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3 Reasons Why Customer Service is the Secret to Good PR
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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A crisis happens when you least expect it, but if you handle it swiftly and appropriately, any brand can manage to retain good tidings with the general public. Drama will ensue for some brands on any given day; however, if the right team is in place and good training has been implemented, they'll survive. In this year of social media and gotta-have-it-now-itis, it seems there is only one silver bullet that will kill any PR juggernaut: poor customer service

Back in the '80s and '90s, during the advent of call centers employed with more minimum-wage workers than a fast-food joint on a given city block, customer service was atrocious. However, there was no recourse, no accountability, no promise of "we'll do better." And then the world got Twitter, Facebook, and some array of microblogs to help customers create a similar kind of havoc for being shouted at on the phone for doing so much as calling for help. Big and small brands alike: Want to obliterate any positive PR mojo you have? Hire an unqualified, barely literate dolt to answer your phone and personify your brand. Because we have tricky fingers now and aren't afraid to type. 

You have heard the stories of Comcast's pugnacious "customer service representative" who didn't even get fired for his actions. There are countless stories about the agents who answer airline and credit card phone calls because fees, fees, and more fees are so kind-hearted to discuss. Most recently, there's this tweet making the rounds, thanks to DirecTV's agent getting butt hurt, so the hold button became a thing:

.@DIRECTV's customer service approach is "Keep them on hold until they decide to just hang up instead of cancel!" pic.twitter.com/0OtfkLBFpt

— Alexandra Heredia (@PHASERStoFAB) July 24, 2014
That's more than two hours on hold. Someone pull the brakes and stop the madness. Please? To help with the salve brands with call centers need so badly, here are three reasons why customer service is the secret to good PR:

1. People are images of your brand. Whether you believe it or not, whether you like it or not, all those people who corral in cube farms like prize-winning cattle at a county fair are going to reflect your brand somehow. And you may not like it when they do. How do you ensure they reflect it well? Train them! Zappos is the hallmark of good training in a call center. Call them with anything. They are (almost) piss-off-proof. And that's why people buy stuff from them — service. Furthermore, that's why the brand gets great PR — stories of service. 

2. Service is an extension of your brand. What someone gets over the phone does not equate to "Well, that guy was a douche, but I love the brand." When someone gets nasty on the phone and turns off the service button, that equals to "That brand hates people. So, I hate that brand and will notify all my people about it." Pop quiz: What do you think someone will believe more? A direct mail with fluffy language or a personal diatribe of angst from someone they trust? And that's why your brand sucks. 

3. Resolve should be the response of your brand. Do you have a story that has become bulletin-board fodder? Worse yet, has it become Reddit-board fodder? If so, you need to do one thing fast: Fire people and fix this thing! Why do people equate negative terms with your brand? Look no further than the people you have serving them. All those brands out there with the fabled tales of awful customer service (and they know who they are) all have one irrefutable thing in common: they don't care who they hire. They fix that and then they can start working on better PR. 

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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