Readers here know that if you want me to cringe, just say: “We have great customer service.” If you say that out loud in your marketing materials, I want to shout back: “You have terrible marketing insight — and probably really, your customer service is far less ‘great’ than you think.”
The same contradictory message could be outlined for any of the over-worn mission statement platitudes and corporate-speak that clutter the self-serving marketing media. (That is, the advertorial pages or even the news sections of publications who suck up to their advertisers, including ours.)
Yes, we too, publish sucky stuff. I hate to say it, but is because we provide “great customer service” and our customers indeed are the paying advertisers.
Wait. Where, you might ask, do I have the right to go out and tell you that something you do (along with most other businesses) sucks, when I do it in my own organization?
The answer in part is this: Sure, we offer great customer service, we give our clients what they want, and we do it well, most of the time. But that isn’t about bragging or marketing pride — it isn’t something we feel a need to broadcast by issuing a news release or plastering all over our marketing messages. In our (rather unusual) situation, we give “great customer service” by letting our clients share that they give great customer service — but when we really do it right; in other words when we live by the customer service slogan rather than just spew the standard words — we’ll invite our clients to do or say something different.
Questions I ask when writing advertising feature stories include:
- Hey, I know you give great customer service. Could you tell me a story (better two stories) of specific situations when you really went beyond the norm and the customers really appreciated it?
- You know, the best customer service stories are told from the perspective of your clients? Do you have any testimonials you can share? Better, could I interview one of these clients and hear it from the client’s own mouth.
- Sometimes things go wrong. I certainly screw up from time to time. Can you tell me a story where you messed things up with a client, and still made things right in the end.
I think you get the point. Great customer service isn’t just a slogan, and the activities we might describe as “great customer service” in our day-to-day work, really should be seen as routine customer service and nothing for marketing brag-talk.
What really counts are the exceptional, beyond the norm, amazing experiences, and only a very few businesses have been able to institutionalize these “wow” practices into their daily operations so that they truly can use the customer service phrase honestly — but they don’t need to, because their reputation precedes them, and their employees know the mantra and deliver the “wow” routinely.
However, if we’ve been in business for a while, we still have some times when we really got it right. These are the stories we should share as examples both to potential new clients and our employees.
When I hear these real stories, I don’t cringe. You can tell them too. However, if you can’t and you are using “great customer service” in your marketing materials, you have earned a failure mark in Construction Marketing 101.