Customer Support is most often seen as a troubleshooting team. Can’t figure software setup? Call Customer Support. Need a refund? Shoot an email to customer care. Site down? Order lost? Nothing. Works. At all!
Call the support guys.
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Less often, Customer Support gets seen as a simplified version of Sales. What’s your pricing? What exactly do I get with this subscription plan? Can I get a discount if I buy in bulk? How do you compare to your competitors?
The approach taken by most companies when training their customer support representatives is quite similar: Train them to troubleshoot, explain product pricing and benefits, give them a clear algorithm for offering discounts, and make sure they do all of it quickly and with a broad smile.
Fewer businesses see Customer Support as part of their marketing strategy, which is driven by the need to create a better customer experience (one of the biggest business drivers in many industries as of the last few years). However, this is happening significantly less often.
The scarcity of marketing-driven Customer Care teams finds its reflection in how teams see customer experience or CX. Oracle’s study demonstrated that Service departments (including customer service) are the most sceptical about fostering customer experience excellence, while marketing teams are the most optimistic ones and often find themselves in the visionary category.
Seeing your Customer Service as part of marketing and having a close collaboration between Customer Service and other marketing teams helps create a more robust marketing strategy that leverages the great customer experience of your existing clients to acquire new ones.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of seeing your Customer Care team as part of your company’s marketing, and discuss the areas of your business where Customer Support can make a difference.
Long term influence on commercial business metrics
Traditionally Customer Support teams measure non-commercial things like CSAT, customer effort score, response time, resolution time, and quite often NPS. The teams seen as part of marketing will co-own the most vital commercial metrics such as retention, lifetime value, and churn, and will significantly impact revenue.
Unique customer insights for product marketing
When your Customer Support team is part of marketing, you can trust them to connect to clients that fit a specific profile, and help with research to improve product marketing data.
Customer Service can also provide the best insights into how customers perceive your product, which wording they use to describe it, and which pain points it solves for them. This data gets used by product marketing teams to position and package products for target audiences.
Use Customer Support to listen to your customers and find out how they describe your products/features, as well as the way your clients benefit from your product(s) or service(s). These customer insights will get translated into the right wording in your marketing communication (your website, email marketing, social media posts, etc.)
Validating ideas for the product and for marketing
Not everything can be validated with quantitative data. A/B tests are expensive, often time-consuming, and often are just not possible for smaller businesses with less traffic. With little traffic, it would take months to reach statistically significant results and years to repeatedly fail, iterate, and achieve the scale of growth you’re looking for.
Therefore, growth-oriented businesses validate the majority of ideas with qualitative data. This is where Customer Support helps. It’s a perfect channel to validate new features and products at the ideation and design stage, and assess the potential impact of marketing initiatives that require a lot of effort to build.
Customer reviews and testimonials for your site
Testimonials are an endorsement from your customers, adding the benefit of social proof to your business. When other customers see who else is using your products or services—and loving them—they’ll want to too.
Many companies include testimonials on their website because they convey credibility and trust as soon as customers land on their page. You can feature testimonials throughout your whole website, including on product pages. Some businesses even choose to create a dedicated customer testimonials page.
Customer service is a great channel to spot happy customers and ask them for a testimonial at the right moment, such as asking while wrapping up conversations in a chat box or in a follow up email after an interaction.
More reviews on 3rd-party platforms and review sites
Reviews are one of the critical factors in the buying process. Year after year studies demonstrate that online reviews influence consumers’ purchasing decisions and that online reviews are getting the amount of trust close to that generated by personal recommendations.
Third-party review sites are an essential marketing tool for many businesses. It has become a standard for many industries to have a presence on these sites. As third-party review sites often appear in the top search engine results for your brand keywords, it’s important to keep the review scores high.
Which sites you’ll focus on will depend on your industry and on the specifics of your product. Popular sites include:
- Google (any business)
- Facebook (any business)
- TrustPilot (any business)
- Amazon Reviews (e-commerce)
- Capterra (SaaS)
There are also great stats on how consumer trust differs on different review platforms.
Avoiding review incentives and getting more genuine reviews
Many review sites have strict guidelines that prohibit using incentives for getting positive reviews from customers. This includes offering freebies or discounts. Moreover, offering an incentive for your clients to write a positive review can affect a business’s online reputation if potential clients become aware of this kind of request.
Although many companies still offer compensation for writing reviews, the majority of customers report having been asked for reviews without any incentives.
Customer Support teams can help stick to legitimate ways to ask for reviews, and help you get more genuine, positive feedback.
Customer Service can not only ask customers for reviews, they can also learn to spot potentially bad and good reviewers. Interactions with a customer who is likely to leave a bad review can be challenging, but customer support agents who understand the impact of bad reviews on marketing are more likely to help resolve the issue.
