Customer service is the new marketing because it is grounded in competency, people, and contact - all things that can help you with innovation and relationships and that cannot easily be outsourced. They in turn create the experience your customers have that contributes to your story - that of your company and your brand.
I’m regularly called in by companies looking to improve what they call their “stories” -- the way consumers and shareholders alike perceive them. But when I interrogate them about what their companies actually do, many are befuddled. One CEO called me from what he said was a major American television manufacturer. I happened to know at the time that there were no televisions manufactured in the United States. But I went along with the charade.
“So you make television sets?” I asked. “Where?”
“Well, we outsource the actual manufacturing to Korea.”
“Okay, then, you design the televisions?”
“Well, we outsource that to an industrial design ﬁrm in San Francisco.”
“So you market the televisions?”
“Yes,” he answered proudly. “Well,” he qualiﬁed, “we work with an agency in New York. But I am directly involved in the ﬁnal decisions.”
Fulﬁllment and delivery were handled by a major shipping company, and accounting was done “out of house,” as well.
Businesses that do not seem to have a clear path to help employees participate in that very value they created are starting to show that discrepancy in the customer experience. Which in turn shows up as customer dissatisfaction or poor customer experience that ends up being a problem for sales. Customers have replaced consumers, even though we still behave as the latter in many ways.
Is the Internet the place where you can own your story again? After all, we know that value can be created from anywhere, where people can participate in the value they created, for example:
- Firefox by Mozilla - better and safer than Microsoft Internet Explorer (I would also add faster)
- Wikipedia by crowd sourcing - broader and more comprehensive and often more accurate than Encyclopedia Britannica (I could add more interesting)
- YouTube by crowd sourcing - more diverse and filled with talent than what Hollywood proposes (often formulaic and playing just to the center of the bell curve)
- Itex by members - where B2B can barter services crating a cashless economy
- Support groups for people with rare diseases
- Open source projects
- ... and more
Reading Rushkoff is quite the sobering experience.
There is so much discussion about what to do and what not to do, about definitions, about real value online today. Let's think for a moment here - do we own our story when we worry about the number of friends or followers we have and judge others using this very metric? Do we add value when we measure what we can learn from a post based upon the number of comments it receives?
Are we outsourcing our own critical thinking to others? Do we pitch before engaging? Do we expect value without giving value ourselves? I'm a strong believer in the pursuit of knowledge at the service of human potential. If it's true that we're in the attention economy, our measure of success is the actual connection formed between people and between ideas and people.
Genuine conversation between people may be less easy to exploit, but it's a whole lot stickier than any Web property or shiny object of the day. The very essence of human potential is paid off in the concept of community, where service becomes the main currency. Service goes hand in hand with empathy and compassion.
As for the word customer, I leave you to some interesting etymology discoveries.
Today at Fast Company Expert blog we talk about how you can get the most out of customer service - and this is valid both for the company and the customer.
[six word story by zen]