Just How Important Is Customer Service?

As most of you know by now, I live in a small town.

A VERY small town. One of those places where everyone knows everyone else, so you cannot really give someone the finger for driving too slow or talk badly about someone for fear that the person you are talking to is related to said person. However, there is one thing that really gets a lot of attention in a town like this – you, the customer. When your entire populace is about the size of a large inner-city high school, every person that comes into your place of business is of the utmost importance…at least they should be. But some business owners don’t understand that yet, and they probably also don’t realize the danger of “word of mouth” in a town like this.

I was talking with a friend the other day who could not believe the way she was treated by a business here in town. The business will remain nameless, as I doubt anyone here reads this site anyway, but now I know not to do my shopping there because of my friends’ recommendation. There are a few other places that sell the same type of products as this business does, so I have a choice whether to shop with them. And if the name of the business comes up in another conversation I have with a different person, I will tell the story to them…and so on. The chain will continue going in circles in this town! Eventually businesses that act like this get a reputation for bad customer service and folks take their business elsewhere. Talk about not taking care of your bread and butter!

Hello, I am your customer, can we talk?
Creative Commons License photo credit: hyku

Customer service is what keeps your business alive and thriving, above everything else. No matter what you sell, no matter what service you provide…if you do not have good customer service you are shooting yourself in the foot. Especially in a town as small as this one is! Another person I know had a local contractor at her house doing some work, where he proceeded to accidentally rip up her utility lines. Instead of apologizing profusely for the mistake and maybe even discounting her bill a bit, he demanded full payment and wanted her to pay for his mistake. This is a building contractor who depends on word of mouth to get work around here, and he did this to a real estate agent! That is just plain stupidity at it’s finest. Pissing off a real estate agent, who is always dealing with clients looking at houses that need remodeling, is pretty damn dumb.

Good customer service doesn’t have to just exist on a local level, however – it needs to be national as well. In today’s world of Facebook, Twitter, email, instant messenging, and blogs like this one, a bad experience can reach thousands of people in just mere minutes. A few examples of national companies not going the extra mile include my experience with DirecTV and their terrible customer service, Jim from Bargaineering.com’s experience with Zecco, and Being Frugal’s experience with web host LunarPages.

I am no business owner, other than my blogs, but if I were I would spend money on customer service training for my employees. And I would always do my best to make sure my customers were happy with whatever service or product I was selling. A little effort can go a long way to keeping customers coming back for more!

So what about you? Any horrible customer service stories we should know about? How about any great ones that more people should hear about? Let’s share in the comments and spread the word, both good and bad!

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Comments (11)

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  1. Laurie says:

    I had wonderful customer sercive with carhartt brand clothes.They were very nice and they replaced a pair of pants that my husband had that wore out way too soon, free of charge. I also had great customer service with Amazon.com. Anytime I have had a problem they have fixed it immediately. Once I had made the error by not chooseing the free shipping and they still refunded my the shipping cost back to me. I would buy anything thtrough them.

  2. Ken says:

    I use Angie’s List to look for customer reports before picking a service person or now even a doctor.

    As a small business consultant and customer, I have been telling the people I like to do business with about getting their good reputations on Angie’s List. I even sent away for a membership pack for one of my local service companies – if I can help him survive, I get to keep using him year after year.

    They get the opportunity to hear back from happy and unhappy customers in order to reinforce the good things they are doing and to fix the things they are doing wrong.

    Even when things go well, there is always something I can let them know they could do better in the future.

