The idea that customer service IS marketing is increasingly discussed. The success of Zappos.com through word-of-mouth about the remarkable service it provides is often cited as an example. Organizations are told to improve customer experience so it becomes a form of viral marketing.
Type “customer service is marketing” into any search engine and you will see a list of articles claiming that customer service is the NEW marketing.
Flip this idea around and you will see advocates who believe marketing should be approached as a service to customers and prospects.
Both ideas are interesting and encourage debate. Coming from a marketing background, I was engrossed and dug deeper, until a “Duh!” moment woke me up.
It does not matter if customer service is marketing, or if marketing is a form of service to customers. What matters is developing a new and bigger perspective about service.
Starting with the question: “What is service?”
Here, we believe “service” happens when someone takes action to create value for someone else. Seen this way, service can be provided to colleagues, not just customers. Service happens in the military, at home, from a country to its citizens and vice versa. In fact, service occurs in almost every constructive interaction between one human being and another.
It is time for us to simplify the meaning of service. Free it from the subservient shackles attached in some cultures, where the server is treated (and feels like) a “servant”. Service should not be an indication of status or class, but rather a commitment from one person to contribute to the care and well-being of others.
Let’s remove the blinders that keep us from seeing service as something that only happens in business and for “customers”. Service is not a commodity to be exchanged, or merely a tool for commercial profit.
It is time to focus on how learning to serve one another better is an idea every person can and should embrace. Service can truly make our world a better place.
The issue is not what marketing is or isn’t, or whether service is marketing, or marketing is service. The bigger issue is whether we are marketing the right message about “service”.