Is great customer service good marketing?

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The ROI of Social Media

It’s reasonable to question the impact of word-of-mouth. Sometimes people say one thing and do another. Sometimes people can get excited about something and never buy it. “What is the ROI of social media?” is a question that drives a great deal of debate in the marketing industry. Most of us think of customer service and marketing as two different things; it’s time to think differently. Why?

Social ProofOn May 16, Erica Douglass (@ericabiz) tweeted the following to her 19,266 followers:

“Very impressive customer service from @aweber — they just called me regarding an issue I tweeted to them, and will be fixing it!”

This kind of behavior isn’t even new anymore. There is no line: Customer service is marketing.

Interest is Everything

A study conducted by the Universityof Pennsylvaniafound that people communicate differently online than face-to-face. In offline conversations, the inherent interest a consumer product had didn’t have a noticeable effect on how often it was mentioned.

The situation was dramatically different online. The ability to pause and reflect before posting leads to a filtering effect. Online, people don’t talk about things unless they think they are interesting. The impact on your brand between “interesting good” or “interesting bad”can be profound.

This held true in both experimental and real-world settings.

In today’s world, customer service expectations are low. When we send emails, we expect template responses. When we make a phone call, we expect to speak with an underpaid, off-shore tech. We expect to be stonewalled and fought at every turn. We expect to waste time.

The brands that break our expectations are interesting. This means that they get talked about. When you get talked about online, word gets out. And getting the word out is called marketing. A buyer who finds you because of a great shared customer experience may quickly rank among your most qualified leads.

Does it Really Affect Sales?

In a word, yes. The more complete answer, of course, is that it depends on your industry. But a study conducted by the City University of London and the University ofMuenster hints at a more useful answer.

They analyzed the impact of Twitter conversations on movie ticket sales. They wanted to see how Twitter conversations on Friday affected ticket sales on Saturday and Sunday. They compensated for advertising and movie budget, and just about any other factor you can imagine.

The results? Opening day sales were more influenced by buzz than by brand or production budget. Marketing budget and star power had no direct effect, short of the amount of buzz they were capable of generating. An unquestionable Twitter effect was detected, reflecting sales over the rest of the weekend.

Even though our examples focus on B2C experiences, the social proof gained from great customer service applies to B2B as well. The first rule of sales is that, all things being equal, people want to do business with people they know and trust. Online accolades with concrete examples of exemplary customer service help to bolster that trust.

Conclusion: The ROI of Marketing.

Buyers’ opinions no longer exist in isolation. Your customers have the power to share their opinions where everybody they know can see them – and they will. This social sharing has a real and measurable impact on sales. Customer relationship management simply must be considered as part of marketing and sales strategies for small business.

How does customer service impact your business? Have you considered its connections with marketing?

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