Our marketing director always says there are only two sides to brand: the message you market versus the unfortunate reality of actually living up to the message you market. And though I rarely ever want to give the poor guy credit, he’s not wrong on this one. In fact, we’ve all experienced this as consumers time and time again—the business markets a great story, yet when something goes wrong, they are either nowhere to be seen or blaming a third party while taking no responsibility. 

So what’s the real issue here? Well, to begin with many companies place too much emphasis on marketing but forget to match with an investment in infrastructure. For example, it’s great to promote a message of “the best customer service in the industry,” but if the resources, including everything from customer care agents, to call-center technology, to customer ticket tracking and resolution systems, are lacking, then what becomes of the brand promise?

It’s here where the realities of modern expectation also come crashing in. As the world is driven by more and more digital transformation initiatives, the global social fabric begins to set its own series of expectations on what constitutes good service. The challenge with this dynamic is that all too often those expectations begin to exceed the resources a company has to fulfill modern goals. 

But there is a way to at least ease into good customer service and deliver on expectations. And though I know this may sound like one of those “well duh” comments, it never ceases to amaze me as to how many companies seemingly forget this rule: know your customer. 

Now, let’s be clear here—I am referring to really knowing your customer. Not just some vague demographic garbage that answers the question of what age, gender, hobbies, etc., do your customers align with. No, I mean actually know your customers as individuals. At the end of the day, a corporate name is not your customer, it’s the people that work for that corporate name that made the decision to go with your company over all others to begin with—that’s who you need to know.

And though this may seem like a lot to ask, a basic CRM is a good start to creating profiles that can be accessed and referenced by team members. The process of good note taking and adding to even the most rudimentary system is by far the best first step forward in creating and living up to a brand. 

The next step, of course, is adding to the infrastructure that accommodates and actions that customer data. The good news here is that if the building blocks are there, adding technological process to the mix becomes even easier as it’s now a building block instead of a square peg in a round hole. 

But that’s not where it ends. The next step is to actually speak to your customer in a meaningful way. That can start through face-to-face meetings, phone calls, and so on, all meant to build a personal rapport with the customer. Now I know what you’re probably thinking: How does one do that when the number of customers exceeds the bandwidth of the company? Simple: this is the next step in the evolutionary process.

The data you have collected (if done properly from day one) can be a gold mine for customer service, marketing, sales, and more—all through automation. As systems become interconnected, the ability to automate responses, send information, check in on customers, etc., all lead to a better brand promise. And as that data accumulates and is accessible by real people and automation systems simultaneously, the customer service level again increases.

Simply put, the not-so-modern approach to good customer service isn’t technology—that’s just a means to an end. By creating an ecosystem that truly cares for the customer in the first place, making it a priority for all employees and a part of the corporate culture, will solve 90% of the challenge to begin with. The technology then just enhances what was already there—a brand promise that lives up to the message that you marketed to begin with.