Learn something, keep your customer service inhouse

I have seen since quite a long time that many customer intensive companies outsources their helpdesk and customer service function.

The probably the single most stupid decision a business can do is to outsource customer service and helpdesk… in my former post I said that all senior management should at least spend a day per year in the customer facing line of the business. That definitely goes for customer service!

Here you will immediately see the impact of your decisions: product changes, new launches, it-tools and all other things that are dreamt up in another part of the company.

The key persons who should be forced to sit in customer service is: CEO, CTO, Biz Dev Mgr, Marketing Mgr, Sales Mgr, User interface designers in particular, Credit Mgr…  I do not need to explain further I think

The customer service teams are usually treated like mushrooms and the they do get all the crap and have very little appreciation from anywhere… Their knowledge however is gold plated to use since they are the one that face the customer every single day… Treat them with the respect they should have and make them feel valuable, they are and they bust their butts managing the mess the rest of the company load on their customers.


Pattern Recognition – Target audiences or people you want to have as customers!

As a media director, marketing professional or communications manager there are many things you need to keep tab on but there a few things that are more important than others. The Brand itself, your tone-of-voice and understanding what your customer base is and what makes them tick…

So I will actually start with target audiences or your customer, existing, future and those who left you…

I have worked too many plans through the years to really be happy with any customer or company I have worked for due to the fact that way too little effort is spent on customer research and customer understanding.

I have one hero here in Sweden, the former Editor-in-chief for Hemmets Journal, a ladies magazine. He said that I have a personal objective to shake hands and have a chat with 10.000 of my readers every year and I am personally reading through all our editorial content to see that it matches what I want the magazine to be. This guy have a better understanding of his readers than virtually any other market person or CEO I have ever met!

When you are working a large brand you get a lot public research available and then you do brand tracking, a couple of focus groups and today some digital analytics but still it is mostly numbers that need some serious analysis and an analyst that do have a broad knowledge on current affairs, behavioral science, market knowledge and a serious dose of common sense… the best word is Pattern Recognition.

Pattern Recognition is the game for the future, I got a title that was quite on the spot from the swedish futurist #Troed Troedsson, he said the future star communication people are not the specialist nor the generalist but the complexist… the one that put things in perspective and creates comprehension out of the mass of information.

Target audience is not a good word any more because it really does not describe what you need to understand. I prefer to use customers, potential customers and lost customers.

To understand your customers you need to talk to them and figure out why they use your products or services, in what context… and not the least understand the customer that has exit…  because they are the key to understand your potential customers. Obvious? Of course it is but still it is still very randomly done by very many companies.

How do you then gather the data? Well the short and sweet version is… from Sales Reps, Customer Service Reps, Switchboard, General Research, In-depth Interviews, Social Media, Editoral Media, Direct Response and by being out there meeting your customers. Any senior manager that do not engage in meeting the general customer should be fired for misconduct…

McDonalds makes their management, at least in Sweden, work at least one day per year in the front line in a burger joint… that gives you a clearer understanding of the business than in your ivory tower… Richard Branson is another good representative for that kind of thinking.

Well, now to the part where you pieces together all the data you collected on general trends and larger groups of customers in different larger omnibuses and inhouse research and your data from your own company reps and remember no “sugar coating”, face the facts how unpleasant they might be…

1. Use the general trends to understand the context you are in, where do I fit in with my brand or service? What sub-trends are on the rise or fall, what will fit with my brand/service (Yes, be honest and do not wish for things that are not true… seen that one to many times. Or when you wish, make necessary change in the product line.)  – I once worked with a car maker that wished to target 18-35 yrs, hip people… with cars that attracted 40+ less hip people… We had some lenghty discussions I can tell…

This gives you the eco-system where you have your primary areas to focus on.  – Do not dare thinking media vehicles or advertising yet!

2. Get some really smart analysts, biz-dev department and your own communication team and external experts to use the data you have gathered to model and understand on where and who to spend the effort on. – Still no media or advertising discussions!

When you have modeled the the ones you target based on the learnings of existing customers, departed customer and your most likely potiential ones, incl the perspective to get the existing to buy more, the lost to comeback then you focus on the aqusition of the new ones! (Some will argue that the churn of your customer base will demand new customers in everyday and they are of course correct, but it is not the primary objective… that is secondary)

When these people are done, they most likely have both a qualitative group of audiences with behavioral patterns and relevant numbers in addition to them for quantitative reasons.

3. Now, you are allowed to think communication but still not any specifics…

Your earlier work should have given the consumption&awareness patterns for them who you wish to talk to and that would very much give you the key focus areas depending your objectives.

Nation wide media like TV, Outdoor, Print, Radio (all depending on size of country) gives you a possibility to show your brand to a broader audience if that is what you need. To that category you today add SEO, Social Media but those are most certainly not only nation-wide but international and hard to specifically target messages to since you are not in any form of charge here… Not that you can manage it in public media either… but those are by definition not for specific target audiences but quite a lot of people still seem to think that social media are targeted media…

To the traditional media channels you have PR, Events, Competitions, sponsorships, games,  in-store, product placement, word-of-mouth crew, sampling and all kind of creative niche things incl promotion material.

Here you also bring in specialists due to the fact that very few marketing departments have the possibility to maintain expertise in above mentioned areas but, a big BUT, you are to keep the reins fairly tight and they can never deliver better than how you brief them… bad marketing objectives,  target audiences and bad market data gives bad execution… even if they are smart and asks all the right questions and challenge you… if you do not have your affairs in order… well yeah you catch the drift.

Well, you now execute in all kind of manners with all your agencies from PR to Word-of-Mouth and now comes the next part where a significant number of marketers stray from the path of rightousness… post-campaign management… gather all the data on how the campaign has been recived tradtional metrics like sales, mentioning in press, RFQ, TRP/GRP, direct response, mentioning in social media, word-of-mouth (virtually impossible to measure unless you are really clever).

This is NOT a particulary sexy but an absolute necessity because it is here you catch your errors, new opportunities and audiences that you have overseen in your earlier pre-planning work (you cannot catch everything).

These data you model into your existing data, it can be very simple or extremely complex but you need to do it… repeat cycle and constant learning opportunity!

This is my top-line take on Pattern Recognition/Target Audiences/Customers

Feel free to comment, oppose, call me an idiot or eventually agree with me…

Common sense? Marketing?


Since I have spent a good 20+ years in the trade I figured that I come to a point where I decided to un-load some of my experiences, ideas and how I view marketing and communication today.

I have had the good fortune to work with a lot of skilled interesting people in both local and international companies over the years and they have given me a lot of ideas, being soundingboards for my thinking and being plain fun to work with.

I have a few inspirational sources like Seth Godin,  Joakim Jardenberg, Luc Galoppin to name a few and of course Steve Jennings who wants to change the world!

Take it for what it is… and feel free to comment my writings