  3. Mary says:

    I don’t live in a small town. I live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and I had a terrible customer service experience with a local shoe store chain-Schuler Shoes. I have no problem letting people here know that I had a bad experience.
    This is suppose to be a store that specializes in hard to fit feet. My feet are short, wide and have a very high arch. I was having problems finding some shoes to wear to my daughters wedding. I went into Shuler’s to look at shoes. I wandered for quite some time and finally found a sandal that would work. I had to hunt down someone who could help me. When I explained my problem with fit and needing something somewhat dressy his response was “Well, you know square isn’t exactly dressy”. He then asked me what size shoe I wore. I told him. He brought the sandal I had picked out and when I asked if they had anything else he said he didn’t think so. He then again said “Your feet are really wide and like I said square isn’t exactly dressy”. He never offered to measure my feet, he couldn’t come up with any suggestions and was in my estimation just plain rude. I know the sales person could not produce some type of shoe that they didn’t have but I did expect that he could have sympathized with the issue of having difficult to fit feet or at least kept his rude comments to himself. (Particularly since they specialize in hard to fit feet.)
    To top it off when I emailed the company to express my concerns they didn’t get back to me for over a week and while they agreed that the person could have handled the situation better they did nothing to compensate me. In a situation like that I think they could have at least offered a small discount on the next purchase. Needless to say, I have never gone back and never will.

  4. Craig says:

    Customer service is very important and can really help a company. Especially in a small town like where you are from, people enjoy doing business with people who they trust and are knowledgeable.

  5. Pamela says:

    I just had a very positive experience with a local jewelry store. It’s a small “mom and pop” shop that actually does work on location. The band on my everyday watch broke. I also needed a battery replaced in another watch. It was determined that the band could be fixed and not replaced. This was done at the same time as the battery replacement. The band was finished first. When it was handed to me I was told there would be no charge to repair it. Smart move on their part. They have no idea how many people I’ve told how nice I was treated there. I’ve had several friends tell me they are now going to do business with that location. All because they gave a customer 5 minutes of free sevice!

  6. gypsie says:

    I had a knife blade crack on one of my Farberware knives. I only had two of this brands knives. I emailed customer service to see what could be done and they asked that i send them the knife. I did and two weeks later I received a brand new 21-piece knife set in a block! I couldnt believe how quick the response and what a quality “replacement” they sent!

    I am also a huge fan of Discovercard. When I had some unauthorized charges on my card, they immediately reversed the charges to me and opened an investigation. they determined that it was indeed fraud and helped me get ID theft stuff accomplished.

  7. I have had attention-grabbingly good experiences with the customer service at USAA. It is simply outstanding, and I would use them for any service they provided that I need. Currently we use them for auto and homeowners’ insurance, banking, credit card, and brokerage. I have never yet had to navigate an irritating phone maze, been put on indefinite hold, asked a question that couldn’t be answered, or routed to an overseas script-monkey with an atrocious accent. On top of everything else, the prices would be fabulous even if the customer service was as crappy as is average in these areas.

    Granted, USAA is a members-only company, but if you’re eligible for membership, you’d be crazy to pass up the opportunity.

  8. Randi Busse says:

    The businesses that provide outstanding customer realize something that other companies don’t. They are in the customer service business. Yes, they might sell shoes or clean your clothes and serve great food, however, their primary business is customer service.

    Those that provide it will survive, those that don’t won’t, and they’ll be talked about by everyone. People like to talk whether it’s good or bad. And you, the employee, get to create the story that they tell by the service that you provide.

    What story are you writing today?

    Randi Busse
    Customer Retention Specialist

  9. TStrump says:

    I think customer service is very important in that people expect value for their money.
    If a product or service isn’t up to standard, we expect something to be done about it.
    I don’t expect customer service people to kiss my butt, but simple pleasantries are always nice.

  10. saladdin says:

    “Good customer serice is essential to business survival or it will go out of business” is a myth to me. “Mom and Pops” are usually given the reputation of having excellant “customer service” yet they are all being eaten alive by large corporations who have terrible customer service. Why is that? Because of price. Price drives everything. Look at Walmart. Lowest prices I have ever seen on the items I buy yet there are websites dedicated to their lack of customer service and employee treatment.

    Most of the customer service stories that come out from posts like these involve money not actual treatment. And when it is about being treated badly people blame the entire corporation instead of that specific employee.

    If dropped their prices 25% across the board but called you a dumb ass as you exited the store people would still shop there. It’s about price 90% of the time. We get over rude salesmen long before we get over the feeling of overcharged for an item.


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