Great Brands Make Customer Service a Marketing System

My wife and I were shopping together in our local Trader Joe’s this past weekend. I’m always amazed at the sparseness of their stores.  Small footprint store, just a few shopping aisles, very few name brands, and yet, they seem to have just about everything we need.  Furthermore, we always seem to walk out with a few “surprises” that we don’t need either.  They are truly masterful merchandisers.

That said, this post isn’t about merchandising, it’s about customer service.  Because on this shopping day, I was reminded of a brand story about Trader Joe’s.  Quite frankly, it may be urban legend, but it has become a part of their brand identity and their people are fully aligned behind it.

Here’s how the story goes:   A 90-year-old man was home bound – snowed in someplace in Pennsylvania. To add to the drama, this story is said to take place over the holidays.  Being in the holiday spirit, his children worried that dear old dad would starve because he was shut in by the bad weather.  The responsible kids called several local grocery stores in the area to see if someone would be willing to bring food to their father. After several failed attempts, they finally reached a kind soul at Trader Joe’s.  Of course, Trader Joe’s does not offer delivery services, but given the dire situation, the manager said he would gladly deliver directly to Dad’s home.  He even suggested additional delivery items that would fit perfectly with Dad’s low-sodium diet.  After completing the order for the food, the kids were informed that… wait for it…  there would be no charge for the order.  The food would be delivered free of charge. “Happy Holidays.” In less than 30 minutes, the food was at the man’s doorstep—for free!

“Well done is better than well said.”

– Benjamin Franklin


Great brands don’t let standard operating procedures and bureaucratic red tape get in the way of delivering an experience for their customers.  Whether you believe the story or not, the team at Trader Joe’s believe it.  And, it’s demonstrated in the way they treat their customers every day.  For them, customer service is at the heart of their brand story and it is simply about doing the right thing.  More importantly, they’ve made it a part of their marketing systems – the people, processes and platforms for delivering remarkable customer experiences.



Chasing the Elusive 100% Customer Satisfaction?

Obviously, customer service is a critical success factor for any business. However, great brands recognize that customer service is not just another silo in their organization.  It’s woven into their story, strategy and systems.  Contrary to popular belief, you can’t make everyone happy and deliver service with a 100% success rate.  So, this means that listening to your target audience, segmenting their needs, and understanding the cost-to-serve those needs is the best way of aligning what they want with what you can afford to deliver. This is why customer insights are integral to telling your brand story, formulating your marketing strategies, and putting marketing systems in place to scale and execute with ruthless consistency.  From attracting customers to keeping them coming back, success is all about telling a simple, clear brand story and aligning your resources to assure that your customer experiences your brand story in a remarkable way.

Marketing Systems Personalize your Story

Many customers see your business as a faceless corporation that doesn’t care much about them, their needs or their wants. Though this isn’t true for most companies, if you don’t have a personalized touch to the way you engage with your customers you’re sending the wrong message. But it’s impossible to have a personal relationship with every customer. Right?


Well, with the advanced marketing technologies available today, you would be surprised at how close you can get to personalized, customized conversations with your customers.  You no longer need hundreds of customer service reps sitting in a call center someplace.  By using social media channels, chatbots, instant messaging and SMS marketing from reputable service providers, you can build real-time, authentic dialog with your target customers.


Marketing Systems Generate Customer Loyalty

Furthermore, that conversation doesn’t stop after you close the cash register. In fact, a large part of keeping customers engaged with your brand requires a consistent and authentic stream of communication with them before and after the sale. If a customer isn’t satisfied with an aspect of your product or service, then they need to know they can rely on you to sort out the problem quickly.  Conventional wisdom suggests that customers expect perfection.  But at TopRight, we’ve found that conventional wisdom isn’t always wise. The truth?  Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They just want to know that you’ll be there to help them out when something goes wrong.  How you handle a service breakdown can often lead to a customer loyalty breakthrough.   In fact, 94% of customers who have problems solved without hassle say they would purchase from a company again. With that earned loyalty, it’s not uncommon to find customers telling your customer service recovery story (which has now become their story) to their friends and family.


If you take a traditional approach to customer service – i.e. set up a “customer service department”, hire a bunch of CSRs and view it as just another cost of doing business, you’re really missing out on a tremendous marketing opportunity.  Traditional customer service is broken. The best brands view customer service as an opportunity to dynamically learn from the market and they put marketing systems in places to reinforce their brand story at every touchpoint with their customers.


In my new book, “Marketing, Interrupted,” I share many stories about company leaders who have created remarkable customer experiences by taking a transformational marketing approach. I’ve interviewed and researched marketers, thought leaders, brands, and organizations that are interrupting “marketing as usual,” maybe even going a little crazy — and succeeding. If you’re interested in learning more about transformational marketing, you can order your copy of “Marketing, Interrupted”  by clicking the button below.

Pre-Order My New Book!