Monday, April 21, 2008

Ouch! Undermined By My Own

So I have been trying to resolve a problem with my bank for several months now. It is a problem without serious consequence, but a result of a mistake they made. I have had multiple phone conversations, various conflicting explanations, and been disconnected almost as many time as I have been transferred. I need to call again because the problem still exists. I just don't have the energy to go through the automated menus, re-explain the problem, and eventually get cut off again. Interesting thing is that my bank's ads heavily promote quality service over, say, price or variety of products.

Why am I talking about a customer service problem on a marketing blog?

A lightbulb went off as I realized that at this point I doubt that any amount of marketing will convince me that quality customer service is truly a priority at my bank. How frustrating for the marketing people who have nothing to do with the customer service department - the actions of an entirely separate department have shot my trust.

I've always assumed the important things for a marketer to track would be the competition, market shifts, product innovation, consumer trends, and economic conditions - basically influences that are external to the firm. I also realize that marketing, along with public relations, addresses the hiccups that firms run into: a medicine promoted as safe has rampant allergic reactions or a car presented as high quality requires recalls, etc. Although it makes sense, it didn't occur to me that outside of the 'hiccups' that I mentioned, one's own firm could be the source of undermining marketing efforts.

Although I knew communication between departments, especially during times of 'hiccups', is important, I now see that communication at all times is critical. It is easy to assume all departments have the firm's goals at the center of their systems, but their individual objectives may conflict with each other. For example, what if the goals for the customer service department have more to do with speed of service than quality while the marketing is placing quality above all?

My banking example shows me how quickly the actions of any department that deals with the public may easily undermined marketing efforts. I've added constant internal firm communication to my list of important marketing activity - let's hope the next time I expand my list I can look to a more personally pleasant example!