The Customer Service Strategy

Not long ago customer service was a strong competitive advantage for those companies that got it right. Today the consumer expects excellent customer service as a minimum expectation when doing business. Yet few companies get it right! But why?

Speak with 10 business leaders and at least 9 will say they place a high emphasis on customer service and customer satisfaction. Digging in deeper you will discover that either they are simply paying lip service or their commitment to customer satisfaction isn’t being translated down into the organization.

To understand why customer service is lackluster in an organization it is helpful to understand the three basic approaches companies can take:

  1. Customer service is designed to prevent existing customers from getting in the way. These companies put minimum effort and resources to taking care of customers. The focus is on selling and operating the company. Most monopolies run this model because they can. The reputation of the Department of Motor Vehicles is built on this model.

  2. Don’t lose the sale. This is the most widely applied approach. A customer purchases an item or service and they need help. The objective of the customer service rep is to avoid a return or cancellation of service. It’s only been recently - since these monopolies have been eroded with increase access to services via internet and cell providers - that cable companies and telephone providers have adopted this policy. When you get on the phone with a representative they suddenly have discounts and upgrades available to thank you for your loyalty. They rarely take steps to improve your experience because the goal is to keep you from leaving.  

  3. Make a customer for life. These companies view customer service as a strategic advantage to their business. When there is an interaction with a customer it is an investment opportunity. The return for that investment is customer loyalty and repeat business.

The mistake most organizations make is they profess to be a level 3 company when the reality is they are a 1. No company stumbles into level 3 customer service. They have a specific strategy and execute against it.

Consider Zappos, the poster child of customer service. While there are many ways they stand out in the way they handle customer service, there are two that are make them among the best in the world.

First, they allow returns of any purchase within one year of purchase. This minimizes purchase risk for the customer and fosters enormous good will because the buyer knows if they aren’t satisfied with the product for any reason they can return it any time in the next year. There’s a confidence in the product and joy in making the purchase.

Second, Zappos allows customer service reps to surprise and delight customers by offering small gifts or random perks. For example, a Zappos rep discovered that a customer recently had a baby and sent a box of chocolates and a handwritten note of congratulations.

These are all examples of Zappos executing a specific business strategy using customer service.

Your can - and you should - do the same. Build your business strategy around having the best customer service in your industry. It does not need to be elaborate or expensive; it simply needs to be done on purpose.

The benefits of this strategy are realized in several ways.

First, it forces your employees to do the right thing the first time and every time. Quality goes up because everyone is focused on providing the best for the customer.

Second, customers will be loyal. The cost of customer acquisition will drop because you keep more customers coming back as repeat clients.

Third, your customers become your advertisers. Even if you have a single-purchase product or service having excellent customer service will ensure your clients tell other prospective clients about your company.

These are only a few examples of how having customer service built into your strategy will help you achieve your goals. If it’s so beneficial why don’t more companies do it? Perhaps they make it harder than it needs to be. Perhaps they don’t care enough. But you are different and the market is ready to reward you for it.


Armour Martin Consulting LLC consults with small to mid-sized companies to develop strategies to win in the marketplace. We provide expertly crafted business solutions so your company can grow again.

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