What Happened to Customer Service, it’s Expected Now

You Need to Know, Your Customer Service is a Differentiator


It wasn’t that long ago that you would go to a store, dine at a restaurant, do business with a vendor or call a customer support center and notice how good the customer service was.  Even then a great service experience stood out.  It was noticed.  It was a differentiator.  Great customer service set a business apart from much of it’s competition.


You See that IBM had to Solve Their Cost vs. Price Problem


In the early 1980’s I changed careers and went to work for Pulte Homes.  That was the real beginning of my customer service education.  If you want to get a good grasp of how much people can attach emotions to a product, try this.  Sell or build a new home for someone.  Each person comes into the transaction with expectations and emotions running high for their purchase, and they should.

IBM faced a similar problem about customer expectations.  At that time in the business world, IBM was the rock star that was well know for their customer service.  Computers were just entering the business world and they were very expensive.  When approached many potential customers were stunned by the price of IBM’s computers and could not understand the value and benefits that computers would bring to their business.

IBM had to find a way to separate the price of their computers from the cost of gaining the computers benefits for their business in their purchaser’s minds.  From the beginning they recognized that they had to create value beyond their actual product.  By doing this, the price of their computers would seem less important.    How did IBM achieve this status?

They hired Lou Sterns, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Marketing at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University to help them solve their problem.


You Need to Know Why a Customer Chooses You to do Business


When I worked for Ryland Homes, I attended a marketing program given by Professor Stern.  He shared a case study that I’ve often thought about and even referenced in my customer service blog posts.  Professor Stern was hired to consult with IBM when they were selling computers.  

As they were becoming more affordable and more popular, IBM’s goal was to make their computers price irrelevant, or at least less relevant. He listed 20 reasons why a customer would choose to purchase an IBM computer.  On his list he included words like quality, reliability, fast response, quick repairs, capability and of course there was price.  

They asked their customers to rank these 20 words based their importance when making the decision of buying an IBM computer.  The bottom line was that price didn’t make it into the top ten.  It was actually closer to the bottom of the list.  That’s when you know that your customer service and experience is appreciated.  When the customer values many things more than the price.  What matters most with your customers?  


You See My Amazon One Day Delivery was Shipped 1,000 Miles


I’m sure that customer service and your customer experience are almost always in front of your mind.   People appreciate a good service experience, but it must be amazing for them to notice.  That’s because the bar has been raised.  Yesterday’s IBM has been replaced today by companies like Amazon, Apple, Nordstrom and other brands who are all recognized for delivering an outstanding customer experience.

Some brands set the bar higher for everyone.  They raise our expectations that no matter what business we visit, you will receive that same great service.  I live in Florida, as hurricane season approached I had my new propane generator.  I had my weeks supply of propane.  What I didn’t have was spare window AC units to keep me cool.  We procrastinated and when ready to buy those AC units, everyone was out of stock.

So it was off to check Amazon.  They had one day delivery on the AC units I wanted, at a price better than the local stores when they were in stock.  I clicked and bought two, assuming they would be coming out of a local warehouse.  I was wrong.  When I checked my tracking, they were coming from a warehouse near Philadelphia, PA, about 1,000 miles away.  Guess what, the next morning they were on my front porch before 10 am.  That’s an incredible example of serving a customer.

Times have changed and customer service is no longer a “nice-to-have-it” luxury.  It’s an “expected-to-have-it” resource.  When a customer gets it, they appreciate it.  They show their appreciation by coming back.

So, how do you meet today’s standards?  There are two ways you can start.


You Need to Understand Why Customers do Business with You


First, you need to create a customer service experience that is consistently and predictably above average. If you are just a little bit above average all of the time, your customers will think that you are amazing.  By the way, it’s the “all the time” part that’s the hard part.


You See What Makes a Customer Service Experience Amazing


Second, if you want to create a better service experience.  Look at what sets your favorite companies apart when it comes to their customer service experience.  What do you like about them?

More importantly, what do you love about them?  Can you bring whatever they do to your own business?  If you try, I bet you can.  Figure out what makes them better, and you’re on your way to a better customer service experience.



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