Customer service should be a core component of any business, but it has been on the decline in the email marketing industry.
A lot that can be attributed to trying to do more with less in terms of both time and money resources, but also looking to monetize customer interactions.
Not taking a wider perspective of customer service is both problematic and a mistake. Obviously a high-touch level of customer service is good business, but email marketers also need help because there are so many emerging trends and technologies.
For example, there is real-time content, retargeting, disruptive technologies, and social and optimization for mobile devices, just to name a few.
There are more marketing technology, data and tactical trends facing email marketers than ever before, and all the more reason why email marketers need more hand-holding and resources to answer questions and address their needs.
When a services company is no longer a services company
Generally, consolidation is seen as good for companies in terms of growth and gaining market share. Through the combined efforts and technology of the combined companies, market advantage is supposed to become more crystalized.
In the email space, this has had the opposite effect in that the acquiring companies at the Enterprise level are not services companies; they’re technology companies.
Many of these acquired companies were well known for their support and help for the email community, and with that loss, service has again ranked high on marketers needs outside of the requirements for technology.
This brings the topic of service and support to the forefront in light of acquisitions over the last 5 years.
A couple of key customer service questions
When asking marketers why they switch Email Service Providers (ESPs), the top of every list is, “I’m not getting the service I need.”
This customer lament illustrates that choosing an ESP is not just a technology decision, but also a decision on the people behind that contract who are on the other side of the phone.
Marketers should have specific questions to identify the level of customer service that they need to navigate today’s complex email marketing waters.
For example, marketers seeking answers on their own should have access to webinar replays, eGuides and whitepapers that offer solutions to common issues, and for more pressing problems they should be able to reach their ESP in a number of ways including by phone, email and possibly even via online chat within the vendor’s website.
Evaluate if the customer service you get is just marketing speak or it’s actually baked into your ESP’s approach from the start.
Can they really assist and understand the challenges that you face on a daily basis? Do they have the digital experience and industry knowledge to help you find the right solution?
Great customer service permeates an entire company
In the email marketing industry, there’s plenty of vendor options that are essentially just a pipeline that you can take advantage of to get your email sent and are little more than a technical solution.
When an ESP and client begin working together more as partners than just a business interaction, service can be taken to a different level.
And when the ESP’s entire team from customer support, to development, to the account director and even the design team, has a dedication to customer service, then everyone is working to make the client successful and turn them into a hero at their company.
Great customer service also comes from a certain approach to the vendor/client contract and relationship. For one, it should be a conversation, not just a set of rules.
Of course the contract is there to define the parameters of the relationship, and should be referred to when things somehow go wrong in some way, but just regularly referencing the contractual rules throughout the relationship is a mistake.
It’s important for marketers to trust the person on the other end of the phone or email because their inquiries have a direct impact on their job performance and maybe their email marketing goals too.
Here are some sample questions that marketers should be asking, and getting answers for:
- Will my ESP be there to answer the phone?
- Do they have any external validation by accredited groups of their claims of “great customer service?”
- What do their customers (references) say about them?
Many times speed and urgency is also important as a campaign needs to get out the door. For example, we would rather answer a question during a chat message within the application to cut down the time from someone asking a question and us getting them a response.
Knowing that time is money for our clients, we want to provide experts who understand email and understand the struggles marketers’ face so we can provide the best service possible.
A final takeaway?
Email marketing is ever more complex. Between constantly emerging trends and marketing technology options, it’s easy to fall into the trap of providing the minimum service level based on contractual rules.
To really be set apart, great customer service has to become something that’s ingrained as a core aspect of the business.
The long-term benefits are always worth more than the potential short-term savings from not providing the best customer service possible.
Ryan Phelan is Adestra‘s VP of Marketing Insights
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