Marketing Monday: How Much Customer Service Is Too Much?

Customer service –  we all know it’s vitally important to the success of any business,  but it can be difficult to walk the path between perfect provider and patsy.   Most of us have heard “the customer is always right” and “there’s no traffic jam on the extra mile”  enough that we could probably recite those platitudes in our sleep.   The reality is, however, that what constitutes “good” customer service varies,   and it can be easy,  in the effort to provide exceptional customer service to your clients,  to slip over the line into providing customer service that may serve your customers,  but doesn’t serve your business.

The question is, where is that line?   Where does it become less about servicing the customer and more about a customer or potential customer taking advantage?   Is going above and beyond always the right answer?  Are there times when the best way to be of service and to be fiscally responsible is to say “I can’t help you”?

Our training and conventional wisdom may tell us that the right thing to do is always to go above and beyond,  but while we all have a responsibility to serve our customers to the best of our ability,  we also have a responsibility to our businesses.   The goal of customer service is to provide your customers with such a good experience that they return to you again and again.   The customer gets what they need and want,  and you get revenue which keeps your doors open and your machines running.   It’s a simple transaction,  but one that can quickly become lopsided and problematic.

Maybe it’s a customer who demands special treatment but doesn’t spend a lot with your company.  Perhaps it’s a customer that didn’t purchase a particular product from you at all but “just needs a little favor”.   You could encounter the potential customer who keeps you on the phone forever with questions and concerns,  but never quite pulls the trigger and makes a purchase.  In some cases it’s the customer who expects that you’ll remember every detail of their every order,  even if they only order once in a blue moon.

With some customers of the types described above,  the payoff is worth the extra time and/or aggravation.  Maybe the customer that “just needs a favor” buys other things from you regularly,  and this is an opportunity to remind him or her why he buys from you.   A customer who demands special treatment might be convinced to spend more if informed that special services are offered for premium customers.  A potential customer with lots of questions may be transformed into a customer simply through being asked to purchase (something a lot of business neglect to do because it makes them uncomfortable).  Customers who only order once in a blue moon could benefit from a schedule or perhaps a discount plan that encourages them to place orders more frequently.

The trick here is to figure out where the lines are for your company,  and then make an informed decision to cross them.   If there seems to be benefit to going above and beyond what might be considered “standard” customer service,  than do so.  If there doesn’t seem to be any benefit,  or if the benefits don’t seem to be worth the time and effort,  than politely let the customer know you’re sorry,  you can’t help,  and move on to assisting those who will help benefit your bottom line.   There’s no harm in telling a customer who is wasting your time,  interfering with your production and not making it worth your while that it’s three strikes and you’re out.

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