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  • 11.22.10

Is Customer Service the New Marketing?

How Thor Muller and the gang at Get Satisfaction have helped thousands of companies and millions of consumers transform the fundamental notions of customer service.

Thor Muller

Forty months later, Get Satisfaction is well on its way to
transforming the way companies interact with consumers, turning customer
service into the kind of measurably effective marketing that even John
Wannamaker
could have fully blessed. Gleaned from my conversation with
Muller at Get Satisfaction’s San Francisco headquarters early this
month, here are eight ways community driven customer service is changing
the ways brands go to market.

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Get Satisfaction

For Muller, it is simply not enough that companies use their tools.
“We really want people to change their whole approach to what it means
to talk to customers,” he explained. “For a long time, maybe a hundred
years, we’ve been gradually squeezing the humanity out of our
interactions; scripting it, automating it, scaling it.” Instead of
asking people to take a number, “Companies now have to revolve
themselves around individuals.” Muller noted, adding that in doing so,
“we’re making the world a better place, certainly more human!”

2. Elevating the conversation from transactions to aspirations

While traditional customer service is often about addressing
transactional issues like resetting passwords, Muller believes that
community-driven customer support can go much further. “Customer
communities at their best are really tapping people’s deeper goals,
their deeper desires,” explained Muller. This requires companies to,
“rise above writing help documentation and be more of a good cocktail
party host.” Muller links this change with the new staff post of
Community Manager who is part therapist, part help desk and part cruise
director.

3. Reducing the costs of the traditional help desk

For years, companies have sought to drive down support costs with
automation and the ironic goal of minimizing human interaction with
their call centers. Part of the reason Get Satisfaction has grown so
quickly is that it flips this notion on its head, increasing human
interaction but decreasing costs by making support more peer-to-peer
driven. Noted Muller, “we’ve seen with our communities at scale
typically reduce the number of [service] tickets that go to [call
center] agents by 75% or so.” Muller referred me to case histories for
Mint.com and Yola, both of which reduced “repetitive support by two
thirds.”

4. Extending support beyond your website to Facebook

While most companies recognize the need to engage consumers on social
media, only the savviest have begun to offer customer support on
platforms like Facebook. For these enlightened marketers, Get
Satisfaction offers a Facebook application in two distinct versions,
“one for enterprises who have a lot more demand for
customization/controls and one for everybody else,” noted Muller.
Having a support tab on Facebook gives fans one more reason to “Like” a
brand and get the information and support required to encourage and
enable over-the-top evangelism.

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5. Turning customer support into searchable content

Given the fundamental importance of search to customer acquisition,
finding ways to improve organic search results (SEO) is a top priority
for most businesses. That said, few have recognized that content
generated via customer communities can do just that. Explained Muller,
“somebody asks how they can use a particular camera to take better
pictures, that is then indexed by Google and then next person who
searches finds that conversation. Get Satisfaction] is taking something
that used to be a cost center, customer service, and turning it into
lead generation.”

6. Listening builds trust in and of itself

Dell famously solicited customer ideas and ended up producing a Linux
based laptop that no one bought. This kind of listening and responding
is not the ultimate intent of Get Satisfaction. While community
members are encouraged to offer ideas, Muller does not advocate, “design
by committee” or conclude that the customer is always right. “Even if
[a brand doesn’t] build what I want them to build or do what I want them
to do, I may be less likely to change to another product because I feel
close to them,” explained Muller.

7. Integrating customer conversations with your CRM system

Many sophisticated marketers, especially in B2B, rely on well-honed
CRM systems to track leads through the funnel. Get Satisfaction allows
these companies to take this one step further by connecting the social
web with workflow systems, trouble tickets and project management tools.
Explained Muller, “Knowing who a customer is, what their buying history
is, and what they care about is important to servicing them well.”
Suddenly a customer complaint becomes “actionable within an
organization,” given the CRM integration concluded Muller.

8. Measuring C-Sat on both a qualitative and quantitative basis

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While some pundits strive to simplify customer satisfaction to one
basic metric like Net Promoter, this may not be the ideal approach for
your particular business. Having witnessed thousands of customer
comments and complaints, Muller encourages clients to take a “more
holistic approach” and “measure satisfaction in various ways.” Having
developed something called a Satisfactometer, that explained Muller,
“might be something fun like an emoticon and other times might be
something more structured and numeric,” Get Satisfaction is delivering
both sides of the measurement equation.

Final Note: Having recently hired a CEO to drive the company
forward, Muller is re-focused on his true love, product development, so
we can expect even more satisfying features from Get Satisfaction in the
days ahead.

About the author

Drew is the founder of Renegade, the NYC-based social media and marketing agency that helps inspired B2B and B2C clients cut through all the nonsense to deliver genuine business growth. A frequent speaker at ad industry events, Drew’s been a featured expert on ABC’s Nightline and CNBC.

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