Marketing's customer experience role causing friction with services teams

Panel of marketing and customer services support representatives claims a strong relationship between marketing and customer support is key to customer centricity

Marketing is adopting an increasingly influential role in customer service due to the rise of customer-centric thinking and digital communications. But the shift is causing friction between the two functions.

That was the view of industry representatives participating in an executive panel event organised by consulting group, Bluewolf, in Sydney. All agreed building a strong relationship between marketing and customer service functions is vital to the success of an organisation’s customer approach.

Bluewolf’s national sales director, Jason Bargent, described marketing and customer service as the new two “powerhouses” in organisations. While much industry debate has centred on marketing’s bigger role in technology procurement, he claimed the missing piece in these discussions is customer service.

“It’s not just about the CMOs and CIOs, it’s the marketers and also the customer service teams,” Bargent said. “To put the customers first every time, you have to put the views of these two teams first.”

CEO of contact centre provider Stellar, Melissa Hamilton, said customer ownership hasn’t been clarified in many organisations today. But she noted social media as a major intersection point between marketing and customer service teams.

“We deliver social media services to our clients and marketing is now sitting at the table as we go through these processes,” she said. “Marketing wasn’t there historically, but today we’re seeing these teams involved in decisions about customer support channels in 60 to 70 per cent of client engagements. That change has occurred as recently as 18 months ago.”

General manager of strategy and marketing at Direct Connect, Duncan Bryce, reported a similar trend. The company provides relocation services for consumers and is rolling out a new digital strategy and platforms to improve its omni-channel customer offering in coming months.

Bryce pointed out the relationship Direct Connect has with customers is relatively short, and the focus for marketing is on customer lifecycle. The front-line customer services team is a vital part of delivering this.

In addition, Direct Connect’s management team from the CEO down is directly engaging in the contact centre, and executives now call two customer calls per day.

“Two or three years ago, marketing would have had no view on the customer experience piece,” Bryce commented. “Now, marketing is highly involved.”

As a practical example, Bryce explained SMS messaging previously produced by Direct Connect’s operations team and sent to customers has been taken over by marketing to ensure the brand story is consistent. He admitted there was initial resistance to operations handing over these responsibilities.

“But this is part of how we communicate, it’s about our brand and the services we deliver,” he said. “And that’s marketing.

“This shift is not without friction; there is still a question of who owns the customer at different points of the journey. But increasingly, we’re seeing marketing take a more proactive part.”

While some momentum for marketing’s interest in customer service was coming from the executive team, Bryce largely attributed the shift to the channels customers were using to engage with the company.

“It’s also because of where the technology budget is starting to sit,” he said. “We are going through a digital relaunch of our Web channels and we’re about to turn on Web chat… for us, that isn’t sitting anywhere near IT, it’s in marketing. Three years ago, marketing just got to do the fluff at the edges of the website.

“The reality today is that IT as an enabler but the strategy, content, direction and ecommerce elements are all coming from a marketing perspective.”

Hamilton added the days of pure customer care channels are over. Customers are also choosing the channel they want to engage organisations through, changing the game around who is responsible for servicing them, she said.

Bargent pointed to a study undertaken by Booz & Company of marketers that showed 75 per cent only use social media channels for customer service. But just 21 per cent involve customer service support teams in strategy and execution.

“All of a sudden, marketing has taken ownership of customer service and how they’re servicing people through one channel,” he added.

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