Make Customer Service Your Marketing Plan

Make Customer Service Your Marketing Plan

customer service-phoneThe proliferation of social media platforms has completely changed the traditional model of customer service. It’s no longer enough to have a toll-free customer help line staffed by a team of representatives, because very few of your customers are going to reach out to your company via telephone.

Instead, they are going to post on your company’s Facebook wall, Tweet their questions or comments directly at you, or start a question thread on your Ravelry group discussion board. They might askabout a product in the comments section of your Instagram photos or review your product on a retailer’s e-commerce site. Your customers are interacting digitally with your company everywhere, and now it’s part of your job to find those questions, comments and complaints and resolve them. When you do that, you are demonstrating publicly that you care about your customers and value their feedback.

That’s the central premise of the new book by marketing expert Jay Baer, Hug Your Haters (Portfolio/Penguin, 2016). Baer sees responsive customer service as a marketing opportunity: your complaining customers are offering a chance to improve your product or service, and by making them happy, you are turning them into advocates for your brand. Hence, “hug your haters.”  Baer examines the ways in which customers complain and the channels they use to do it. He divides complainers into “Offstage Haters” and “Onstage Haters” and offers strategies to deal with both effectively. In the end, he predicts that dealing with social media feedback from your customers is fast becoming the most important part of your marketing effort.

How does this play out for a company that sells yarn or yarn-related tools? Whether your company has one boutique line of hand-dyed yarn or a vast array of yarn lines of different fibers at varied price points, your customers have opinions about your yarn and they are going to express those opinions. In particular, they’re going to express them either to you or to the online communities that they feel will be interested in those opinions. You have to listen to them wherever they are; while you cannot control what they are saying, you can control how you react to it and use it to your advantage. We’ve got some ideas that will help you harness the power of customer feedback as a marketing tool for your business.

Who are Your Haters?
Haters are the complainers who have a beef with your product or service. Baer divides them into “Offstage” and “Onstage” haters based on the channels they use to deliver their complaints. An offstage hater will contact you directly via phone, email, private/direct message via social media, or the feedback form on your website to let you know how you have failed to meet their expectations. The offstage hater seeks resolution: a replacement for a flawed or broken tool; another skein of yarn when the original one ran out six rows before the epic 600-stitch bind-off row of the shawl that was guaranteed to be a one-skein project. Resolve their problem and you have a happy customer. The interaction may end right there.

Or it may go “Onstage.” If you have resolved the issue to your customer’s satisfaction, their heartfelt gratitude posted on your Facebook page or in your Ravelry discussion group is an unsolicited endorsement for your company that your advertising dollars cannot buy. That kind of onstage interaction is what you want. Onstage haters, on the other hand, have a complaint and they want an audience. They believe that voicing their complaints publicly and inviting others with similar issues to join them will get them their desired results. Depending on the vehemence of their complaint, onstage haters may take to multiple social media channels to deliver their dissatisfaction. Each channel reaches a different segment of your potential customer base, so you have to respond appropriately to all of them. How can you if you don’t even know it’s happening?

Listening to Customer Feedback
It’s easy enough to keep on top of the customer feedback you receive on your official channels. Comments on your Facebook wall, discussion threads in your Ravelry group, comments on your Instagram feed are the places where your customers know that you will see what they have to say about your company. You’re looking at those all the time anyway. Now you don’t have to feel like you’re wasting time–it’s part of your marketing strategy. But those are only the tip of the digital iceberg.

It’s harder to get a handle on all the other places customers may discuss your products. Do you sell through third-party retailers and do those retailers publish customer reviews? Customers will be rating your products there. Have you checked your Yelp or Google My Business reviews? You may or may not show up there, depending on what products or services you provide. But in the yarn business, we all know our customers are on Ravelry. As mentioned above, having your own Ravelry group and monitoring its discussion board is only the place to start. Crafters may be discussing your yarn in a KAL thread where it’s a recommended yarn for the pattern. The group discussion pages for the LYS that stock your yarn is another place to check, especially when you’ve just shipped an order to them. If you dye sock yarn, you want to watch all the various sock-knitting groups on Ravelry (there are 20 pages of results for the search term “sock” on the Groups tab). There are not enough hours in the day to spend in scrolling in front of screens, especially when you have a business to run.

At Stitchcraft Marketing, we have lots of suggestions to help you make the most of customer feedback for your company. Download our free whitepaper, Responding to Customer Feedback as a Marketing Strategy to get started. Sign up for our newsletter and receive a free PDF to help you handle customer complains. 

customer service v2If you’d like more information about anything contained in this article, feel free to contact the owner of Stitchcraft Marketing, Leanne Pressly at 719-539-3110 or email for more information.


Leanne Pressly
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