Excellent Customer Service – Benefit, or Requirement?

Last week I interacted with the two services I would generally associate with the worst and best of customer service: an airline and cruise line. As I consider future positions associated with account and relationship management, this made me consider both providing and receiving customer service and how it affects businesses.

In all of my previous customer-facing positions, it was stressed how much further good customer service would take you; it helps the brand, it brings repeat business, it earns you a bigger tip, or the status of trusted consultant. I believe all of this is true. Having excellent and industry leading customer service can help you stand out, and may have hard-dollar benefits. In my personal experiences, I had a tremendous interaction with Apple. I took in an iPod that had just failed – no restarts, no backing up, no restoring. When the associate at the counter looked at it, he affirmed my thoughts – there was nothing to do. He then went to the back to check on my warranty. When he came back, he said the 2 year warranty had ended a week and a half ago, but “what are we going to do, refuse to replace it over a couple of days?” Well…yes. That tends to be the point of deadlines. While I am not the biggest fan of Apple products, I will not deny their outstanding service.

While few people would argue that excellent customer service fails to yield benefits, I would challenge you to consider the inverse. What happens when you provide substandard or notably poor customer service? While I considered this, I started to think of the numerous examples of being mistreated, instances of ignored details, or facing downright condescension. All of these examples had one thing in common – I never willingly gave them more business. The companies that retained my business because of a monopoly at the time, I still remembered. And the second I have had an alternative, I happily jump to the competitor and try them out. As I considered this, I started reaching out to friends. Is there a company or service with a product so good, or so necessary, that you will ignore awful customer service? Short of a monopoly (pharmaceuticals) or price prohibitions (certain airline legs), we could not come up with one example of a company receiving continued business while treating its customers poorly.

If you have an example I missed, I would love to hear it!

No-Brainer Networking

Two things I always hated were intentional networking and constantly keeping up on industry news. They both felt like homework that took up off-the-clock time. That is, until I adopted this method.

Every time I would fly I would pick up a few copies of an industry magazine (the more recent the better). While most people skip over the first 10 pages of ads and the Table of Contents, I would scour them – for the Notes to the Editor section. I would read these notes, making sure I knew the articles they were referencing (or would quickly find and read them), and then would jump over to LinkedIn. Anyone who had an interesting take or comment got an invite request. Did everyone accept? Of course not. But enough managers, directors, and CXO’s did that it was always worth my time.