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Ehsan Khodarahmi Headshot

Customer Service is the New PR

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In the world of digital marketing, brands measure number of visits, time spent and number of clicks; something widely referred as number crunching to analyse and evaluate user behaviour online. This is how brands are used to treating people visiting their websites; and if things went wrong they always asked people to email them (the brand owner). Obviously, we know how long one should wait to hear back from the brand, sad and frustrating; but the irony is that most of these brands advertise and market themselves as "investor in people" and "best customer service".

When customers call companies with their queries, they often don't talk to human, there is either a form to fill in or expensive numbers to call and press buttons after buttons while listening to automated messages - and finally being referred to the business website or if lucky placed in a queue to speak to an "adviser" whom apparently is very busy on another call. Although, this is a safe game for brands, it is frustrating for customers.

People don't have short memories when it comes to their emotions and personal values; they may forget what they're told but they don't forget how they made feel. Brands had the luxury of controlling what the general public should see and hear about them, but thanks to Social Media, people have the luxury of being heard by brands much faster; regardless of their level of "reach" and "influence". The new communication techniques are good news to people but frustrating for brands.

According to tweets, when one search for EDF and their customers service, as well as previous publications that indicated EDF was fined for £2 million for bad customer service, EDF is amongst companies with the least caring customer service but massive noise with regards sympathy with customers.

In old days, marketing communicated attractive messages, PR hid past stories by creating new good stories and customer service team read from a script often begin with "sorry to hear that...". Today, brands can no longer afford ignoring voice of customers and manipulate negative word of mouth while pushing negative comments down in search engines; simply because the brand has money to spend on SEO and ghost writing.

Proactive and engaging customer service is now the real PR brands may wish to pursue; not Klout score screening and check number of followers on Twitter then respond with typical texts. Social Media has changed the way of communications. Social Media called for decent and transparent tone once, and it's not repeating its message twice; however it every day introduces new casualties of bad customer service practice.

Something to remember about this article and Social Media: whatever happened in Vegas won't stay in Vegas anymore, it will travel fast and everyone would know and remember forever. It's worth mentioning that, good news travels fast but bad news travels faster. Thus, genuine engagement and listening are key to assessing brand perception among people; that's why customer service is the new PR.