Customer Service is the New Marketing: Interview with Lane Becker

The Internet changes the power relations between companies and customers.

Social technologies like blogs, social networks, ratings and reviews etc. allow customers to share experiences; good and bad to the 1.4 billion people on the Internet. Zappos exemplifies the positive benefits of extraordinary customer service while Comcast shines a light on the perils of getting it wrong.

Lane (co-founder of Get Satisfaction) speaks better than anyone about the power of building relationships via a strong customer service focus. During the Web 2.0 Expo New York we had a discussion that digs into
· What is meant by Customer Service is the New Marketing
· The challenges of moving to a customer-service-as-marketing model

The most insightful moment, in my opinion, comes when Lane talks about how even smaller companies, and companies not structured to provide superior customer service, can use new technology to get it right.

My favorite quote: “Historically, customer service has actually been customer avoidance” Remember that next time you need to schedule Comcast!

Lane agreed to answer some of the comments to this video post – so if you have questions – fire away.

(Disclaimer: OATV is an investor in Get Satisfaction)

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  • Tom

    I am in a small business and part of my problem is that I don’t actually get to see when customers are dissatisfied – meaning, they don’t call first – maybe they blog first – or write a bad review. Now you search on my company and this is what might show up – I never had a chance to respond. How do you actually get proactive about customer service in small/med sized business? Who does it (it is a different skill than my call center people)? And what steps should they take to reach out into the internet community?

  • Cj

    Experience Based Customer Service.

    The year is 2008. Providing good customer service is no longer enough. So what moves consumers to another brand? Is it product quality? Customer Service Quality? Price?
    You can have the best in class product, but if your customers perception of quality service isn’t aligned with their experience you will have a problem retaining customers.
    Once we understand how the customer has evolved and understand that perception has a lot to do with the experience we can generate a vision that will retain and engage consumers .
    “Change is at the very core of evolution and without it, all creatures would look alike and behave the same way.” – Martin Dansky

    The “customer thing”.
    So how did Customer Service become more critical than ever? Let’s face it, with the economy being at an all time low the need for a value added addition to your product is critical. Consumers have a hard time spending money right now. Companies finally understand the importance of service.
    But what is good customer service? The answer is up to the customer. Good customer service is customer defined. Expectations are based on past interactions with other organizations and each one is different. It is your job to identify your communication style and talk to the consumer in a language they can understand.
    Customers have evolved based on that past experience, and new customers are emerging from generations that have a different outlook on life. Experience based customer service is becoming the gold standard.
    Experience Based Customer Service
    So what is “Experience based customer service”? Lets take a minute and break down the different stages of customer interaction within a call center.
    Reactive Customer Service.
    “Reactive” customer service was the norm in the late 90’s. “good” customer service and “better” customer service was separated by the quality of person you had on the phone solving your issues. The support center consisted of a call center, with a group of trained representatives answering questions relating to their product or service. E-mail was just starting to become a tool used in some markets to improve the experience.

    Deflective Customer Service
    As the “better” business grew using good “reactive” customer service, so did the contact volume. And so did the operating expenses. Rather than taking the band aid approach and hiring to fill the need, businesses found it to be more cost effective to use a new tool that was quickly becoming a standard fixture in every house hold….Yes the internet. In comes “Deflective” customer service. The internet started to be used to drive consumers to lower cost support to hopefully limit the need for more manpower (or woman power!) Internet FAQ’s and “trouble shooter” wizards started showing up everywhere. The approach made sense, but their heart was in the wrong place. This was an important stage in Experience Based Customer Service.

    Interactive Customer Service
    Interactive customer service is a great way to build relationships with your consumers. This stage in customer service is the perfect foundation for building an effective Experience Based Customer Service team. Being interactive is important for building a relationship with the people you need most: your customers. Human communication is a basic example of interactive customer service in which it involves two different actions; human to human interactivity and human to computer interactivity. Human-Human interactivity is the communication between people and people, obviously. Human to computer communication is the way that people communicate through new media. Examples of Interactive customer service would be webinars, live online chat, skill based IVR routing and proactive follow up. This also involves feedback from consumers to help shape future interactions. This feedback is imperative to find the language in which you talk to consumers.

