Customer Service Marketing: 4 strategies to help you create a competitive advantage

Customer Service Marketing

Customer service marketing is a fundamental shift in how we approach customer service and marketing. In the past, these two areas were considered different functions and were handled by different departments. Now, as a result of changes in consumer behavior and a shift towards using customer service as a competitive advantage, companies now need to bring these two functions together.

“Stop trying to be amazing and start being useful. I don’t mean this in a Trojan-horse, “infomercials that pretends to be useful but is actually a sales pitch” way. I mean a genuine, “how can we actually help you?” way. – Jay Baer

Jay Baer talks about companies needing to be useful in his book, Youtility. He says that customers want companies to provide them with information rather than just sell to them. This is backed up by research from Hubspot that indicates 60% of the buyers journey is now completed without any contact with a sales rep.

So if the old sales tactics don’t work any more, how can you attract new leads and grow sales?

Customer Service Marketing.

This involves using customer service as a competitive advantage that helps you win new customers, build word of mouth and keep existing customers loyal. By focusing on being useful, you can create amazing experiences that wow your customers. These positive experiences build trust and strengthen customer relationships.

In this blog post, you will learn four customer service marketing strategies that the best companies use to create a competitive advantage.

The first strategy…

1. Create blog posts that answer questions to all your customers’ problems

youtility

Youtility is about helping your customers.

This is a strategy that Jay Baer talks about in Youtility. It works because it’s useful.

To get started you need to compile a list of all the common questions you get form customers. Now think about the answers that you would provide customers and turn all these common questions into insight and useful blog posts.

Marcus Sheridan of River Pools implemented this strategy extremely well. Back in 2010, Marcus was faced with a challenge of how he could generate new leads and sales for his pool business. He started creating lots of blog posts and content around his customer’s questions. After consistently producing one or two pieces per week, Marcus now generates the majority of new inquiries from his blog. His customers find the blog posts through search engines and social media.

Can you see how Marcus has been able to turn customer service into marketing? This is a great example of what you need to do to effectively execute customer service marketing.

Actionable takeaways to implement this strategy:

  • Compile a list of 20 common questions you get from customers.
  • Create 20 blog posts around these questions, making sure to clearly provide actionable answers so the customer can walk away with a wealth of new information.
  • The goal here is to educate customers, remember 60% of the buying cycle is now completed prior to talking to sales.
  • Help customers research and move them through the buyers journey by providing relevant, useful blog posts and content.

2. Engage prospective customers on Twitter

LAX airport customer service marketing

Twitter conversation between LAX and a customer.

Your customers have questions. Instead of calling phone support and sending emails, they are now tweeting you.

There are two main strategies you can use when engaging prospective customers on Twitter.

  • Respond promptly to direct questions. These are questions prospective customers ask you directly by mentioning you. Consider these high priority, they are interested prospects who genuinely need their questions answered.
  • Find other questions related to your expertise. These are questions that don’t mention you directly but do talk about areas in which you are considered an expert. For example, you might be a Cloud Computing company and someone on Twitter says, ‘how does cloud disaster recovery work?’. This is a perfect scenario where you can swoop in, be useful, and answer the questions for the prospective customer.

In both these cases you are using Twitter as a customer service channel. Since Twitter is visible and searchable by other prospective customers, your responses become public and will other people as well.

Related: 4 Examples of Excellent Twitter Customer Service

LAX Airport does a great job of engaging prospective customers on Twitter. They are quick to answer questions and go above and beyond to give customers information to help make their experience more enjoyable.

Actionable takeaways to implement this strategy:

  • You need an active presence on Twitter, so create an account and add your profile.
  • Setup monitoring of keywords on Twitter. Include all your branded keywords, and any keywords related to your area of expertise.
  • Be proactive and quick to respond to any mentions and questions with your keywords. Twitter is a quick customer service channel; users expect almost instant answers (I like to answer within one hour where possible).
  • Focus on being useful (not selly). Provide links to additional information, blogs and guides to extend on your answer and help educate the prospective customer.

3. Leverage custom software development to create applications that help customers

SitorSquat

Sit or Squat App by Charmin.

