The three fundamentals of great service content

Posted by: Maureen Rice, Cedar

Let's be clear: all good content is a customer service. If it's not adding anything to the customer experience, then it's not good. 

But there is a difference between ‘we love it' content and ‘we use it' content. ‘We love it' content is that clever, emotive TV ad or the magazine celebrity exclusive. ‘We use it' content is about detail and relevance - the everyday, everywhere customer touchpoints such as destination guides, recipes, web reviews, how-to videos and trouble-shooting FAQs. 

It's this kind of service content that is too often under rated or poorly executed - which is a big mistake. Content can extend customer service way beyond point of sale into all aspects of customers' lives, helping to build a real relationship between customers and brands, creating loyalty as well as powerful brand advocates.

Putting content at the service of customers is such an obviously right thing to do. But just because it's obvious doesn't mean that anyone can do it - or that everyone does. A recent survey by Eptica found that while content has increased significantly in the last year, customer service satisfaction has barely improved at all. 

There are some essential ‘hows' and ‘whys' to creating stand-out service content, but that's another post. They are pointless without understanding the real art and nature of service, so first I want to focus on the three fundamentals:

1.   It comes from the heart
It may be wrapped up as information, inspiration, functionality or free stuff, but at heart (and that's the right word) all service is about making customers feel as if they really matter, and that can't be faked.  If your content is going to be at the service of your customers it has to be delivered not only with consistently great quality, relevance and attention to detail, but also with empathy, respect, honesty and transparency. 

We talk a lot about the power and importance of emotional engagement for brands and customers, but it has to begin with the content creators. If we don't emotionally engage with what we produce - which means always trying to make it better, producing content that we believe in and can stand by for customers - nobody else will either. 

2.   It goes to the point
The whole point and purpose of service content is relevance. Understanding the customer mind set and how to meet those needs isn't enough - that's a basic ticket to play.  Too much content, even when it's good, is counter productive and if it is isn't speaking to the customer experience it's pointless self indulgence. Less content, created and edited by people who understand, like and respect the people they are working for, and where every word and picture has a function that the customer can relate to and use, is great service. 

3. It takes (very) hard work 
Another thing customers understand subliminally and instantly is how much effort you've made on their behalf. Just like the best hotels, great service content should feel easy and pleasurable to experience, but take world-class organisation, planning and professionalism to produce. At a recent focus group, I heard some customers talk about how much they still enjoy the experience of curling up with printed magazines for pleasure and relaxation, but that they expect them to be ‘packed full of useful information'.  In other words, they want to be rewarded with the kind of content that they can't easily find elsewhere, and to sense the hard work it takes to produce an easy read. That means real standards: proper research, compelling packaging, professional production. Quite properly, and exactly as we all do when we're the customers, they want us to sweat so they don't have to.

Maureen Rice, Editor-in-Chief, Cedar

Posted in CMA blog
3rdDec 2012

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