    Experience Based Customer Service
    Making the transition from Interactive Customer Service to Experience Based Customer service is difficult. You no longer can think about the product or service but how you will create opportunities for your customers to have a good experience. So what is a good experience? Ask your customers; involve them in the process of creating your M&V statement. In order to move to Experience Based Customer Service you need to know what that experience will look like first. To build an experience you need to build a community within your market with open communication. Create opportunities for consumers to collaborate and move from simply being a user to having a lifestyle that incorporates your product. Who are the experts? Is it your support team? Or the group of consumers who are using your product that are creating the need for your support team to be experts in their respective positions?
    Multi channel contact centers using Web 2.0 technology that empowers people to create opportunities for people to collectively support their community of users will change the mentality of your consumers. Having multiple channels on all different levels that appeal to everyone from “baby boomers” to millennials is a must.
    Building an effective strategy using Experience Based Customer Service will take your business into the future. In this economy, the need for this is immediate. If you are running a contact center and do not know what wiki, p2p, blogging, sms, twitter or rss is you need to fill a seat in your contact center with someone who does.

  • His perspective comes across as being very idealistic.

    To cut costs – many enterprises are now outsourcing customer service (some to foreign lands for low priority customers)

    Also some are using computer analysis to read and respond to initial complaints. Also, calls are being timed, so C/S workers are more concerned about their average time per call.

    The only ROI benefit they see to customer service for low level buying customers – is to prevent complaints from escalating into lawsuits or to prevent dissatisfied customers from leaving.

    The only consumers who get the highest quality of customer service are those from very large corporations who have large accounts to get the very best of attention/

  • Tom,

    I work for a firm that handles social media monitoring, and we hear your concern often. The scary part is that someone can do a search for your company online, and feedback sites/information can show up on your search results before your company website!

    Social media monitoring is a newer tool that companies can use to monitor and track feedback to know what is out there and have the chance to address issues that you were not previously aware of. It is a fairly inexpensive service that gives you peace of mind and takes the legwork out of monitoring the internet. If you’re interested, I am sharing this article that gives a basic overview of social media monitoring and some things you can put in place to monitoring what customers are saying about your company – .

    This was a great interview that really drives home the concept of customers having a voice like never before, and the importance of monitoring the internet and engaging with their customers in social media venues.

  • I think this is a great conversation about customer service. I work at a college in Alberta, Canada and I think in many post secondary institutions, customer service is a faux pas. They are not customers, they are students. And because of this mentality, some in higher education may not go the extra mile. But in today’s hyper-connected world, that could be detrimental – even to a higher education institution.

    Very good points in the video – thanks for sharing.

  • Nice post, I like this blog because it’s very interesting and informative.

    “Programmers and marketing people know how to get into your subconscious – they spend millions of dollars researching colors, shapes, designs, symbols, that affect your preferences, and they can make you feel warm, trusting, like buying. They can manipulate you.”

    Richard Hatch

  • john anderson

    Thanks for very interesting article. I really enjoyed reading all of your posts. It’s interesting to read your ideas, and observations from someone else’s point of view (specially one that is in international markets)… makes you think more, and gives yo that competitive edge here locally. In today’s ever-increasingly competitive business environment, both the advertising agency and clients, alike, are continually searching for that ‘special something’ that can help them stand out above the clutter.

    As an advertsing agency we feel that we have achieved this by leaps and bounds and in the right direction in regard to attaining that ‘special ingredient’ for our clients business success.And its articles and insights such as this that gives us the “spark” to initiate successful ideas for our clients..

    Thanks once again, i never regret bookmarking this site..


    ps: WEB 2.0 is only really taking off here in our lands,lol..we so delayed

  • I think this is a great conversation about customer service. I work at a college in Alberta, Canada and I think in many post secondary institutions, customer service is a faux pas. They are not customers, they are students. And because of this mentality, some in higher education may not go the extra mile. But in today’s hyper-connected world, that could be detrimental – even to a higher education institution.

    Very good points in the video – thanks for sharing.

  • an issue for me was really helpful, thanks a lot for this beautiful article worked for me

  • I don’t actually get to see when customers are dissatisfied – meaning, Internet Marketing is better tool to promote your brand and business.

  • It’s three years later and I feel like many big companies still aren’t getting it. Maybe that’s because the person on the phone has no incentive to satisfy the customer. (Many are still paid based on the number of calls they can churn through in a fixed time period.) Small businesses get it. Good or bad feedback hits their bottom line so they want to respond quickly and appropriately. Big bureaucracies still move slow.