Let’s talk self-service first. Ever since the first you-pump-it gas station came on the scene, companies have continued to train customers to do for themselves—and they’ve made the self-service experience easier, faster, and more pleasurable.
When a customer feels satisfied with the self-service experience, it is the greatest thing in the world for both the consumer and the business. For example, we both think that purchasing United airline tickets and selecting our seats via a high speed Internet connection is infinitely better than the old model of waiting on the telephone to speak with a reservations agent. That’s because the airline sites present all the information we need to make a decision, supplemented by comparison sites that point us to the best price. When we book online, we feel efficient, in control, productive, and satisfied.
On the other hand, when we deal with the slow, error prone self-check out equipment in our neighborhood Dominick’s grocery store, we feel frustrated, annoyed, resentful, and dissatisfied.
If self-service is important to your company’s product delivery strategy, you have to make sure that your customers feel satisfied about the whole self-service experience. If they do, you have a competitive edge. If they don’t, you are advertising for the competition.
Social media—Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and thousands of bloggers—have changed the face and voice of customer service. First, feedback on good and poor service can be instantaneous with an international reach of millions. It should only take companies about thirty seconds of watching Dave Carroll’s hilarious YouTube video about United Airlines breaking his guitar player to realize the power of the exchange of information about products and services (good and bad).
Second, enterprising business owners—especially retail, restaurants, and counter service businesses which is where customer service is really tested—can turn Twitter, constant contact, and blogging into in-the-moment marketing tools.
Finally, in a me-too, Internet world where price comparisons and product availability are just a click of the keyboard away, BAM! Good customer service is one of the best ways to secure a competitive advantage.