You hear it all the time; There's nothing more important than customer service. And it's so true. I don't know if it's because I've spent many years in the luxury service industries or if it's because I've traveled all over the world in many types of situations, but I pay great attention to customer service - both from the provider and receiver's perspectives.
In a world where one can buy goods online, on a truck, in a store -- seemingly everywhere and anywhere -- and where one is bombarded with emails and snail mail and everything else in between by businesses wanting his/her business, what is going to keep that customer coming back for more? That's right, customer service. It's the repeat customers that provide the foundation for a successful, sustainable, and healthy business.
To me, great customer service is a combination of many things. It means attentiveness, attention to detail, follow through, being proactive, being one step ahead of the customer, establishing a personal relationship with the customer, making the customer feel like s/he is a VIP no matter who s/he is. Everyone wants to feel important. Everyone wants to feel like their needs are heard and understood - whatever those needs may be. If your business is able to attend to those needs with great customer service, you will have a customer for life.
Unfortunately, chances are that you've experienced bad customer service at least a few times in your lifetime -- Probably really bad customer service. Some of my personal experiences of bad customer service include feeling like I'm inconveniencing an employee by asking for help, when I'm promised follow-up and there is none, fake 'good' customer service because my business is wanted, when an employee acts too good for me because of the status of the luxury brand for which s/he is working, when I have to chase an employee for basic service. The list goes on...
I was just having this conversation with a friend the other day, but I think it's really unfortunate that there's inconsistency to good customer service - at least in the US. Businesses don't seem to understand that by providing the highest level of customer service, they are sending the message that their customers come first before anything else. I personally choose to support businesses (where I can) that provide great products, or services AND that choose to put customer service first.
With all the tools that are available to individuals today, there should be no underestimating the savvy of your potential customer. If s/he is happy with how a business (no matter the industry) deals with him/her, s/he will come back. Give your customer a reason to come back and to continue spending his or her dollars with you.