Marketers, want to save your job and the company? Use real customer service.

Several things happened last week that made me take notice. And since I don’t believe in coincidences, I had to pull it altogether in my mind.

First, an amazing client story.

J.D. Gould Company is a family-owned business.  It’s been around since 1951. They make solenoid valves. It’s really hard to get excited about solenoid valves unless maybe you are an engineer but, according to the client, a lot of engineers don’t think about them as much as they once did. They are one of those things that don’t seem very important but they are. A bad valve can shut down an entire line. And that’s what happened to the an unnamed American Car company back in 1950’s.

At 2 am, the Gould family was awaken by an extremely upset plant manager. He told Mr. Gould that he better get up there right now and fix his broken solenoid valve. That it was costing the company thousands of dollars because the line was down. He expected Mr. Gould in six hours. The drive from Indianapolis to Detroit.  At a fury pace.

Mr. Gould got in his car and drove there as fast as he could. He couldn’t figure out how his valve had broken but he was going to make it right. When he arrived, he was met by the plant manager, the heads of the union and a lot of executives.

Mr. Gould and the union representatives along with electricians and plumbers climbed separate ladders to inspect the valve. Upon removing the top of the valve, they all could see it was stuck in the open position. Mr. Gould said he couldn’t understand why the valve would do that and asked if there was anything in the line. The union workers claimed there wasn’t along with the plant manager. They cut the valve out of the line.

And there, sticking out of the valve, was a plumber’s pencil. Whoever cut the pipe, put his pencil in the valve and forgot it. The valve was stuck open and Gould’s valve wasn’t at fault.

But he said nothing. They put it back together. The line was functioning again.  Mr. Gould drove home.

Next week, the local car dealer of the company called Mr. Gould. They had two new cars waiting for him if he wanted to stop by and pick them up.  The owner of the company still tears up thinking about how proud he was of this grandpa.

Here’s the other pieces I read.  Two blogs. One by Chris Brogan and his struggle with GMAC customer service.  And another from Seth Godin on How to answer the phone.

Imagine what the car company would have done if Mr. Gould had not picked up the phone or not gotten into his car and drove to Detroit.  Would he have gotten more business?  Even after they found out it was their own problem.  Would the lack of care overridden the problem?

Marketers complain to me about how the companies don’t understand what they do and how they are always the first to go when economies get tough.  I sympathize.  I was once on that side as well.

Marketers also understand how when a new customer comes calling, you better get it right and answer the phone on the first or second ring.  You treat those new customers like gold.

But current customers, heck, that’s not your problem.  That’s customer service.  That’s a different department.

Well, it shouldn’t be.  Marketers – the new marketers – should handle both sides of the fence.  If a call comes in, whether it’s a brand new customer or your oldest, they should be handled the same way.  Like the gold they are.

Every marketer knows that a current customer is 10 times less expensive to keep than to try an earn a new one.  But yet they get the crappy phone calls from overseas or the phone tree from hell.  Or nothing.

Want to save job your job?  Then take responsibility for every customer.  Use those marketing dollars to save your current customers from phone trees and incoherent operators.  Use some more by giving your current customers an EASY way to spread the word about how great your company is.

And you better do it soon.  Because customers are starting to realize that they have more firepower with social media.  They can organize and spread the word for you or against you.

Who knows…there may be a new company car waiting for you instead of a pink slip.

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