Customer experience is entering its golden age. Consumers are enjoying more influence over brands thanks to the easy access enabled through social media, and brands are faced with the ongoing challenge of ensuring each customer experience is a positive one.

To this end, there are commonly missed opportunities for brands and companies to improve their relationship with customers.

Customer communications generally fall into two separate categories: marketing and customer service. And despite both areas having the same common link – the customer – the role they play in the customer journey differs significantly. While customer service teams are focused on responding to problems, questions and inquiries, the marketing team has its goals set on attracting new customers.

What’s needed is a merging of service and marketing departments to work in unison. One approach: use customer call centers as a marketing channel.

New vs. Existing Customers

When brands undervalue their customer call center as a potential marketing channel, they’re overlooking a significant factor: the value of a retained customer compared to the cost of acquiring a new one.

Despite 70% of businesses still believing it’s cheaper to retain a customer than acquire a new one, there’s still a distinct disconnect between marketing and customer service. In fact, worldwide, companies spend approximately $500 billion on marketing, compared to only $9 billion on service, according to marketing solutions provider G-Force.

Customer Service is Relationship Marketing

Customer service is such an integral part of the business framework because it is the direct link to your most valuable asset: the customer. When brands don’t place enough value on this channel they’re taking the customer relationship for granted. The same emphasis needs to be applied to the call center, the customer service front line.

It’s time for brands to think of the call center as an opportunity to showcase their ‘relationship marketing’ prowess. To do this, they need to recognize, and overcome, some of the biggest challenges facing call center effectiveness.

For many consumers, contacting the customer call center is a painful process. Between multiple user verification points, memorizing account credentials and payment info, and, worst of all, having to continually repeat issues to each new customer service agent, it’s no surprise customer service departments have a bad reputation with consumers.

While we may have seen new approaches to customer service via social media, and there’s been greater focus on improving the customer experience (thankfully), we’re yet to see these innovations translate to the call center.

Turning Customers into Advocates

Reducing painful customer service interactions should be the focus of every business. However, if you want to shoot for the moon, consider how you can create experiences that are so enjoyable they lead to customer advocacy. There’s loads of research that tell us that a positive customer recommendation is more powerful than anything a brand says or does. The call center is an opportunity to delight the customer and ultimately drive advocacy.

Applying the Rules of Marketing to Customer Call Centers

Transforming the call center is no easy task. However, many of the same broad principles of marketing can be useful when trying to improve call center performance and utility. Here are some suggestions to start reevaluating your approach to call centers:

  1. Be proactive: It’s marketing’s job to go out and get customers. The same proactivity can be applied to customer service. Contacting customers before they need to pick up the phone and contact you is a way to ensure you’re providing an exceptional experience. An effective way to do this is to follow-up after a sale, service or delivery is complete and let the customer know their satisfaction is your priority.
  2. Be more accessible: When calling customers isn’t scaleable, think about creating new opportunities for customer communication. Some of the most effective marketing campaigns span various channels and hit multiple touch points. As brands, you need to apply the same far-reaching philosophy to your call centers. Look for other channels where you can access customers to get feedback. For example, mobile messaging is growing as a preferred communication method between brands and consumers. This is an opportunity for brands to check-in with customers in a way that’s less intrusive than phone calls, and easier to respond to.
  3. Ask for feedback, even if it’s negative: Marketers effectively analyze data and use it to apply their expertise. If you’re dedicated to improving customer service than you need to be comfortable with doing the same. Find out what your customers need and what they expect from customer service. By identifying what’s broken, needs improving and what’s missing in your customer service (and actively working to fix it) you can gradually build trust.

These marketing principles listed above are not all-encompassing. Of course there are other tech and functional elements involved in transforming the call center. However, what’s needed first is a shift in thought. The call center needs to be valued above all else, as a direct connection to customers.

It’s time companies started realizing this and devoting more resources into improving this channel so that it better serves both consumers and businesses in the digital age.

Are you looking beyond the call center? Try these 3 powerful strategies for delivering next-level customer experiences.