Customer Service: The New Black

Many of the valuable sessions at the Email Evolution Conference cited integration as a key to email success. Creating a cohesive brand experience for customers, whether they connect with you via traditional, first generation or Web 2.0 media certainly makes sense. But fresh from 10 hours on the phone with Dell and Microsoft, I felt that consideration for a crucial element was missing: customer service.

What imparts the most lasting brand impression: the direct mail and email I receive from Dell, or the hours I spent watching an inexperienced support rep wander around my computer by remote access, only to tell me after six hours that I should call Microsoft?

Many of us have the title of Relationship Manager, yet we shy away from the customer service aspect of this relationship as it's a) not within our purview, b) not very sexy and c) a big, expensive can of worms. The Email Diva maintains that customer service may be the most important aspect of your marketing mix. While we're all fighting for respect and budget, we should also be advocating for the customer service department.

I perform usability testing, uncovering problems customers encounter on Web sites. Does anyone do usability testing for automated phone routing systems? Given the number of times I have reached a dead end or spent hours only to be referred elsewhere and/or cut off, I doubt it, despite that annoying message that calls are recorded for quality assurance purposes. And speaking of annoying messages, is anything more annoying than the frequent interruption in the music to inform you -- for the 50th time -- that your call is important? Or the email that refers you to the Knowledge Base, with hundreds of articles that might solve your problem?

The Email Diva believes that the biggest threat to our national security is that a significant percentage of India's population must think that Americans are crazy, sputtering, belligerent #$$^*(&$. By the time we reach that poor Indian CSR, we are so frustrated by the system that we take it out on the first human being we encounter. If I were a CSR or tech support person in India, I'd have a target in mind for the country's nuclear weapons.

Marketers of every stripe should be required to contact their customer service department, via phone, Web or email, with a question every week. If we did, we might see how a poor customer service system is negating our efforts to build a positive brand image every day.

What can we do? For a start, read this brilliant article by Joel Spolsky, "Seven Steps to Remarkable Customer Service." It explains not only how his company developed a superior customer service function, but also improved its products and cut costs as a result.

Great customer service: It goes with every marketing effort. Be a champion for the new black.

Good Luck!

The Email Diva



Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

Next story loading loading..