Public Relations: Customer Service Experts

CustomerServicePublic relations pros are the best customer service reps. Of course there are many great and helpful CSRs working in various client-side customer service departments dedicated to solving problems.  However, it’s been my experience that when customers call the PR team, after not getting any satisfaction through the usual CSR routes, their problem gets solved.

Here’s why, CSRs historically are incented to sell, not to solve.  How do I know this beyond the occasional frustration I’ve experienced with some, not all, CSRs?

A few years ago I was at a large client’s internal all-team meeting for the quarterly pep rally. One of the CSRs asked the leaders at the front of the room, “how can we do our jobs when we’re trained to sell more services instead of being trained to deal with the questions and problems most of our customers call about.”  This question led to a lot of murmured agreement that threatened to hijack the meeting.

Trained to sell and not to solve? No surprises there, but that meeting certainly confirmed suspicions that still linger.

Conversely, over the years my colleagues and I have taken calls from the customers of a few clients who found our names on a news release after being unable to contact the CS department.  We’d listen to the customer’s problem, provide answers, give relevant CS phone numbers and email addresses, promise to contact our clients if needed on behalf of the customers, and also point out that even though we were the client’s PR firm and not connected to the customer service department, we would make sure the customer’s problem was solved.

Based on my firsthand experience with PR/customer-service-problem-solving, I’ve told a couple close contacts struggling with defective products and poor customer service to call the manufacturers’ PR departments; which they did, to finally get their problems solved.

Good PR pros are many things: strategists, anthropologists, psychotherapists, media junkies, problem solvers, etc. We also know the importance of stakeholders enjoying positive brand experiences. Based on this undeniable fact, PR pros are the best brand ambassadors and customer service reps.

2 thoughts on “Public Relations: Customer Service Experts

  1. Great post Trevor and I totally agree with you. I often call the PR department or external agency when I hit customer service roadblocks, which is often. It usually results in an apology (even though it’s not their fault) and a quick, friendly resolution. I’m not surprised that the CS reps at most organizations are trained to sell rather than solve and that would explain the fact that while you’re on hold with a CS department you are often subjected to annoying advertisements for the very products you are complaining about. However, from an etiquette point of view, there is no excuse for the rudeness of many CS reps. Regardless of what they’re “trained” to do, their frequent indifference demonstrates a personality that is just not compatible with a role in which your primary responsibility is to interact with customers. I have always believed that PR, especially agency PR, attracts people who genuinely like to help others, solve problems and generate results. Perhaps the outsourcing of CS to PR agencies is a potential new revenue stream for us.

    Louise

    1. Trevor Campbell

      Thanks, Louise. I’m sure PR could help with a new business model to help companies afford to provide better customer service.

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