I was having an interesting conversation with a friend of mine about our recent customer service experiences. And it dawned on me. Is good customer service really that important?
We have been told over and over about how good this company’s customer service is and how terrible this one was…but does it impact our buying patterns? No. At least not in certain industries. Take for example airlines. One of my recent experiences was with United. I was trying to get credit for some miles, I went online, tried their automated customer service. Nothing. Actually worse than nothing, it basically put me into a loop on their site and I could not get out! Finally I sent an email…still waiting to hear. But am I going to stop flying United? No. Why? Status and miles. I also recently called American Airlines, had a slightly better experience, but still not great. Again. Not going to leave them either for the same reasons I am stuck with United!
Same thing with Sirius satellite radio. I called them this week about a billing issue, one that I thought was fairly simple to resolve. They could not. Their customer service was less than helpful. But I am not going to cancel my service.
What about good customer service? The MacBook I am typing one was recently purchased at a local Apple store where I experience excellent customer service. But really, I wanted a Mac, if the “geniuses” that are running around the cool store in blue shirts were not as happy and nice would I go to Best Buy to get a Dell or Lenovo? No. Granted the superior customer service made my overall experience much better, but it would have changed my buying behavior.
Granted, customer service is part of a great equation. And alone it is not a differentiator or a deal breaker. While we would hope all our customer experiences are like those at Apple stores or at Tiffanys, companies do not have a real incentive to improve this area if their industry is not know for good customer service. Industries, other than retail, usually do not roll out customer service until the product or service is purchased. Therefore, you are already “captured” and you may be more tolerant of bad customer service because the switching cost might be too painful.
So before you get too excited about a company with fantastic customer service or whether or not you should invest greater capital in that department, think about what customer service really means for your business.