Customer Service Is the New Marketing for AV

“Brand is not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.” That’s the observation from renowned brand thought-leader and master storyteller, Marty Neumeier, author of almost a dozen books on the subject of brands. So if they have such sway over your brand reputation, how important is customer service for your brand? I submit that it is of such importance that customer service is the new marketing for AV.

In particular, I know that churches value customer service because they use your technology in mission-critical environments (mainly on weekends) where failure is not an option they want on the table.

Your Brand Is Always at Risk

Some brands have earned prestigious reputations by delivering outstanding products for decades. Big names like Sony, Panasonic, Electronic Theatre Controls, Yamaha. Insert your own brand name right alongside these, too, because they are just at risk of losing the value of their brand value as your company.

Brand management has less to do with what kind of marketing messages or product positioning and far, far more to with how well you listen to the voice of the customer and respond quickly, accurately, and personally. That means your brand is really in the hands of everyone within your organization, not just in a ‘customer service department.’

Think those brands — or yours — are immune to the loss of brand reputation and loyalty? Think again. These stats say otherwise.

  • “Three in five Americans (59 percent) would try a new brand or company for a better service experience.” –Source: American Express Survey, 2011
  • “Americans tell an average of nine people about good experiences and tell 16 (nearly two times more) people about poor experiences.” –Source: American Express Survey, 2011
  • “Over 1 million people view tweets about customer service every week. Roughly 80 percent of those tweets are negative or critical in nature.” –Source: Touch Agency Survey
  • “Only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers complain. The rest churn.” –Source: Esteban Kolsky, founder of thinkJar

No organization can afford that kind of customer loss or brand reputation hit! For churches, they will likely go to your competitor if they have to follow up again and again with product or installation issues.

Your Customer Service Defines Your Brand Reputation

I’ve long advocated that Sales and Marketing should be tied at the hip. It’s a symbiotic relationship. For these folks to succeed, though, customer service has to not be a perceived barrier-to-entry. Overcoming a bad reputation takes exponentially more effort (and cost) than making responsive, helpful and personal service experiences the cornerstone of your brand.

According to a recent customer experience (CX) survey by Gartner, Inc. in 2015, companies that placed the biggest focus on programs to improve the collection and analysis of customer feedback and ‘opening up’ the organization. Priority was placed on collecting and analyzing customer feedback and communicating actions to employees and customers (capturing the voice of the customer) followed by reconfiguring customer process. –Source: Gartner, Inc., Survey Analysis: The State of Customer Experience Innovation, 2015

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Listening to customers. Communicating action plans to employees and to customers. Changing the customer process. These are huge undertakings, but customer service and the customer experience defines your brand reputation, so the investment is worthwhile.

  • “For every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent.” –Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs
  • “Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.” -Source: Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

The House of Worship market is made up of people, just like any other market segment. As such, it should come as no surprise that these findings have direct implications for how the AV market needs to serve churches, too.

Your Marketing Starts with Customer Service

If marketing is defined as “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services,” then what they — the prospects and customers — have to say about your brand is where your Marketing is set up to succeed or fail.

  • “Seven in 10 Americans said they were willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service.” -Source: American Express Survey, 2011

This is not only a seismic shift in reorienting the AV manufacturing and integration businesses, it is also an intentional shift in prioritizing marketing as direct reflections from the learnings of customer service lessons. Doing so will ensure your marketing starts with customer service and comes full circle back to the customer experience.

In order to implement these changes, the following stats help paint a three-step process.

  • “The top-three traits of great customer service are efficiency (answers my questions quickly), empowered (able to handle my requests without transfers) and empathetic (connects with me personally).” –Source: American Express 2017 Global Customer Service Barometer
  • “The key attributes to improve customer service in the next five years: speed (take care of customer needs more quickly), personalization (train representatives to make a personalized connection) and education (make prospects/customers aware of benefits and services that can help me).” –Source: American Express 2017 Global Customer Service Barometer

Do you see the correlation between the top-three traits of great customer service and the key attributes to improve customer service? Efficiency = Speed. Empathetic = Personalization. Empowered = Education. The implications and directive for prioritizing customer service could not be more clear or more important for managing your brand’s reputation!

Churches often feel like the underserved market; don’t compound that perception by assuming a customer service department pep talk will change anything. To be successful in the next five years as social networking circles expand even further, substantial changes are required of everyone in the AV industry.

What do you think? Do you agree with Anthony Coppedge’s thoughts for the audiovisual industry?