I used to HATE Comcast. I payed a fortune for TV, phone, and Internet. Most of my issues revolved around TV: no sounds, freeing picture, no service, etc. As an early adopter and technology geek I am fairly forgiving of technical problems as long as customer service is responsive and addresses my problem. In order to communicate with Comcast you had to use email, which took forever for a response, or the dreaded 1-800-Comcast. This last, more instant channel was and still is a nightmare. After getting shuffled through 5 departments, have of whose accents you couldn’t understand you ended up with some who said “I dunno. What’s your account number?”
This all changed when Frank Eliason at Comcast got the blessing of management to launch @comcastcares on Twitter. I can simply Tweet that I have a problem and within minutes (on a weekday, weekends take longer) I get a response.
The point is not to slag Comcast, I’ve done that enough on other sites. The point is that I’m no longer a Comcast Hater. As I said, I’m forgiving of technological glitches, now Comcast is addressing them in a timely manner. This has dramatically shifted my perception of Comcast’s brand.
Zappos is another brand using customer service to grow it’s brand. it’s ‘customer focused” culture has skyrocketed it’s repeat customers helping the brand not only grow conversions from existing customers, but to generate great word-of-mouth marketing as well as free PR.
If there is one thing that brands struggle with right now is brand ownership. They believe that they still control their brand. In reality, they never did. A brand is not built on websites, pr, and TV commercials, it is built on how customers perceive it.
Brand Intent v. Brand Perception
This is not to say that marketers are out of a job, far from it. Brands control their intent, that is to say through marketing, design, PR, advertising, product development, customer service, etc. a brand can develop a personality, culture and conversational tone. All of these things will influence customers for better or for worse. But the User Experience is made up of more than banner ads and pop displays. The quality of the product, it’s accessibility, support, sales are all part of customer service.
Word-of-mouth has always been and will always be the single strongest channel for marketing. Customers with a good experience tell one person, with a bad experience tell 10, etc. With social media this formula has increased dramatically as bloggers and tweeters rush to get their reviews out there. If the dynamics of the good customer experience versus bad customer experience hold true, it is in the best interest of brands to make sure that even those with bad customer experiences are treated well through customer service. Doing so can very likely turn even a hater into a lover and turning a lover into an ambassador.