Customer service has been turned upside down by the self-sufficiency and immediacy of shopping and buying products and services on the Web. Our self-help culture has been transformed into a self-service culture with customers able and willing to do much more for themselves. At the same time, we are becoming accustomed to the benefits and good feelings that we experience online through automated buying experiences that can be customized and personalized to our schedules, locations, tastes, buying patterns, and desires.
More than ever before, the transactional relationship between the seller of products and the buyer of those products is critical to companies’ overall profitability. Except for economic monopolies, only companies that deliver excellent customer service make money. In this increasingly transparent world where so many products and services are viewed by consumers as commodities, providing exceptional customer service becomes the only sustainable competitive advantage for creating customer loyalty. The harsh economic realities that every business faces today and for the foreseeable future make this even truer.
First, It is important to debunk the twenty common myths of customer service (We call this BAM!)—from “The customer is always right” to “Customer service means the same thing to everyone” to “Companies achieve customer service by under-promising and over-delivering.” Customer service myths run the customer policies of many companies without anyone even questioning them. Unfortunately, this ensures that customer service will only be a “bolt-on” and not a part of the DNA of that company. Inside the DNA of most companies is where customer service needs to be in order to retain profitability.
We need to replace the myths with a tactical approach that shows companies how to make more money through attitudes and actions that will help their customers feel satisfied in good times or bad. In profitable companies, delivering BAM!-good customer service measurably increases revenue, reduces cost, and makes doing business much more enjoyable for us and for our customers.
Bad treatment so permeates American business that many of us don’t realize how little customer service there actually is until we go into the rare place that treats its customers like kings. Why do we as consumers put up with bad customer service? Assuming there is a choice to get the product or service somewhere else, are we too lazy to make a change? Is the barrier to exit too high? Or have we been lulled into expecting and accepting less and lowered our standards accordingly?
We always tell businesses that what is critical for their growth is a sustainable competitive advantage. Unless yours is an economic monopoly, every business needs something that will keep customers coming back when someone smarter with deeper pockets comes into their business space and tries to squish them like a bug. We can’t rely on patents or other such legal maneuvers. No, we need to rely on customer service for our customers to stick with us and keep coming back. In fact, through social media, customers can also not only tell 7 people about their good or bad experiences with your company, but 10,000. Customer service has now become just plain good marketing.
Barry has founded and run small businesses with a great deal of success and failure for more than 15 years. A nationally recognized expert on entrepreneurship, Barry has given hundreds of presentations to audiences ranging from 20 to 20,000. He has taught entrepreneurship as an adjunct professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and he has appeared on many TV and radio programs such as The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch and The Tavis Smiley Show. Author of three books, his latest book, “BAM! Delivering Customer Service in a Self-Service World” shows how customer service is the new marketing.
B-A-M!: Delivering Customer Service in a Self-Service World is available now.