I’m as cheap as the day is long. Seriously. If Southwest Airlines would replace their seats with wooden benches and drop the cost of a ticket, I’d buy stock in the company. Call me crazy but I will endure a fairly high level of discomfort if it means saving money. I’m very independent, I trust my intuition and I want the rock bottom, beat all price no matter where I go.
That said, as I get older, I’m starting to see my propensity to find the “best deal” slip. I find myself more appreciative of things like good customer service or something as simple as a live, English speaking voice on the other end of the phone and I’m actually willing to pay a little extra for it. Why? Because I want to be taken care of. I want to feel like I matter. I don’t want to be just a number in a file or a dollar sign that walked through the door.
Recently I purchase a gun. I did my research online and found two local shops that carried the ones I was interested in. The first one I went to was a little higher in price but the elderly gentleman behind the counter made it an experience for me. He let me hold as many models as I wanted and had stories to go with each of them. My experience at the other shop was quite different and even though they were cheaper, I went back to the first store. The old guy behind the counter was grinning again when I walked through the door and after making my selection, proceeded to tell me why I made the right choice. I’m sure he would have said that no matter which gun I bought, but the point is, he made it about me. The customer. And in business the customer is king.
Unfortunately, to keep costs down more and more companies are moving toward automation which might be good for the bottom line but it’s terrible for customer service. Recently I noticed that my local Home Depot removed ALL of their check stands and replaced them with self-checkout out lanes. I think the proportion of checkout lanes to associates is now 4 to 1. Great for automation, bad when the machines freak out or you are trying to purchase a large or oddly shaped item and require assistance because it won’t fit on the scanner.
As more and more companies seem to be taking the quick and cost effective route, I think offering exceptional customer service is a way that companies can stand out and earn the trust and respect of their customers…not to mention their business. Sure there will always be those people that want the best deal no matter what but there are still a good many people in the world that appreciate things like supporting local businesses over the big chains and appreciate things like good customer service, even if it costs a little more.
When I purchased my first vehicle in California and needed to insure it, there was only one option I even considered. The Stromsoe Insurance Agency wasn’t necessarily the cheapest game in town, but I knew and trusted the owner because of the high level of customer service he provided and the GREAT lengths he went to earn and retain peoples business. I knew that I could trust his team to take care of me. Whats more, they constantly worked to tell me they appreciate my business and ensure that I remain a loyal customer.
Earning a customer’s trust is huge in business and the easiest way to do that is to offer exceptional customer service. It takes hard work, practice and you won’t win everyone that way, but I believe in the months to come as more and more companies jump on the automation band wagon we’ll see a resurgence in the number of companies that hold high customer service over being the lowest cost in town.
What do you think? What’s more important to you, price or customer service and support if something goes wrong?