Customer service has always included an element of public relations. Every point of contact a company has with customers has the potential to either build loyalty or create dissatisfaction. Companies invest a lot in building a brand reputation, creating a content marketing strategy and becoming an industry thought leader. However, if an unhappy customer is left dissatisfied, those investments could be wasted. In today’s digital age, a disgruntled customer who has access to social media will sometimes use their digital megaphone to share their frustration. In the heat of the moment, they’re usually happy to use the megaphone.
Today’s digital world is highly unpredictable, and its uncertainty affects every industry. Additionally, customer expectations continue to climb to a new high. Companies like Amazon have set a new standard for customer experience with instant service, reliable logistics and real-time updates, easy returns, and innovative procedures. Customers have an often unrealistic expectation that their logistics, service or quality issues can be addressed and solved instantaneously. As a company, it can often feel like providing positive customer service is a battle you’re never going to win.
So, what’s the solution? Every organization needs an integrated communications strategy within its customer service department. Public relations and customer service should work together to create a unified integrated communications strategy. Here are some practical ways:
- Involve public relations in customer service messaging. Prepare messaging before a problem arises. Companies that wait to hear the question before formulating an answer are already behind. Public relations and customer service can work together to develop a plan by anticipating, asking and answering the most likely questions. What is the critical information customers need to know?
- Align the goals of public relations and customer service. Too often, customer service representatives are applauded for the volume of inquiries handled, rather than the outcome of each individual inquiry. Meanwhile, public relations teams are working to earn positive press coverage. Set similar goals for both teams, and incentivize customer service representatives who achieve high complaint resolution rates or high customer satisfaction survey scores.
- Empower customer service to quickly resolve ordinary complaints. A relatively minor complaint can often be solved with a simple resolution, whether it’s waiving a penalty fee or crediting a charge. In many situations, it’s beneficial for companies to give customer service the leeway to make quick, informed decisions on minor matters rather than keep the customer waiting for a response.
- Use multiple platforms to reinforce the message. For instances in which numerous customers are affected (a network outage or a product recall, for example), provide answers through a targeted, multichannel campaign including traditional media, social media and a rapid-response website.
- Arm customer service with good news. Share new product information, product reviews and philanthropic initiatives with customer service representatives. Relevant information can help reps create a humanizing exchange that contributes to a positive customer experience.
Whether your customer service is a large department filled with hundreds of individuals or a small team providing personalized customer support, it’s important to create a unified communications strategy designed to reassure customers that their needs will be fulfilled. Often, this means reshaping customer service into a channel for more transparent communication.