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Why customer service is the new marketing

We were blown away by all of the amazing sessions at Marketing United 2016, but one that really stuck with us was Jay Baer’s closing keynote.

During his talk, Jay spoke about his latest book, Hug Your Haters. At least 1/3 of all customer complaints go unanswered, and “people are sick of being ignored.” And even when brands do respond, they aren’t meeting customer expectations in terms of response time. For example, while 40% of people who expect a response on social media within an hour, the average response time from brands is almost 5 hours.

“It’s 2016, and while everybody assumes that everybody is good at customer service, turns out they’re not,” Jay said.

Fantastic customer service has always been at the heart of what we do here at Emma, so what Jay had to say really struck a chord. Here’s just a few of the high points from Jay’s talk that can help all brands do a better job of serving their customers.

Creating top-notch experiences with fantastic service

We talk all the time in business about customer experience. After all, creating positive, engaging experiences is what we aim to do as marketers.

But we don’t talk a whole lot about what customer experience actually means. Where does it come from? How do we measure it? What are the dimensions of this “customer experience” we like to throw around in board meetings and marketing plans?

According to Jay, it’s pretty simple: Customer experience is what determines how people feel about your business. And in order to create positive, memorable experiences for your customers, you need to provide excellent customer service.

There’s a gap between self-perceived and actual quality of customer service

Unfortunately, there’s a fundamental disagreement between how well BRANDS think they’re doing and how CUSTOMERS think they’re doing. Based on the findings from Hug Your Haters:

80% of businesses say that they deliver superior customer service.
8% of customers agree.

And the data says the customers are right. 1/3 of customer complaints are never answered, and the answers that do come often arrive much too late.

Why should brands care?

Sometimes, it’s difficult to answer customers. Sometimes they say things that could hurt your feelings, and the first instinct is to ignore them.

But think about it from the customer's perspective: Businesses take almost 2 days on average to reply to an email. No wonder people are turning to social – they think they’re being blown off! Brands are the ones pushing people to complain in public, and social complaints are going to happen more and more.

Plus, no response is a response. No response says “We don’t care about you as a customer at all.”

So brands should answer every complaint, every time. And if providing excellent customer service isn’t enough, consider this:

• Hugging your haters makes you money. Retaining more of your customers is a win-win: Since you don’t lose their business, you also don’t have to spend all your time and budget replacing them with new ones.

• Hugging your haters makes your company better. Haters are "canaries in the coal mine." They point out all the things you need to fix about your product, your process, your marketing – all crucial elements of your business.

Off-stage versus on-stage haters

Here’s the scary part: Despite all those mean tweets your brand has gotten over the years, only 5% of unhappy customers ever complain in a form or fashion a business can actually find.

And of those customers whose complaints can actually be found, an even smaller portion complain publicly. Jay broke down the 5% into two groups: “Off-stage haters” and “on-stage haters." Off-stage haters (62%) complain in private forums like phone or email, while on-stage haters (38%) complain on public channels like review sites or social media.

The biggest difference between the two groups is their expectations.

Off-stage haters: Want an answer (90% expect a reply)
On-stage haters: Want an audience (43% expect a reply)

On-stage haters don’t take to Facebook to get a solution – they just want their friends to sympathize with their plight and commiserate about how a brand is lousy. So when you answer on-stage haters and they didn’t expect to hear from you, it blows their minds and wins their hearts.

That’s how you differentiate yourself from the competition and become a brand that’s known for good customer service.

So what do you do about it?

1. Be fast, everywhere. Response time really, really matters, especially on social. So use speed as a competitive differentiator.

2. Obey the rule of reply only twice. Never reply to a customer publicly more than twice – nothing good will come from it. Go on record, demonstrate that you care, and if someone is out of control, walk away.

3. Finally, stop blaming customers. Despite what brands like to believe, it’s not customers' fault they’re unhappy. It’s ours. So swallow your pride and find ways to turn their negative experience into a positive one.

Now that customer service has become a spectator sport, how you treat your customers online is inextricably tied to how you market. And who better to market for you than the people who actually use your products or services?

Provide great customer service, hug each and every one of your haters, and you’ll build a loyal following of brand advocates ready and willing to make their love for you known to the world – a powerful asset for any company. 

This is just a small peek into what Jay shared with us. If you’re hungry for more, be sure to check out his book, Hug Your Haters, and stay tuned for his full keynote from Marketing United 2016!