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Service is an opportunity, not a cost centre

by Mike McDerment | June 1/2009 |

This post was inspired by a blog post about FreshBooks and Zappos called, “Can a Company be too Friendly”. Check out the comments, and let me know what you think by commenting here.

I don’t know how it happened, but somewhere along the way business executives got lost. For the past 20 years, supposedly smart businesses have looked at customer service as a cost center, not an opportunity.

We’re living in a generation where people are jaded about customer service - they expect the worst. It’s not surprising. Over the last few decades, executives have looked to service as a place they can find fat, cut costs and increase margins. Since it’s hard to track a direct ROI to service - unlike sales - service gets the axe. That may seem okay when you look at financial statements, but it’s not okay if you are a customer in need. It’s wrong and in the coming decades it will change, all thanks to the internet.

The web has changed the power balance. We’ve moved from a time of broadcast where marketers controlled the messages with their advertising budgets. They told us what to think, or at least they thought they did. We’d just turn to the person next to us on the couch and say, “what a load of crap”. We still do, but thanks to the web and services like FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn, our couches are a lot bigger. We have networks of people we communicate with all day long. It’s easy for us to share our thoughts quickly with many people, and they in turn can reply - in real time. To me, the internet has digitized word of mouth and it’s making conversations public and shifting power to the people - where it should be. Which brings me back to service.

We have a concept here at FreshBooks we call “4E”. It stands for Execute on Extraordinary Experiences Everyday. It’s not hard to be extraordinary today because people’s expectations are so low, but you have to deliver everyday to maintain the experience your customers expect. And if you don’t, well…you’re going to miss the opportunity.

Every interaction your customers have with your company is an experience. Customer service is perhaps the most important of all these experiences. Why? Because if your customer is calling, they need your help. You need to be there and catch them. If you don’t, they’re going to tell their friends. But if you do, they’re going to tell their friends - that’s the opportunity.

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