How Much is Good Customer Service Worth to Your Business?

How well informed are your front-line people?

How much money do you invest to get a new customer?  Like many business owners, you make a significant investment in bringing in new customers. If you read  business magazines you are always seeing articles about  marketing, target marketing, and lead generation.  These topics are getting a lot of press these days.  Do a search on Google for lead generation, you get over 13 million results.  I work with software and technology companies to get the most out of their marketing, so I know how much emphasis there is on getting the customers or clients to take the first step and contacting them.

That’s why I’m constantly amazed by the experience most people encounter when they finally approach some companies.  I recently went into a very large chain bookstore.  Two of the clerks were standing at the Customer Service desk, deep in conversation about an issue one of them seemed to be having.  I waited politely for several minutes, waiting for one of them to acknowledge me, before I finally broke up their conversation asking for help.  After finding the book I was looking for in the computer, I was waved vaguely in the general direction of business books and then the two went back to their conversation I so rudely interrupted.  I won’t say the name of the bookstore because on another occasion, in another branch of the same store, the clerk bent over backward to help me out.  She looked the book up on the computer, took me to the section of the store, checked for the title, and when she couldn’t find it on the shelves, checked the back room.  Ultimately, she found that book for me.

And it’s not limited to one or two service businesses.  Just the other day, I took my wife out to dinner at another chain restaurant.  We were the only two people in the restaurant and they seated us in the bar area.  Our server was not more than 10 feet away, chatting to the bartender.  I drained my soft drink and was trying to figure out how to get the server’s attention without sounding like my dad (he would knock the salt and pepper shakers off the table to get the servers’ attention).  Finally, my wife suggested shaking the ice cubes, that trick worked.  My question is why did I have to do anything?  The server just had to turn her head to check our table.  The bartender was looking right at us, why couldn’t she say something?

This blog sounds like a rant, but that’s really not my intention.  I’m sure anyone reading this has their own personal customer service stories from hell.  The point I’m trying to make is that both of these chains spent a LOT of money on marketing and advertising.  They are essentially generating thousands of leads, by encouraging people across their markets to come in and spend money with them.  The marketing may be working to get people to take the first step, but the experience is so bad once they’re there, the marketing spend is wasted, because they’re not getting repeat business.  Unhappy customers are also much less likely to refer other customers, so they’re losing word of mouth sales.  For many of my technology clients, the marketing investment can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, when you include the many professionals required to service a prospect before they become a paying client.

Is your customer service sabotaging your marketing?  I’m not suggesting that you stop marketing and start stressing customer service.  But I am saying that you have to do both.  Because just getting the client isn’t enough.  You have to follow through to give clients a great experience every time they deal with your company.

Next week we are start a series of blogs focusing on customers and how to better understand them. We start the series talking about Big Data and what you as a market leader need to know to leverage information in a your business environment. See you here next week.

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