“Break the service paradigm in your industry or market so that customers aren’t just satisfied, they’re so shocked that they tell strangers on the street how good you are.” — Jack Welch
Is customer service the new PR? There’s no shortage of articles and posts explaining the inter-connectedness of the two disciplines (see: Dave Fleet, Steve Rubel, Brian Solis, Todd Defren and Fast Company). But, if you live in a world of accountability measured by fans, followers, web traffic, retweets, Twitter lists and other “data” metrics, customer service as a PR function can be a hard sell. After all, how do you measure the value answering a question or solving a problem?
One of my clients is the Columbus Marathon. When I explain what I do for them, it’s a mix of social media consulting, community management and being a “social media correspondent” — sharing social media updates from the course and other related events throughout the year. But, I also provide a heavy dose of customer service, especially in the weeks leading up to the marathon (which was the middle of October this year). The week before the race, I answered dozens of questions from marathon participants — everything from parking and arrival times … to start line processes and availability of port-o-potties on the course. What’s the ROI of this customer service? The people were already registered for the marathon, so our answers didn’t drive new “sales.” The answers didn’t directly generate new “fans” or “followers.” But, our responsiveness did contribute to a better overall marathon experience for participants (especially when they found out hundreds of “pit stops” were available on the course!). And, that positive experience will have long-term positive effects as the marathon continues to grow.
In PR and social media, we do need to be accountable for our efforts, our billable time and the value we deliver. But, we shouldn’t solely rely on hard metrics to communicate our value. Anecdotal evidence can be just as useful. And, just as valuable to the decision makers. After all, as Seth Godin suggested last week, “Most businesses (including your competitors) are afraid of big investments in unmeasurable media. Therefore, if you have the resources and the guts, it’s a home run waiting to be hit.”
What do you think? Do you see customer service as a PR function? How are you measuring the value of responding to customers?
Photo credit: Search Engine People Blog
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