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Why positive customer service = positive PR

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 7th January 2013

I’m proud to say that I managed to complete nearly all of my shopping online this year. Two separate experiences during my ecommerce splurge made me think about the importance of customer experience and how it can be used as a vehicle for good PR.

EXAMPLE ONE: The first was a purchase I made with a wine company. I wanted to have a box of wine delivered just in time for Christmas.

The order all went through and I received an email confirming the delivery date. I thought nothing else of it. But the next day I received an email from said company asking me to confirm my payment address. The long and the short of it was that I had mistakenly added an old address, so the payment didn’t go through.

While it was my fault, the had taken quite a bit of time to come back and notify me about the error and, to make matters worse, they expected me to phone them up to confirm. When I phoned, the person I needed to speak to wasn’t available. They did eventually phone back but not until I had chased via email. In the end the wine arrived late but thankfully still before Christmas.

EXAMPLE TWO: The second company example was Amazon. Now, I should add that I’m a big Amazon fan. I subscribe to the Amazon Prime service and these two anecdotes probably demonstrate why I hold the company in such high regard.

The first incident occurred when a purchase failed to arrive within the ‘next day delivery’ time-slot. I emailed them and received a reply within 30 minutes. They offered to resend the item if it still hadn’t arrived the next day (it arrived within hours) and also gave me an additional free month of Amazon Prime as a gesture of goodwill.

The second incident was regarding an iPad bluetooth keyboard I purchased a few months ago that had stopped working. I emailed to ask about warranties and, again, received a message saying a replacement item was in the post, next day delivery, no questions asked.

Putting words in my mouth

In each of the above examples my feelings towards both companies were altered due to the experience I received. It will also probably affect future purchases with both. And it certainly had an effect on my ‘word of mouth marketing’. I’ve told many different people – offline and online – about the experiences.

Now, I appreciate I’m not comparing apples with apples here. Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer and has significant resources to invest in state of the art customer service. But, get it right, and the arguments for good customer service extend far beyond usual metrics such as enquiry resolution and retention rates.

Positive customer service can have significant word of mouth and PR benefit.

Going above and beyond

Psychologically speaking, the crucial aspect in both these examples is that they provoke an emotional response. In the positive example, an emotional response can help contribute to the ‘halo effect’ theory. This is a proven psychological trait whereby we overvalue someone or something based on perceived expertise.

And first impressions count here. Take this simple experiment that Daniel Kahneman reveals in his book “Thinking fast and slow“.

Read the two lines below:

Alan: intelligent – industrious – impulsive – critical – stubborn – envious

Ben: envious – stubborn – critical – impulsive – industrious – intelligent

What do you think of Alan and Ben?

Chances are you will have formed a far more positive impression of Alan even though the words used for each are identical, just in a different order. Make a positive impact and that person will trust and value you even in areas where you have – to date – no shown any clear accomplishment. It is for this reason that the halo effect is often seen as a negative.

So much of what we try and do on a daily basis in digital PR is to build advocacy. Encourage influencers to enthuse about your company – for exactly the reasons specified above. Often – and I appreciate I’m potentially doing myself out of a job here – a lot of this advocacy can be driven from the interactions your customers have with your brand, with your employees, on a daily basis.

When putting together your technology PR strategy for 2013. Don’t forget to think about all the interactions your customers or prospects will have with your brand on a daily basis. If your company lives and breathes good customer services, you’ll reap the rewards.

picture credit

Danny Whatmough