The next strategy involves thinking outside the box and finding ways to help customers beyond the basics of answering questions and sending tweets. Creating custom web and mobile applications is a great way to give customers information in a more helpful way.

For example, Charmin, a toilet paper company, created the Sit or Squat mobile app that helps users determine the suitability of public restrooms. You put in your address and the app will tell you how good the closest restrooms are and recommend whether they are sit-worthy or definitely a squat.

This app is useful! How many times have you been stuck in a public place and needed a restroom?

Although this strategy doesn’t directly answer product related questions about Charmin’s toilet paper, what it does do is position Charmin as the solution and a helpful tool for people needing to nip to the loo.

Jay Baer says that as a result of the Sit or Squat app, he thinks of Charmin every time he goes down the toilet paper aisle at his grocery store.

“And when faced with the paradox of choice that is the toilet paper aisle in my local grocer, I don’t always choose Charmin, as sometimes I’m seduced by sales and special offers. But I always remember Charmin, and think of the Sit or Squat app every time I see their products.”

This is powerful and shows that creative customer service marketing can help you build a competitive advantage.

Actionable takeaways to implement this strategy:

  • Think about what information you can take from its original format (boring paper form), and can turn into a web or mobile app that can be accessed on the go.
  • Ensure you link this to the problems your customer’s are continually faced with – it needs to be relevant to what you do as a company.
  • Focus on usability – make it super simple to use and share.
  • Draw inspiration from Sit or Squat App, Car Seat Helper App, and CoachSmart App

Related: 7 useful mobile apps that redefine marketing

4. Empower advocates to help prospective customers with their questions and problems

Google Product Forums - customer service marketing

Google Product Forums.

Have you ever been wow’d by a company’s customers?

Empowering customer advocates to answer prospective customer questions can result in faster service and better advice for customers. To implement this strategy, you need to give existing customers access to answer support inquires and questions – this can generally be done via a public forum or online community setting.

Google does this the best out of anyone. They have public forums for each of their product lines. The company empowers advocates by awarding top contributors with the ‘status and power’ to run the forums and provide answers to questions.

This saves the company resources, frees up the support line and gives customers very quick answers from real people who also use the product. Furthermore, the answers stay public, so when future customers are looking for a similar answer, they can easily find it – saving everybody time.

I’ll give you an example of how I’ve recently used Google Product Forums. I was searching for some help regarding Google Webmaster Tools. I couldn’t find any information related to my exact problem so I submitted a new topic in the forum. Within four hours I had two responses and some actionable advice that I could use to try and fix the situation.

I walked away reasonably satisfied with the outcome – I’m now implementing the advice – so I hope it works!

The morale of this example is that you can leverage your existing advocates to assist with customer service. In turn, the questions and answers become fresh new content that you can leverage as marketing assets for future customers. Similar to blog posts, they can be picked up by search engines and shared via social media and email – extending your reach and providing a competitive advantage.

Actionable takeaways to implement this strategy:

  • Create a public forum and encourage prospective customers to ask questions on the platform.
  • You’ll need to lead the way by answering the questions initially, but as you build a community you will notice your advocates who are engaged.
  • Empower these advocates and encourage them to ‘take over the moderation duties’.
  • Remember to incentivise these advocates – often just giving them the status of ‘top contributor’ or ‘customer advocate support’ is enough to encourage them to continue to contribute.

Create a competitive advantage though amazing customer service

With competition to win new customers and retain existing customers becoming harder and harder, you need a way to stand out from the crowd. Nowadays, customers appreciate customer service, they crave amazing customers experiences and do want to do business with companies that can provide these.

How do you currently differentiate your service offering from competitors?

Customer service marketing can help you differentiate yourself and form a competition-crushing advantage.

What’s next?

I suggest you leverage the four strategies discussed today to start winning new business, building positive word of mouth and creating sticky, loyal customers.

Keep reading…

Tagged: Customer Service

About Ross Beard

Ross Beard was on the marketing team at Client Heartbeat, the simple customer feedback tool. Learn how Client Heartbeat makes improving customer satisfaction easy.



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