By Shep Hyken
ST. LOUIS (Aug. 18, 2014) — What makes the great companies so great? It's the customer service and experience the customer receives when doing business with that company.
The companies that get it are customer-centric: They put the customer in the middle of decisions, ideas, marketing, system design and more.
It is definitely not the product—at least not on its own. The product can be truly amazing. It can even be a lifestyle changer. But that doesn't make the company great.
For example, consider cable television.
Cable TV is truly amazing. When I was a kid growing up in the 60's and 70's, there was a whopping four channels to choose from. And, the programming usually ended not long after midnight. We were excited just to have television. Four channels seemed like plenty.
Today we have hundreds of channels to choose from, and many with amazing high-definition clarity. We get to record shows on the cable box to watch later. Other shows we can watch “on demand” when we want to watch them. This is an amazing product.
However, the cable TV industry, as a whole, delivers an abysmal customer experience. One of their less-than-customer-friendly policies: Asking a person to stay home on a work-day to meet the cable TV installer during a four-hour window. Well, that hardly seems customer-centric.
Year after year the cable companies are, unfortunately, recognized as being customer service laggards. Currently, customers put up with the poor service experience because there aren't really any alternatives. If a new company were to come into the cable industry and could provide a consistently high level of customer service, and be recognized for it, they would have the opportunity to own the industry.
Then there are companies that have both the product and the experience. Companies like Apple Inc., that create products people don't even realize they need. Even the packaging of their products adds to the customer's experience.
Apple is recognized as a leader in customer service. What would it look like if Apple had a cable TV offering? I bet customers would even pay a premium if they received the Apple experience.
By the way, a company that delivers a great customer experience won't survive if the product or service the company sells doesn't work or do what it's supposed to do. There are certain expectations that the customer has. It's the combination of the two—a great product and an amazing customer service experience—that can propel a company to the top of its industry.
Shep Hyken operates St. Louis-based Shepard Presentations L.L.C. and is a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times bestselling business author who periodically contributes columns to Tire Business. He can be reached at 314-692-2200 or via his website at www.hyken.com. Information on his customer service training programs is available at www.thecustomerfocus.com. This piece originally appeared in his e-newsletter, The Shepard Letter.