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Customer service in the UK has become a vicious circle of frustration for consumers, brands and the middle-men of marketing services alike.

In fact, it’s not just a problem for the Brits, things aren’t much better back home in Australia. The issue has now extended way beyond store walls thanks to the multichannel shopping environment we live in today.

As I'll explain in this post, closing the gap between smooth sales processes and customer satisfaction starts with targeted and relevant communications.

Consumers expect a lot of brands (maybe too much, if we step back for a moment and examine our demands logically), and the constant innovation this requires inevitably leads to some disappointing outcomes in the rush to satisfy people.

Those of us in the middle, providing support and expertise to marketing departments, are here to interpret the requirements from this festering but oh-so-valuable mass of consumerism and translate that message to help brand owners understand their next step.

A common problem is people’s belief in buzzwords that seem to describe some sort of communications holy grail, but more often than not mean little or nothing.

For example, we’d all love to be able to ‘close the loop’ between consumers and brands. But before we do that, we’d better define what we mean! And just as importantly, what does this mean to consumers?

A lot of organisations talk about closing the loop, but few truly understand the execution or value behind that, or how it works across multiple channels.

We need to be able to narrow down the communications process to target each consumer as an individual, using multidimensional insight so we can continuously engage with them one-to-one.

Consumers want marketers to follow this simple maxim: “Don’t pretend to know me if I’ve never met you. If you want to talk to me, tell me something I want to hear.” In other words, close the communications loop to narrow the gaps in your marketing and make me feel engaged by your brand – don’t just use it as a lasso to reel me in.

Customer satisfaction is key in all of this. Getting service right across all channels is becoming increasingly important as brands fight for share of pocket via multiple interfaces, be that in-store, online, mobile shopping or whatever retailers think of next.

How do we spot the difference between someone who only buys on the high-street and someone who responds to a cold email or buys through mail-order? And how should marketers react accordingly – which channels should we use, and how do we get the message and delivery right?

In my next few blogs I’ll take a channel in turn to examine current models and suggest how their role in the engagement process can be improved. As people who know that organisations rolling out poorly devised campaigns should know better, or recognise examples of good practice, it’d be interesting to hear your views on customer service and contact you’ve had from brands.

Ultimately, the common goal of marketers and consumers is to understand that there will always be tension in the relationship between buyer and seller, but to enjoy a balance of power that allows everyone to get the deal that suits them.

Using the loop to tighten communications instead of fashioning a rope to hang your brand with is a good starting point.

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Published 25 January, 2011 by Luke Christison

Luke Christison is Head of MultiChannel Marketing Services at Acxiom and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

3 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

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Tamara@Adaptive

Thanks for the post. Customer service is one of my favourite things to talk about as I have a lot of opinions on the subject. It is my personal belief that while, yes a marketing message that speaks directly to me might inspire me to continue clicking, the most important part of customer service is the 'during' and the 'after' the purchase has been made.

Anyone can come up with an appealing offer. And get some motivated marketers with lots of time to work on a campaign and I'm sure they will be able to come up with innovative ways to target their consumers individually. The real question is: how quickly does customer service respond to my emails (if shopping online)? How fast are your delivery rates? What are your return policies? And of course, what are you going to give/do for me if I'm not satisfied? This has always been where good customer service (online or off) differentiates itself from bad.

Easy, friendly, and accomodating are qualities I will always remember, recommend, and return to.

over 5 years ago

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EssexSEO

I guess you have to find out your customers expectations when you launch a product or service first. 

When I purchase something I have an expectation of how long it will last or work without maintenance.  If it fails before the time I expect to replace it then I want the company to sort it out without any hassle.

And why do companies insist on charging a leaving fee?  Known as the admin charge or unlocking your phone charge.  I've paid for your services, they were not good enough, I'm leaving, please don't try to hang onto me with a further charge.  It just ensures I do not come back to you.

When I experience great customer service, and I'm not looking for anything for free, just the usual to be treated like a human and a valued customer, then I do not look elsewhere because why would I leave a company I trust and most of all respect.

over 5 years ago

Guy Stephens

Guy Stephens, Social Customer Care Consultant at IBM Interactive Experience/GBS/MobileEnterprise

Interesting post but I was left slightly confused about whether this was about customer service as a marketing platform or if I should feel sorry for the marketers (sitting side by side with their customers) caught in the middle of sales and customer service. Third option - I've missed the point altogether.

From my perspective, the siloes between departments is finally beginning to erode, customer service, marketing, sales, compliance are starting to talk to each other albeit at the point at which social touches an organisation. But the ramifications of this are reaching further into organisations. Change is taking place. 

The customer is customer to the whole organisation. Closing the loop is a company-wide initiative, that in my humble opinion, doesn't sit with marketing alone. Multichannel is just that, it's not about multiple channels simply working alongside each other. It's about customer service, marketing, sales, compliance, ops etc coming together.  

over 5 years ago

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kevin blumer

as a person who just run a one man company once i allways found it hard to help every cutomer and to be there for them especialy in the world of laptops i was never able to get them back as quick as big establishments but then i kinda learnt i cant please everyone and had to start setting more rules do consumers actualy like you a bit more if your more strickt with them or you i was allways confused say i pick a supper market its very starange how we have changed as consumers we want more and we expect really good customer service for example i wanted a black bag and they could not give me one for a item boght in there shop because of the goverments cuts in plastic bags its the big companies that train us

over 5 years ago

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