Support: A Cost Center or An Opportunity To Get Close to A Customer?

Does your company see customer service and support as a cost center or as a way to bring your customer closer?

Over the past decade a number of companies have realized that service and support is a way to build loyalty with customers.  Car dealers, cable companies (yes, them) and Apple, among others have taken this approach.

On the other hand many banks and other companies have gone the opposite way.

Car dealers: Brand loyalty is one reason so many car dealers have upgraded the service department’s public areas.  When a customer is in servicing a car its one more opportunity to sell them on the brand.  It’s all about giving them good experiences.

Luxury dealers (and even some Toyota dealers, etc.) routinely have free wi-fi, espresso and shuttle rides, etc.  Compare that to a few years ago when it was ripped stained furniture and burnt coffee.  If you have a bad experience every time you are in for service, you’d think twice about going back to that dealer or brand for your next car.

Cable companies:  Back in the early 90s they realized how bad a rep they had and sooner or later there would be competition.  Nowadays when I call Comcast I very quickly can get a live person on the phone who will help me trouble shoot the problem and schedule a technician if they can’t fix it.  Typically they get me a next day appointment with a TWO HOUR WINDOW–AND IN MY EXPERIENCE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN ON TIME!  They get it.

Apple: Read this post from the Consumerist and this one from Robin Raskin.  Both these people will probably be customers for life–and brand evangelists going forward–in fact they already are evangelizing by publishing their stories.

Apple is the technology company that is showing all the others how to act like a consumer company.  It seems like the company’s philosophy is: “Technology is complex but let’s try to make it simple.  When it’s not, lets use fixing the technology to get closer to our customers not to push them farther away.”