This post was originally posted in August 2012. Since that time I have seen the idea customer experience improvement consistently increase in popularity. That is a good thing, and hopefully, our discussions here at CTS have had some small impact. In that context, however, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this post. Customer experience and customer service are among the most important disciplines in any organization, but they are not all that matters.
Obviously, we focus almost exclusively on the topics of customer service and the customer experience here at Customers That Stick. We believe that a great customer experience and superior follow up are some of the key differentiators between a healthy organization poised for long term success and an unhealthy enterprise bleeding out its potential future.
Such lofty beliefs in the power of great customer service beg a simple question: is great customer service enough?
The answer is just as simple:
No, it is not.
When I refer to great customer service (which we will use in in broadest sense to include the larger customer experience), I am not comparing it to incredible customer service or amazing customer service. I am not asking is great enough because it is not a strong enough superlative, as if great doesn’t cut it but incredible does. I am asking is great customer service, in and of itself, enough to make an enterprise successful?
And again, the answer is no. Customer service is not the only component of a successful organization.
You see, customer service will not save you if you buy your raw goods 30% higher than your competition or you turn 25% fewer services in a day. Pan Am airlines was known for its great customer service; yet, the company (and its TV show) no longer exist.
A company needs a lot of things besides great service to succeed.
I can hear it now. Thanks, Adam, for making me read 300 words of the patently obvious.
Yet, I wrote this post because the above does not seem to be that obvious. A lot of the customer service advice I read seems divorced from the realities above.
Customer service does not exist in a vacuum. Customer issues must be handled with an understanding of potential liability. Employee happiness must be encouraged within an ever-constricting HR environment.
A business is the sum of its parts, and a great business breaks down silos and synergizes its many functions to work as a cohesive whole — or at least works towards that goal.
Without great customer service, you cannot have a great business. I truly believe that.
In a great business, the customer permeates every department and is considered in any decision which might affect their experience.
In a great business, the customer is the king and customer service is more than just the initiative of the month.
And that is as it should be, for outside of monopolies and oligopolies, great customer service is no longer optional; it is a competitive necessity.
However, despite how important great customer service is to a successful enterprise, it does not stand alone. Great customer service will not save a business that is not being run effectively and profitably, that is not adapting to its environment and improving its efficiency.
So, my advice is as follows: read this blog regularly and send your customers thank you notes. But make sure you call your accountant once in awhile.
Have you seen businesses with great customer service fail?
By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.