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!