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Customer Service Is Overrated!

by David Brock on October 28th, 2011

I was reading an interesting discussion on customer loyalty at  The responses focused on great customer service.  This matches my experience when I talk to executives worldwide.  It’s what most customers cite when questions about how they make buying decisions.

Sometimes, I wonder if all of us, customers included are missing the point.  Don’t get me wrong, customer service is critical, but I wonder if there is something that’s really more important.

What if we designed products, services, buying experiences that didn’t need customer service?

How could I as a customer be truly delighted?  If I’m buying a new software product, I don’t want to have to call some technical support center to help me solve installation/implementation problems–I want it to work out of the box.  I really don’t care about well trained, courteous customer service reps in dealing with my mobile phone problems, I don’t want problems.

Fundamentally, as a customer (B2B or B2C) I don’t want to be forced to discover how wonderful your customer service is.  I want an extraordinary buying and usage experience.  In a perfect world, I’d like to totally avoid the need to use customer service.

A number of months ago, I was looking at buying a new car.  One of the key things the sales people did (based on the manufacturer’s training) was to focus on their customer service department.  They took me on a tour, had me meet the customer service manager and all the agents that would be handling me when I would bring the car in.  They showed me sparkling service bays with the latest tools and diagnostic equipment.  I walked through a stunning parts room and we ended the tour getting Latte’s at the coffee bar and sitting in a well appointed customer service lounge. 

The car I was looking at was a bit of an exotic car, it had a reputation of being a little temperamental.  I realized the reason I was being sold on the cusotmer service, the reason they had taken great care to have absolutely stunning customer service was that I’d be spending a lot of time using it.

Should great customer service and support be the key selling point or differentiator?

This realization smacked me in the face over the past couple of weeks as a bought my new Iphone 4S.  For some reason, I didn’t go to Apple to buy it, I went to my phone company.  We had problems activating the phone (the system was overloaded), I later had to spend time and two phone calls doing little things with “customer service” to correct problems that I was having.  The service I got, was very good–I have no complaint with the agents I spoke to, but why was there a buying process that virtually mandated that I speak with them.

I reflected on previous experience.  Always before, I’ve walked into an Apple Store to buy the product.  Each time, they’ve set me up, I’ve walked out with a working product.  I bought some Apple Computers.  Normally, I reserve hours to set up a new computer, these took me just a few minutes.

Yes, I have used Apple customer service–both at the Genius bar, on the phone, and on line.  They are really great — for the 3 times in the past 5 years that I’ve had to do this.  But it seems they do something different, they design products, services, and buying experiences so that you don’t need customer service.

Customer service and support is critical.  Things do break, we need help doing things, we need someone who will own the problem and help us quickly solve it.

But something may be wrong if that’s what separates us from everyone else.  Perhaps a better strategy is to focus on never needing to test the customer service experience.


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  1. Bjorn Froberg permalink

    This is so true – in my former job, one of the key USP I handed out was that they probably won’t see me again until its time to make new investment.

    But if ever anything would happen, call me and we (customer service) will take care of it the same day.

    So basically in other words – It’s when I sell machine No. 2 (providing they really need it) – only then will my good relationship with the customer start – we have succeded.

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