The Customer is always right…Right? As a small business owner you’ve been lectured to on the importance of customer service, and it’s almost blasphemy to suggest anything contrary. But is this correct? Should we focus complete on our customers? Let me start by sharing a personal story about customer service.
Do You Need Great Customer Service?
Recently I went to a local hardware store to pick up a few things for a project on my house. On my list was crown molding for our front room. When I went to the store I noticed that they were out of the crown molding. I asked when they would get some in and they said it would be on Monday’s delivery. Seeing as how that was only a couple days out I decided I’d just come back. The following week I returned to check on the crown molding. They said that the order got messed up and it would be on next week’s order. Slightly annoyed I decided to return the following week. When I returned they only had two pieces of crown molding. Upon inquiry I learned that they hadn’t ordered enough and someone else had purchased most of what they had. At this point I decided to place a special order and I left my name and a phone number. A few days later, I received a call telling me my order was in. When I returned to the store to pick up my order, it still wasn’t there!
Less than a mile away is a competitor. They sell a similar product and had it available the entire time I was waiting for this order to come in. Yet, I chose to wait and deal with poor customer service. Why? because their competitor was selling a slightly inferior product at 2.5X’s the price. I personally felt like a little patience and understanding was worth getting a better product at a significantly better price, and I’m happy to say that I was finally able to pick up my crown molding today.
Not Everyone Cares About Great Customer Service
I can only imagine that several people reading this think that I’m an idiot for putting up with such poor customer service. Many people would be irate and smear the company across social media. And that’s fine if they choose to do so. But not everyone cares about great customer service. Many people care more about the price, the quality of the product, convenience, or even brand name than they do customer service. If your customers want other features, or a different type of experience, give them what they really want.
Don’t I Have to Provide Great Customer Service?
Some customers want and expect great customer service. In fact, we’ve been conditioned to feel entitled to have great customer service, and businesses are taught that customer service is the lifeblood of any business. But when marketing your business you can’t do everything. Providing great customer service requires you to forgo something else that you could have spent your time and resources doing. It’s not that businesses shouldn’t aim to provide great customer service, but sometimes there are better, more important things.
Where to Put Customer Service in Your Marketing Strategy
In The 5 Disciplines of Marketing, Discipline 3 – The Marketing Triangle, teaches businesses where to position themselves in the market. It’s the Marketing Triangle that would show businesses how to manage their customer service to make sure they are correctly focusing their marketing. To give a quick idea, small businesses focusing on quality or differentiation of their products or services might want to make customer service an integral part of their strategy. But small businesses focusing a low price, usually should not put a primary focus on customer service in their marketing strategy. Why? because great customer service is expensive and it raises costs, making it very difficult to compete on low price. Great customer service requires training, extra time with customers, shorter lines or wait times, refunds, guarantees, etc. All of these things add costs to a business, costs that should only be added if that’s part of your marketing strategy.
What’s Your Customer Service Story?
Do you have a great story about customer service? If so we’d love to hear from you. Please share with us your stories of both good and bad customer service and how much do you base your buying decisions on customer service. (I bet you’ll start to notice that you don’t spend the most money with the businesses that have the best customer service)