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Susan DeMatei
October 30, 2012 | Customer Support | Susan DeMatei


I was having drinks with my friend the other night,

and we were griping and venting the ways good friends do, when my friend suddenly got on a rant that I found particularly poignant and worthy of retelling to you all.

You see my friend is the manager of a customer service department – a job description I pick on a lot.  I admit I send out more than my fair share of case studies of where Customer Service blew it, and I’ve certainly written more than a couple blog posts about how Customer Service is behind the times when it comes to channels like social media.  When you think about it – Customer Service is everyone’s favorite punching bag.  Just do a Google search on customer service and you’ll get case study after case study of failure and hundreds of blog articles citing stats on how important Customer Service is, and how much we suck at it.

After all, us marketers work hard at attracting and selling to those customers, and getting the right product out to them – the least they can do is be nice to them, right?

Well allow me to share a portion of my friends very accurate and insightful rant to you – and then let’s revisit our opinions.

Customer Service is not There to Solve Marketing Problems

Don’t set yourself up to fail. Make sure your marketing claims are realistic and set customer expectations appropriately.

More often than not, Customer Service really means Customer Complaints.  I can count on one hand the positive phone calls

that gave smiles when I worked next to the Customer Service manager at Fosters Wine Estate. The rest of the time, it was all apologies.  Many times this is out of the company’s control, and might have to do with a retailer, or even customer error.  But sometimes, Customer Service managers can see a problem with the marketing – in which case it behooves you to listen to them.  Like the canary in the coal mine, they can let you know if customer expectations are being set too high, or if a marketing promise is confusing.  To quote my friend: “The Wine Club Manager said ‘people are just stupid’, and I told her if this many Club Members are calling in confused, it’s your marketing that’s stupid”.


Customer Service is not There to Solve Logistical Problems

Remember to think through inventory and fulfillment before turning an offer over to Customer Service.

It is up to us, as marketers, to know our inventory, what other offers are out there in the marketplace, and shipping deadlines.  Don’t hand the customer service team a hornets nest by not thinking through the details if there is no way a holiday offer good until December 22nd will get the wine there by Christmas.  In fact, Customer Service teams members who spend every day on the phone with customer issues are great sounding boards.  Run your offers by them before you print it – they’re already programmed to think of the questions customers will have.  And, maybe that step will save everyone some frustration in the end.

Customer Service Should be Documented

Right about now, most wineries that have holiday offers and events and mailings are hiring at least one temp to help with the phones or orders in November and December.  To keep training fast, and customer service consistent – processes and expectations have go to be documented.  You can’t expect an already busy person to sit with a temp employee for half a day and impart all their knowledge.  A technical manual of how the systems work, as well as tone and style expectations and an escalation plan are just some of the basics everyone should have.

My friend eventually vented herself out and we finished the bottle of Merlot and changed topics – probably to something more intellectual, like how to best preserve lemons off my tree.  But, before she left I did thank her for the insight and admitted I rarely thought about things from the Customer Service side.

So, go thank your customer service person(s), dear reader, and maybe gain an insight of your own.


Why Pay Attention To Your Customer Service? Because It Will Impact Your Revenue (
How Quickly Do You Respond to Customer Service Requests on Social Media?(
Consumers preferring to seek customer service via social media, survey reveals(


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