…marketers’ focus on acquisition makes perfect sense. Growth is the primary goal of any company — and new customers are required in order to grow. However, there is a point of diminishing returns where acquisition efforts are simply replacing customers that have already left — the classic leaking bucket.
This leaves two potential solutions. The first is to pour even more money into acquisition. This only perpetuates the cycle because things like product development and customer service get less funding. The second is to shift budgets toward retention — specifically customer service.
At this point, you may be asking, “Wait a minute, what does this have to do with Gen Y?”
For years, companies have been able to play this shell game and get away with it. Burn one customer and there was another close behind to fill in.
But Gen Y drove the adoption of open communication technologies and that adoption has led to adoption among Gen X, Boomers, and even senior citizens. Burn one customer today and they can tell people — more people, faster than ever before — that you burned them. Remember Verizon math? Or Shamwow sucks?
Most customers won’t go to these extremes. Maybe they search for “[insert brand here] sucks” on Facebook and “like” it. Or maybe they can’t find one, create their own “sucks” page, and invite their friends to join. Maybe they just text a few friends while on hold for your “customer retention department.” Or maybe they do go to the extreme and make it their personal mission to embarrass your brand.
On the contrary, think of brands that symbolize great customer service: Nordstrom, Zappos, Starbucks. Their reliance on traditional marketing goes down over time because their customers do the advertising for them. They don’t rely on discounts to draw in customers, they charge a premium for great service and word spreads from one loyal customer to the next.
Per the CMO Council, only 19% of a CMO’s span of authority includes customer service. Yet, as one consumer told me in a recent focus group, “When I have an issue, I’ll call and then email, but if I don’t get the help I’m looking for, look out! They can’t ignore me when I put it on Facebook and Twitter.” Social media levels the playing field. Marketers can no longer hide poor service with slick branding and promotions. Instead, we need to embrace customer service as one of our most valuable marketing channels — for both retention and acquisition.
Progressive marketers will embrace this accountability instead of fearing it. Really progressive marketers will thank Gen Y for ushering in this new era that forces them to become better companies.