The Customer Service Conundrum

Let’s face it—many departments do NOT want to manage customer service. I see the Customer Service Shuffle take place in media companies often, especially when people change roles.   In a company where 1 or 2 people are tasked with handling customer service, there are debates about where it should be managed—marketing, editorial, general intern, front desk, audience development.

There are some truly talented front line customer service representatives (CSRs). They thrive on helping people, resolving problems all day. But for people who do this work as just part of their job, the tasks of reviewing and forwarding these emails and calls can remain unanswered for days, while that person does other “more important” work.

And what a mistake this can be. If there is a general customer service inbox (phone or email), these requests can be urgent. For a media company, it can be a simple address change or missing issues, or it can be someone who wants to purchase a large number of back issues, have an editorial question, wants to place advertising or host a webinar, alerts you to a technical problem with a website or specific email effort.

As our attention spans become fragmented and we demand immediate response, what does it say when it takes a week or more to respond to a simple request? Simple: we don’t care about our customers. They will get their information next time from another site, another vendor. Not responding to customer service inquiries can lose a company customers.

CSR’s are often the face-of-the-company to new and regular customers seeking advice. CSR’s should be good listeners, problem solvers, multi-taskers, well-spoken and have decent writing skills. When they respond to e-mails, an instant viral message can be one filled with misspellings or incorrect information.

CSR work is also a great way for people new to a company to better understand the products that a company offers, learn where contact deficiencies might be on a website, interact with people in other departments.

Think about the Customer Service Representative role in a different light in your organization. They solve your customer problems all day long.

The Journey continues.


Encouraging Growth for the Audience Development Role

“Where are all the young people?”

That is what I wondered too.

That was one topic of our table’s conversation at this week’s Midwest Circulation Association meeting, during our lunch. My client was attending his second meeting, and I was the featured speaker. Derek is in his 20’s, and he was probably one of only 2 people in their 20’s at the meeting.

Audience development (AD) is such a critical role in media companies today, but many of us take a circuitous path to end up in this job. As databases are aging, email response rates are falling, in 2015/16 this role is going to increase in importance. Companies need to know their database, be able to better mine their current customer files, keep people engaged, and target their marketing for better responses.

AD is a perfect job for someone with a curious mind who likes ALL the spokes in the marketing wheel. We get to create marketing strategies, work on the tactical efforts, delve into the depths of our database trying to find better ways to target our efforts, reach outside our organizations to find new prospects, measure which efforts are working (by list, effort, copy, design, timing, etc), then try additional efforts building upon previous efforts. It’s a look into the psyche of our audience, a challenging but exciting puzzle.

AD is constantly changing, but it can feel a little isolating, since many people don’t understand the complexities of the job. It is a marriage of creativity and numbers. I think that attending in-person events give us an excellent opportunity to ask and discuss with others who do similar work. Step back from our computer screens to get a new perspective.

I have been attending the MCA meetings for several years and am a former board member. I find that I learn something at every meeting, and they are great for networking. Even if you are an AD newbie, I encourage you to attend meetings/lunches put on in your area. It is satisfying to find out that you are not alone with the issues you face today. And hopefully you will come back energized, with a new idea to try.

The journey continues.


P.S. For more specifics on AD responsibilities in media related companies, read my earlier blog post about this.

Audience Development Roles in Media Companies Today

Having worked in audience development in the publishing/media/information services world for most of my career, people still don’t know what I do every day. Frankly, it’s hard to me to categorize what I do it changes so often! Rotating projects, technology, and departments that I interact with keep this job challenging and interesting.

For a media-related brand, here are a few of the major responsibilities that audience development professionals have today:

  • Achieve BPA/AAM goals for audited brands.
  • Maintain USPS goals for any magazines that mail at periodicals rates.
  • Ferret out and consolidate customer data into a central location, where possible.
  • Help other departments with marketing efforts to achieve attendance or participation goals. Can include helping to make list selects, research outside lists, marketing vendors, or execute marketing efforts.
  • Assist the publishers in flushing out a comprehensive sales strategy.
  • Identify “hot” areas on database that can help identify new products.
  • Keep database current and with demos where possible. Helps to market smarter and for lead gen.
  • Review customer touch points to 1—make sure our online web page flow is logical and correct. 2-ensure we have consistent, current brand messages.
  • Manage the issue close process, including getting files to the printer and/or digital file sender.

Knowing the audience development responsibilities vary at different organizations, feel free to add other roles you handle in the comment section. All the items listed above are topics I will continue to explore on this blog, as well as the critical importance of the audience development specialist on your team.

The journey continues.