Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Companies & stakeholders: You better take care of the customer

Lest you doubt the importance of customer service in an age of web connectivity, social networking, and halfway-around-the-world call centers, take a look at Howard Lindzon's latest episode of "Momentum Mondays" on StockTwits TV.

Howard usually takes time on Mondays to talk about emerging trends in the stock market and the economy, while also offering his take on the private company market and entrepreneurial trends.

In Monday's episode (flip to the 7 minute mark), he discussed the power of customer service and why this secondary point of contact can make or break your relationship with customers. After all, as Richard Branson noted, for online customers, it's the second impression that counts.

Take it, Sir Richard:

"...In business, creating a favorable impression at the first point of customer contact is an absolute imperative.
Though everyone knows this, many companies still only manage to do a mediocre job at best.

But what isn't widely understood is that in a world where so many transactions are conducted online, the customer's second impression of the brand can be even more important than his first.

The second interaction a customer has with your business usually involves something that has gone wrong -- they're having trouble using the product or service. Handled correctly, this is a situation in which a company can create a very positive impression. Sadly, it's where things often go terribly wrong..."

As customers, we've all known the frustrations of dealing with inept customer service reps or the runaround we sometimes get from company websites ("where's the damn phone number?") and call centers.

What's interesting about customer service quality, is that if we examine it on another level, we find that it also has a profound impact on a company's financial success and
its return to shareholders.

I think this is a big part of the equation for businesses going forward, as Howard outlines in his brief chat on the "decade of choice" for customers. Everyone involved with serving customers, and that includes (by implication) shareholders and the big shots who do the hiring & firing and set the pace for a company, will have to focus on making the customer happy.
Otherwise it's, "hasta la vista, baby".