You search a website for an elusive 800 number, like a quest for the Holy Grail. You call and get stuck in an automated voice system, press 9 to speak to an agent, only to be redirected to the main menu. You get through to a real person, then spend an eternity on hold as they check with their supervisor. You get transferred to another department. You repeat your story…again. You go round-and-round like Punxsutawney Phil on a treadmill.
Supportive customer service is more than a side note. In the BusinessWeek Customer Service Champs 2010 report, consumers frequently mentioned how American Express readily reversed questionable charges without hassle, how easy it was to return shoes to Zappos, that Enterprise Rent-A-Car would pick you up from home, or times when Nordstrom staff provided special attention. At these companies customer service is an inseparable part of the brands DNA.
What this research revealed that customer service experiences become etched on peoples' minds, and were big reasons why they kept on coming back.
For your customers, when it comes to making a purchase decision, customer service is the safety net – there to catch them if something goes wrong. It doesn’t matter if you have lower prices, are technically better, or provide a wider choice. For many people, if your customer service stinks, it feels like the opposite is true, and that is what they base their next buying decision on.
When designing products, customer service is an afterthought for many companies. But from my experience value propositions which include great service have higher sales and engagement levels. Potentially there are some higher costs involved upfront. However, keeping customers happy will ultimately create evangelists over the long run, who promote your product for free and thereby reduce future marketing costs.
Rule: Customer service is more than a minor benefit; it’s an integral part of your value proposition.