The Price vs. Customer Service Trade Off

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? 

6 thoughts on “The Price vs. Customer Service Trade Off

  1. Katherine Henry

    Seth, that could not be more perfectly said. As you may remember we own a full service auto repair center. Customer comfort is my term for customer service. Knowing someone’s name, knowing the history of the repairs on their vehicles, showing true appreciation for them choosing us when there are so many choices and saying thank you…just a few things that make customer service such an important part of our business. Most consumers are tired of the “no name” service and like you are willing to pay a tad more just to experience something worthy of “customer service”. Mayberry was not so bad afterall!!

    Reply
    1. sethfargher

      Post author

      Thanks Katherine, you’re absolutely right. For me auto repairs are something I’m always hesitant about and I NEVER know if they’re being straight with me. I”m willing to pay extra for the peace of mind :)

      Reply
  2. TonyM

    Awesomely said! After being employed in both small business retail, and big box retail for the past 8-10 years, I have noticed there is only one thing in common: They are there to make a living. The difference is that big box think they are the best there is when in comes to customer service, and are too busy “cutting costs” to really care about customer service. Of course they justify their choices by our generation’s hurried attitudes, advertising “faster lines and in-stock when you need it” techniques. The small business retailers always have a little more on the price tag, but it’s something some of us are willing to pay when we are given personal service. Humans like to be treated like humans, not numbers. It’s these basic building blocks that built the big box stores, but they had to go and “fix” what wasn’t broken, and will be hurting sooner than later.

    I, for one, am not against the automation. Sometimes I am in quite a bit of a hurry, and need to get in and get out, but that doesn’t mean the whole store has to be automated. I still like to have a conversation with the cashier. When I have a large amount to purchase, I stay out of the 20 items or less lanes. If our generation could get out of the selfish it’s all about me attitude, all these big box schemes to improve the shopping experience wouldn’t be needed.

    Reply
  3. Darin Bushman

    Seth,

    I think if your working on price alone, it’s simply the race to the bottom. We live in an age where education based selling trumps price. You build a relationship based upon knowledge and customer service you will trump price any day. I believe it’s more than just “Customer Service” though, it’s about “Customer Relationships”. We live in society of easy 2 way communication, we no longer live in an era where manufacturers talk at us and we can’t talk back. It’s imperative that you build a relationship and talk with your customers and listen to their feedback. So I believe customer service trumps price but I believe customer relationships trump both!

    My $.02

    Darin

    Reply
  4. sethfargher

    Post author

    Couldn’t agree more! Being approachable and personalable with your customers is incredibly important these days. I also agree with the education based selling. You have to know you’re product, the other guys product and be informed on what happening in your industry.

    thanks for your $.02 :)

    Reply

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