Roshi came up to me after I spoke on branding and asked “Shouldn’t every company have customer service as a core value?”
Personally, I rank customer service very high when I choose where to shop. There is a very popular chain store that I rarely enter because they once gave me a hard time returning a Christmas present that was not operating… even with the original receipt.
So, I hesitated for a moment before replying: “No.” Every company should not have customer service as a core value because:
- Top customer service is not always required to be successful
- Other values may address customer service issues
- Customer service as core value implies desire to be best
Even though I select companies based upon customer service, this is not true for everyone. Some people value low prices over good customer service. (Note: It is possible to have both, but it’s rare.) Still others will tolerate rude customer service representatives to be considered part of an elite group. For example, French restaurants are notorious for being snooty to their customers. And if the food is excellent, they may not only get away with it, it can become a successful part of their brand. It’s a risky strategy, but it can work.
Similarly, in a monopoly situation good customer service may be desired by customers, but is not required to attain financial success. I’m sure you have your own examples, which is probably why a YouTube video of someone attempting to cancel cable service went viral.
Now admittedly, only a small number of companies that have bad customer service are highly successful. So a more important reason that customer service may not be a core value is that other values may address the issue. For example, values such as professional, kind, courteous, and respect may be sufficient to address not only customer service concerns but also other internal and external communication expectations.
Amazon is a good example. While I have not researched their brand, I would be surprised to see customer service as a core value. Not because their customer service is bad; instead, because they are more interested in creating a convenient shopping experience. They spend more time, money, and energy on making their website fast, easy, and intuitive than they do on customer service training. In other words, their core value is probably more like creating a quality purchasing experience.
Finally, adding customer service as a core value indicates that it is of high importance and management is willing to invest time and money to provide noteworthy customer service. They will make it a priority every day. A good example of this type of commitment to customer service is Zappos.com.
Extraordinary customer service is not appropriate for every business. Nor is this level of excellence sustainable unless it truly is a core value in the company. In many companies, customer service training will be curtailed at the first financial downturn. If this describes your company, then customer service is not a core value.
However, this is not to say that customer service is not important. It’s just that in many companies, it may be more appropriately dealt with as an operating guideline rather than a core value. The difference between customer service as a value vs. an operating guideline is simple. As a core value – we are quality customer service; as an operating guideline – we provide quality customer service.
So which is true in your company? There is no shame in not having customer service as a core value. You are not required to be rude to customers simply because it is not a core value. But if it is a core value, then it should be at the center of everything you do.