I've blogged previously about how important internal as well as external clients of any organization are to that organization's PR efforts. My colleague Shawn Paul Wood recently penned a terrific piece about three excellent reasons why great customer service actually helps boost PR. He notes, “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.”
I am sure by now we have all heard of the Comcast customer service representative who would not simply take the response "I've decided my wife and I no longer want your service” as an answer for why a customer was dropping the media/Internet giant. Indeed, Shawn refers to it in his most recent blog, titled 3 Reasons Why Customer Service is the Secret to Good PR
In one of my first blogs here on Flack Me, I spoke of why an organization's internal clients are as valuable as its external clients in promoting its new products or services. The same also goes for customer loyalty and retention. However, on the other hand, if a customer is not satisfied with the level of service supplied by an organization, that organization may have the right to try to determine the reason or reasons why. But, beware...such attempts can surely backfire, as in the Comcast case and apparently other examples.
The best parts of Shawn's article are the three thoughts he provided, and I will comment as well on them individually from my own personal experience and viewpoint. I've italicized his comments and then give my own thoughts in roman type:
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.
From personal experience, I can truly say customers will remember good customer service when they contact a brand with a question or a concern as well as when they receive lousy customer service. About ten years ago I ordered some items from a vendor supplying items for Civil War reenactors. When the order came, one of the items I'd ordered and paid for was not included. I called the store and had to leave a message about the issue. The owner of the business (who at that time was more involved) not only returned my call but asked me, “What can we do to resolve this to your satisfaction?” The issue was resolved by their simply sending me the forgotten item. But, you better believe I remembered the level of service received!
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.
I have a more recent and personal experience applicable to what Shawn notes above. My mother-in-law suffered a severe enough stoke last year that she now has to reside in a care center. Since her house had a reverse mortgage on it via Wells Fargo, my brother-in-law (as the person with power of attorney) contacted the bank to turn the house over to them. He has received such a run-around, poor service, and downright incompetence that he, as well as my wife and sister-in-law and myself, tells anyone who asks about Wells Fargo to not do business with that financial entity
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.
Shawn could not have said this any better. Fix the customer service representative issues and the negative brands will go a long way to fixing their branding issues and then be able to generate better PR. Remember, the internal customers or clients are as important, or perhaps even more so, than any brand's external customers. And it's the service (or lack of it) from the internal clients that external clients receive that goes a long way to determining success or failure of any PR campaigns.