Customer Service As Marketing

Customer service is a super power if done properly.  So, why do people do it so poorly?

It is a precept of common law that justice delayed is justice denied.  Not many of us would disagree.  What if customer service is a form of justice.  Customer service delayed is customer service denied.  Now what?

It has long been my belief that bureaucracies, generally are weak on customer service.  There are reasons and they include:

  • Customers are not nice to us
  • Customers expect things we cannot deliver
  • Customers notice mistakes we would prefer to overlook
  • Customers are impatient
  • Customers do not get what we do
  • Providing poor customer service imperils neither the person’s job nor the bureaucracy itself.

So what have they done?  They have created a binary solution set,

  1. Solve the problem
  2. Make the complainant go away

and have nearly universally chosen 2) as their method.

I will be impressed when some customer service system  has a slightly different message.

“Your call is important to us.  Please hold until it is no longer important to you.”

I would value honesty.

Good customer service exists in a few places, and when it does not you can sometimes get what you need.  There are two tactics that work.

  1. Notify them that you know about their two possible positions and that you will never go away until the problem is resolved.
  2. Refuse to accept continuing bad service.  If your cellphone provider cannot provide good service, find another and be sure to tell everyone that you have done so and why. Threaten the continued existence of the system.

From the business side, not all customers are fully rational and they seem to validate the response.  But most are rational.  Good customer service is value added that sells.  It is not especially costly to provide.  Investigate the cost/benefit of providing it before spending vast sums on some new trinket.

Good customer service to retain customers supports marketing to get new customers.  And it is much less costly than advertising, giveaways and product development that provide miniscule incremental change.

Good customer service is good business.


Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

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