When Customer Support is viewed as part of marketing, they will often be the ones who interact with customers who have left their reviews on third-party sites, commenting on situations with unhappy clients, and expressing appreciation for happy clients’ reviews.
Spotting the best case study candidates
Customer Service will have a relationship with your loyal customers that will allow them to reach out and ask if a customer would like to become your next case study hero and get featured on your website.
Relationship is key: When marketing teams contact customers, this is a new interaction for the client. When Customer Support reaches out instead, this is a follow-up and an extension of the earlier relationship.
Building social media mentions of your business
Thanks to the rapid boom of platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, social media and customer service now go hand-in-hand. Customers not only expect to receive support through social media, they actually prefer it.
But beyond providing outstanding support to your existing clients, you can use social media to connect with your future customers and show them what they can expect. Social media feeds filled with positive customer interactions are one of the most powerful forms of social proof.
The Customer Support team is capable of making or breaking this channel. Your marketing-driven support reps will take care to show future customers how accessible and responsive your customer care team is. They will provide answers to questions and resolutions to problems, as well as show off your excellent customer service by reposting any positive shoutouts you receive.
Outstanding customer support becomes a competitive advantage
While many businesses compete in price, product features, and a variety of product offerings trying to build exactly the thing that solves the audience’s problem, customer support often has a rudimentary function of resolving issues.
A proactive Customer Support service with agents who always go the extra mile, though, is hard to miss and often becomes the only advantage in a highly competitive market.
The battle for the customer is often won at the margins, and Customer Support can be that winning advantage for your business. Studies repeatedly show that customers are willing to pay more to the company whose customer service is ready to do just a little bit extra for their clients. In fact, as much as 86% more, according to Oracle.
Customers are more likely to become brand advocates and join your referral program
Excellent, marketing-oriented customer service gets customers talking. According to Hubspot, 77% of customers said they would recommend a brand to another person after having as little as just one positive experience with customer care.
This is where affiliate or referral marketing comes into play. Marketing-driven Customer Service will leverage positive interactions into customer referrals and help incentivise these referrals. As a result, you turn more customers into brand advocates with a referral marketing program.
Affiliate or referral marketing incentivises individuals (affiliates) to promote your business, refer customers, and earn a commission for every successful referral. This is also a low-risk marketing investment with predictable ROI. With a pay-for-performance model, you’ll only pay for referrals that actually convert into paying customers and not waste money on ad spend that doesn’t result in any conversions.
Next to that, this is a great way to reward your loyal customers and build brand loyalty.
Customer Support agents can easily spot happy customers and offer them to become part of your affiliate or referral program.
More engaged and motivated Customer Support team
While employee engagement is defined as willingness and ability to contribute to company success, being part of a bigger and more impactful structure (marketing) can help Customer Support understand their impact within the company.
Research shows that employees with high engagement levels are 87% less likely to leave a company than their disengaged peers.
Reduced employee turnover and internal hires for the marketing team
More engaged employees will stay longer within your company, and will look for ways to grow inside of it.
Some of the best marketing, business analytics, and product team hires happen internally and are hired from Customer Support teams. Who else knows your customers better than your customer service employees? Therefore, keeping the focus of your Customer Support team on marketing will give you an opportunity to grow excellent marketing professionals with a unique in-depth experience in your niche.
1. Making Customer Support your competitive advantage
As soon as a Customer Support team becomes part of marketing, this is strategically the right moment to think about how to make it part of your business offering. One of the examples would be adding info about excellent customer support on your landing pages:
2. Building a community with the help of your support agents
The next step would be to think of building a community around your product and have your happy users drive it with the help of your excellent customer care.
Having a Customer Support-driven community within close reach of your marketing team is a great way to keep a finger on the pulse of your customers and adjust your service, product, and positioning based on easily accessible quantitative customer data.
Besides, customer forums and communities are an excellent channel for building lasting relationships with your clients. They’re also a great place to ignite word-of-mouth, in order to bring your product or service to a broader audience and get in more new sales referrals.
3. Don’t forget to take care of your updated team
Customer Support is one of the most demanding jobs in IT, ecommerce, and other industries. Becoming an essential part of a wider strategic plan and being responsible for commercial KPIs puts even more pressure on your customer care agents.
Help your Customer Support team by making it easy. When making a transition to more marketing-driven Customer Support, it’s essential to involve your HR department at an early stage to plan the right strategies for employee motivation and prevention of burnouts.
Seeing Customer Support as part of your company’s marketing, and including it in your marketing strategy has its short-term and long-term advantages. This approach benefits multiple areas of your business, including not just marketing and brand, but also CX, monetisation, product, and even HR.
If this is something you think your business has been missing, the good thing is that with modern customer service solutions, it’s even easier to incorporate into your strategy and make a difference.
Originally published Sep 20, 2021, updated Jan 16, 2023