guess my code multiple times, I’m finally transferred to a real person who now needs to know my entire life history in order to verify my account. Once that process is complete, it’s finally time to address my issue, right? Wrong. Oops, remember the nine-option menu? Yeah, this representative is not equipped to handle my problem and apparently the answer to my question is not on her script. I’m given another 1-800 number and am forced to go through the entire process all over again.
I’m not alone in my frustration, and despite technology continuing to get better and better, customer service just keeps getting worse and worse.
Sure, there are a million reasons why customer service is so terrible – the economy makes it tougher for businesses to hire full-time employees with the proper training and authority to take care of customer issues from start to finish; customer service is seen as a sunk cost; or extreme division of labor is the only way for massive companies to handle the volume of calls they receive, but I don’t think any of those really resonate with frustrated consumers.
Public relations is all about building and maintaining a positive relationship with your audience. Sure, you can have spectacular, entertaining advertising campaigns and perfectly targeted sales techniques, but abandoning a customer once they begin a relationship with your business is never a good idea.
In the marketing world, there’s a buzz right now around the word “authenticity,” and the way a company treats its customers is a big part of the promise made to their customers when they signed that contract, decided to purchase that product or use a particular service.
Perhaps companies don’t choose to devote resources to their customer service department because they don’t see any return on investment. However, in a world where consumers feel more and more disconnected from companies taking the time to wow them with excellent customer service can generate publicity value, as well as create advocates for your brand who will rave about you to friends and family.
Practicing excellent customer service techniques are not just for the realm of large companies. A free dessert for guests at a restaurant who had to wait an unusually long period of time for their dinner might be just what they need to not write a post lambasting your restaurant on Yelp as soon as they pick up their smart phone.