Casey Petersen, Photofy’s Vice President of Marketing and Analytics, on why marketing needs to consider every aspect of the consumer experience – from planning and strategy, all the way to customer service.

I bought a washing machine online.

That’s how this story begins. My experience illustrated the biggest piece of online marketing that brands seem to totally ignore: actually connecting with customers.

We tend to view our place in the company as siloed. In marketing, we view our world and what we impact, and often care very little about other aspects of the company. Unfortunately, every customer touchpoint is marketing. The cashier checking out a frustrated mom juggling two unruly children as she places items on a conveyor belt is marketing. The customer service rep working the late in the company call center is marketing. The promotion that the merchandising team put together with the supplier without consulting. . . anyone. . .  is marketing.

The truth is no matter how beautiful and personal our traditional marketing plans are, if they ignore the real people on the receiving end of it, we’re ultimately doing nothing of any value. Whether it resides with marketing, operations, or somewhere else – someone at every company should be responsible for putting together the customer experience into something meaningful, cohesive, and objectively good. As marketers, we can’t ignore the impact that customer service has on customer perception. In fact, it’s impossible to influence perception of our brands without involving every customer touchpoint.

Back to my washing machine. I was a loyal customer of one of the major home improvement stores. I knew that I was going to buy my machine from there, and they were going to deliver it. I knew which machine I wanted. Going into the store and dealing with the salesperson seemed like a waste of time. I made my purchase online from the local store and waited for delivery in three days. That’s when the problems started.

My washing machine arrived severely damaged. Obviously these sorts of things happen. The delivery driver showed me the damage and loaded back up the machine and promised a phone call that day with more information on when a new washing machine would be delivered. The call never came.

I called my local store and was told in no uncertain terms it wasn’t their problem, since I bought it online. Online customer service told me it wasn’t their problem, since local stores deal with delivery, and then gave me the number for the delivery company. You guessed it: the delivery company said it’s not up to them to ship a new machine. At some point in the process, the damaged washing machine was lost, and I was told I would have to wait until they found it before they could send another one.

I was frustrated and confused about how to proceed. I tweeted the company asking for some help in finding who to contact. I got no response. I went to their Facebook page and messaged them. I only got a canned response back

“Every connection with a customer is marketing. Every experience with the brand is your problem.”

What happened next, I will warn you, I am not proud of. But it happened. I spent the next two weeks in increasing levels of rage, calling the company and tweeting about them every day. Eventually I landed with a rep who actually cared about my horrible customer experience, and did everything in her power to fix it. I got my new washing machine installed one month after I ordered it.

I will obviously not be shopping with this store again – but that’s not the point. Someone, somewhere, at this national retailer decided that social media was just another ad spot – a free one – in someone’s news feed. Responses to customers were not only not required – but undesirable. (Although I have about 42 tweets from late summer that contradict this belief.) They decided that employees who were not empowered to step across business lines to solve a customer problem was simply the easiest way to handle a customer service department that was more concerned with efficient call time than building and maintaining a good customer connection.

I can’t state it emphatically enough: Every connection with a customer is marketing. Every experience with the brand is your problem, as a marketer.

Zappos is an example we all know well.  Not only do they market well, but my experience with an ordering issue there turned me into a lifetime customer. Their customer service experience is so good I sometimes hope to have a problem with my order just so I have a reason to call in.


In 2018, it’s unacceptable to ignore customers tweeting or messaging you on social media. It’s also unacceptable for us, as marketers, to ignore customer experiences in all our connections with them.

For more from Casey, follow him on Twitter.

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