Small Business and Startups: Customer Service Marketing Manifesto

I’ve written and spoken often about how customer service for us is a marketing tactic and how we view our customer service as a part of our marketing department.

It’s simple ‚Äď great customer service begets great customer satisfaction, which begets great word of mouth.

But there’s another layer to this strategy that is important to understand, and, as a small company, it is important that we articulate our approach and live by it.

Customer service does not have to be a reactive part of our marketing strategy.

Of course, our agents can, and should, be ready to respond to a customer call or email (and do it quickly!). Still, they must also proactively reach out to our customers, engage them on a human level, build relationships that can lead to a higher customer lifetime value (CLV), reduce our refund rate, mitigate our fraud risks, and create happier, more loyal customers who, in turn, will indeed help to spread that good word about our service!

There are multiple moving parts to executing this strategy, and it has to start with our people:

  • we need to be smart and behave smarter
  • we need to be articulate and have the ability to communicate clearly in both our written and conversations
  • we must be empathetic and always keep the customer’s experience at the highest, most satisfying level
  • we must be Human. After all, human beings are inclined to respond well to others of the same species.

We have to relate to each other, we have to seek each other out, and we have to want to connect with others. These factors will make our customers (past, present, and future) wonderful assets that we can benefit mightily from, both in profits and in action.

When I speak of ‘moving parts,’ I refer to the multiple, often complex pieces to this strategy.

It’s not easy to build a culture of support, and it’s even harder to make that culture an important element of our marketing strategy.

To deliver great customer services, you must hire great people, train them well, give them the right tools, resources, and rewards, and build a culture of helping.

1. Our people. 

It has to start from day zero – from the moment you start a business.

How we describe the positions, we need to be filled critically important. Our descriptions must be detailed, descriptive, and fun.

We must be very specific that we do not want boilerplate resumes and cover letters, nor are we looking for boilerplate applicants. We must look for creative individuals from varied backgrounds, but mostly they have to tell us through their application why they are a good fit for a creative, relaxed, hard-working team.

When the emails start rolling in, we must ignore the hacks and the job-link-click-copy-and-pasters and focus on those who show us their ability to communicate, their unique personalities, and their creative approach to solving a problem (i.e., applying to crowdspring in such a way that they’ll get our attention).

Once we sort through the chaff to get to the wheat, we interview intending to find articulate, strong communicators who care, truly care, about the customers they’ll be helping and the team they’ll be joining, no matter the position they’re applying for, whether it is technology, marketing, or support.

It’s called empathy, and we will only hire those who display it in buckets.

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2. Their training. 

We will commit to supporting our team with ongoing training, education, and fun.

We’ll be transparent in how we share information, and we will actively communicate how important they are to our company, our team, and our customers.

Our people can not be expected to read our minds, nor can they learn new tools and processes overnight. However, our expectations of their ability to learn and grow will be high.

We will collaborate with our team; they will be self-guided through much of their development, but management will support them through the process.

We can never expect our people to swim before they can float, and we will always make sure that the floating and swimming lessons are available, well thought out, and comprehensive.

This should not mean that we won’t encourage them to jump into the deep end, either ‚Äď our culture will encourage risk, and our people will be rewarded for taking it.

3. The tools.

We will invest in the tools that our team needs to do their jobs, and we will listen actively when they make suggestions on tools they prefer.

If we were a messenger company, we would be sure our delivery-folk have the best bicycles, scooters, or cars they need.

As a technology company, we will always use the right software for the job and take the time to compare and choose the most appropriate.

4. The rewards. 

Our culture will reflect our desire to reward people for the hard work they perform, their productivity, and their success at meeting the goals we mutually develop.

People need to feel ownership in their job and one way to do it is by carefully and thoughtfully implementing meaningful incentives.

We will incentivize not only with cash inducements and bonuses (those work nicely, too!) but through non-cash awards, including fair pay, good benefits, a fun atmosphere, and ongoing praise, both in public and in private. These are differentiators, and you should think about this early when you sit down to write a business plan for your business.

5. The culture. 

The company culture is designed to support our customers, ensure them an extraordinary customer experience, and foster loyalty.

Our customer service and marketing will be designed around those goals, and our workplace and policies will promote practices to achieve them.

Everything our team does, from developing code to answering calls, is a marketing function, and we are all marketers.

“Customer, customer, customer” is our mantra, and our culture must be relentless in its focus on experience, engagement, and empathy.

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