The fastest way to wreck your marketing

Robin Emiliani  /  May 28, 2020

It was mid-March, and as it did for so many people, COVID-19 threw a big ol’ wrench in one of our writers’ life plans.

Instead of moving to Switzerland this summer, as planned, she and her partner needed to extend their visas in Estonia—a tiny country as far northeast in Europe as you can get before you hit Russia.

The extension itself was no problem. The country is a gorgeous collection of forests, bogs, and seascapes, up-and-coming startup scenes, and elegant cobblestone old towns. While our writer and her partner hadn’t planned on staying longer, it wasn’t by any means a bad place to be. Plus, their visas were extendible for another half year.

The only problem? They needed to renew their health insurance before applying for their visa extension and after a dozen emails, half a dozen calls, and over two weeks of back-and-forth with customer service, nobody seemed to know how to do something as simple as extending their plan a month ahead of schedule.

Customer service reps answered questions they didn’t ask and gave up on the ones they did. Phone operators told them they had to email. Email customer service reps ignored the messages piling up in their inboxes. And the deadline for that visa extension loomed on the horizon.

Cue our writer screaming into the void.

(And cue that insurer nearly losing her business.)

As our writer was fuming (and fuming and fuming some more), she stumbled upon the solution. Why, she raged, had this company promised the moon in its marketing and then left her in an endless loop of customer service hell when something as important as her legal right to stay in her home was at stake? Their marketing department was so on top of things that they’d written to her a year or two before to thank her for giving them a favorable review. So why now was her insurer leaving her out in the cold?

This was the aha moment.

Marketing. She still had the marketing person’s email address.

She shot off an email, explained her situation, and—boom—within an hour, she had a response. Within a day, she’d been passed along to the appropriate (and more senior) customer service person. Within two days, the problem was solved.

Her visa extension should be coming through the following week. And all was well in the world.

Well, sort of.

Because now—after years of being a loyal customer and a power referrer, constantly nudging other expats toward this brand—she didn’t trust her insurer. She was hesitant to send them more business.

And her story illustrates a huge problem for marketers:

Our brilliant marketing plans only work if customer service is on the same page.

Because real talk: marketing can usher as many new customers through the door as you want, but if you can’t keep them, you can wave goodbye to profitability.

After all, 74% of customers say they’ll peace on out after a bad customer experience. Existing customers are 60% – 70% more likely to buy something than those new to your brand. And research says increasing customer retention by a measly 5% can increase your profits by anywhere from 25% to 95%.

This is why marketers who take a flywheel approach to marketing—where customer retention, upsell, cross-sell, and loyalty are prioritized right alongside acquisition—outperform those who narrowly focus on acquisition. It’s also why companies that make sure customer service is on the same page as marketing and has the tools to solve real customer problems are going to outpace the competition in coming years.

Especially now that we’ve hit a recession.

Because right now, people are weighing every dollar they spend. And if your competitor has a reputation for great customer service and you don’t? That’s where those dollars are going.

It’s not enough for marketing to promise a great customer experience. The customer service team has to be right there with you.

It sounds simple, but the siloed nature of most companies makes it damn hard.

And the answer starts with getting customer service and marketing in the same room and on the same page. Making sure marketing isn’t overpromising and customer service isn’t under-delivering on promises made. Making a plan for how the teams can support each other. Opening the lines of communication.

It’s no longer enough for customer service, marketing, and sales to work in their own tidy little silos. If one team promises, another will have to deliver. Because seamless customer experiences are the customer’s expectation, and without them, you can watch as long-term loyalty sails off into the horizon.

And if you need a strategic partner to help start and facilitate those cross-team conversations? As always, we’re here to help. Reach out anytime.


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