The remarkable role of public relations in customer experience

by | Aug 12, 2020 | Marketing, Public Relations

Staying on the cutting edge in business is a full-time job. One needs to be constantly innovating the product, reaching new prospective customers, and building relationships with existing customers. It’s no small wonder that customer experience has been made to be one of the major focal points in successful businesses.

A happy customer is the best sort of marketing, after all. If they love your product and your process, they will sing it to the hills and back. But with the focus so heavily on CX, many businesses today are forgetting that CX isn’t just smooth integration between technologies and a well-organized office or retail space. Businesses are run by, owned by, and in the service of people. People, as any entry-level salesperson knows, act on perception and emotion before they act on anything else.

When we focus on CX, we leave out an imperative part of the equation. A good CX needs an even better PR strategy. There are many reasons for this, but for the sake of brevity, we will explore the three most important. Firstly, when PR is done properly, it is next to impossible for the customer to have a bad experience. Secondly, when CX systems fail, as all systems do from time to time, it’s the PR department that picks up the pieces. And last but not least, a robust PR strategy integrated into your brands’ CX systems will mean a seamless positive relationship between your customers and your brand.

1. Good PR leads to better CX

In 2019, the trend towards digitizing CX was reinforced by business influencers. All the data suggests that consumers are more and more integrated into digital spaces, and so logic dictates that a digital CX system is in order. With the coronavirus shuttering brick and mortar operations in the second quarter of 2020, this trend is only going to increase. Digital systems have their advantages, of course. This is not an argument against the data suggesting businesses move to digital CX systems. Rather it is a reminder that if you only do the minimum, you won’t stand out.

Let’s use the emergence of omnichannel CX as a customer expectation as an example here. The expectations your customers have developed, namely that they can switch from mobile, to the web, to storefront, to phone, and back to mobile during the course of just one visit to your platform are fast becoming the standard. Anything short of this is viewed as unacceptable in today’s market.

With emerging technologies like Customer Service AI, one would think that having a human component will soon be a thing of the past in the customer’s experience. But without your company’s public image, a smooth integration won’t get the attention you think it will. PR sets the expectations which customers have when they look at the service or product you are delivering. If you don’t set those expectations for them, how can you exceed the expectations they have?

2. PR cleans up when CX falls short

CX trends are tending towards fully automated systems. AI bots for handling customer concerns, data centralization for customizable customer experience, even the aforementioned omnichannel CX trend; all of these new technologies share one thing in common. They are systems, and systems have flaws. When CX systems fail, companies will see negative reviews and negative gossips swirl. This can have devastating effects on your business, especially when the automated systems you implement fail on the scale you had hoped they would succeed. The rippling effects of the negative CX could very well tank your entire operation, and scare off investors. Here’s the thing; PR is the art of taking any attention and turning it into positive attention.

When Elon Musk was revealing the Tesla Cybertruck last November, he was selling the customer experience of the product, focusing especially on the utility and durability of the product. It turns on a dime. It’s energy-efficient, with a huge range. Its bulletproof, and was supposed to be shatterproof glass. We all remember what happened next. When marketing a CX for macho F-150 tough-guys, it’s not exactly the best news to find there was a flaw in the design of your not-so-bullet proof windows. But Tesla didn’t just let the gaff tank them; they made it into a t-shirt.

By owning the failure, the company was able to show that they are still at the forefront of innovation in the automotive industry. Not only is this on brand, but it shows that they are tough enough to live up to their marketing. Since this little PR stunt in January, Tesla Stocks have been climbing. When the customer’s experience of your product lets them down, your PR machine will help them forgive and forget.

3. PR is CX if you’re honest

People want to belong to something. Our job in PR is to help them do just that. Apple users identify with the company’s products largely because Apple showed them they could. By innovating their product and branding it as a membership card to a very cool club of super smart and creative people, they completely changed the face of the telecommunications industry. They did it in a way that no one has done before them; they made the customer experience of the product the focal point of their marketing strategy and told their target audience they could manage all sorts of things from one little cell phone.

But it wasn’t telling them about the systems that got people to buy in and line up for every new Apple product since the iPhone was first introduced. If the CX of the product, or the company hadn’t lived up to the hype, Apple would be in the scrap heap with Nokia and Blackberry. Their PR campaign was effective because the CX delivered on the promises the company made.

On the PR side of things, we can often forget that we are just storytellers at the end of the day. If the experience doesn’t match up to the expectation, people stop believing it. But if the CX delivers on the CX, your customers will do the rest of the work for you.

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Mikkel Andreassan
Mikkel Andreassen is passionate about customer experience in every color of the beautiful customer engagement spectrum. Driven by the genuine belief that CX is the pivotal force that drives a successful business, he is currently at the helm of Dixa’s customer experience strategy.

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