The Importance of Customer Service

Customer service is so much more than a window at the grocery store, or a link to a standard form email on a website! Customer service is why you have employees. Follow me here. If a business could manufacture, distribute and sell their product without the necessity of people, they would. Why? Cost control! The single greatest line on most companies P&L is payroll. Why generate all that expense if you don't have to? I would argue that the answer to that question is customer service.

Every employee within your company is a customer service representative. Everyone within your company represents your company and your product no matter where they are or what they're doing. Its a growing trend with employers to fire employees for off the job behavior because of the negative effect it can have on a company's image. Do not be fooled, the most important property within your company is your image! As an illustration think Reba McEntire versus The Dixie Chicks. Now, regardless of whether or not you agree with The Dixie Chicks statement, few can argue that the decision to say the words that they said (which had nothing to do with music or album sales) had a huge impact on their reputation and their brand. Remember this? The fact is you need a responsible work force who has the integrity to represent your company and your product all the time!

A knowledgeable, friendly customer service associate will guarantee return business. By listening to customers requests and pairing their needs with the features of your product or service, you've helped the customer arrive a solution. Customers love solutions! That's a huge reason why they spend money in the first place! Having the right associate with the correct knowledge in front of your customers will get you repeat business. A recent survey found:
"customer service ranks above price as a global driver for customer retention. More than 4,100 consumers in eight countries who participated in the study determined that the number of consumers who leave because of poor service is significantly higher than the number of those who leave a business because the found a lower price elsewhere."
Earlier I asked why companies would choose to generate all the expense of having employees, if they could find a way to deliver their product or service without having to have a person to do it. Some companies choose a higher EBITDA over customer service. Don't believe me? Have you ever called an '800' number seeking some sort of help for a product you've purchased? You're probably cringing now just thinking about that experience. Here's why. Several companies, in an attempt to reduce costs, have gone to automated telephone systems. If you had the choice to do business with a company who had an automated answering service, versus a live person, who would you rather reward with your hard earned dollars? Chances are if you have a pulse, and you're being intellectually honest, you said (or at least thought) the company with the live person.

What can you provide if you don't have customer service? The answer to that question: your product at a low price. Here's why. In the absence of a knowledgeable, friendly employee who would otherwise educate the customer to the pros of your product or service, people compare prices. If you can buy widget 'A' for $100 or widget 'B' for $95, you'll buy widget 'B' assuming there is no real loss in features from one to the other. That works out great if you're an internet business seeking volume over EBITDA.

Will any person do? Unequivocally the answer is NO! Is the customer service level provided you the same from a 7/11 clerk versus a Starbucks barista? Now, arguably the case could be made that the barista's only interest in providing good service is to secure a tip. Should this be taken as this an indictment of 7/11 or its employees? No, the reality is that most 7/11 locations are franchises and each individual owner places their own premium on recruiting the best and brightest associates. 7/11 is able to make a profit by being a low price leader and by having a convenient location. I would argue that having a great company image and outstanding customer service professionals places your product in the forefront of customer consideration and makes your product or service idealy placed to for the sale.

In my career, I've had the opportunity of being the face of customer service for some really outstanding companies. I know how much customer service means in securing new business and ensuring repeat business. I know what its like to sit across the desk from an operations manager looking to reduce costs and improve the bottom line. You'll never get that business without a great customer service The great thing about good customer service is that it is almost universally understood, and when you've positioned the greatest product in the market (yours) through an outstanding customer service representative (me) then the result is business, and not just business, but repeat business!


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