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Great Customer Service with a Crappy Product is Like Putting Lipstick on a Pig!

Great customer service is critical to the success of any small business.Few would argue that. However, so is a quality product. But, with a crappy product, no matter how hard you try with customer service, you're still just dressing up the aforementioned pig (no disrespect intended to pigs everywhere). You can sometimes get away with lackluster customer service and a quality product, but if I asked you which was more important, quality product or great customer service, I think most would agree that they both were. They are two sides of the same customer experience coin. You have to be focused on both or you won't keep customers, long-term!Yet, for many entrepreneurs, intent on growing their business, there is, often, a disconnect between the two. But that's not the only problem.Unless you're listening to your customers, both of these terms are highly subjective. And to complicate it further, one can actually help the other!

So, to remove subjectivity, let me give you my ideal definition of "great" customer service: 
  • Extraordinarily easy for customers to reach out to and get a response back from customer service 24/7 (like it or not, that's where we are).
  • Virtually, every customer who calls in with a question or a problem, gets that question or problem resolved within a reasonable period of time.
  • Proactive, periodic "reach out" programs where customer service actually calls out to customers to see how they're doing. Often, silence does not mean satisfaction. And the higher the quality of your product, the more time you have to reach out.
  • Data gathering, where the questions or the problems that are raised by customers are reviewed and addressed by the product folks to continually improve the product.
  • Profit center, not a cost center, judged on how much periodic new revenue gets generated by existing customers (that's a true measure of great customer service).
Now let me give you my ideal definition of a quality product:
  • Built with strong market and customer influence or even direct requirements from customers on its set of features and functions, that all work and are delivered as promised.
  • Tested at multiple levels, including in a customer environment, before it's ever shipped to the market at large.
  • Not necessarily without bugs or issues (every product has them and no product is perfect), but one that has customers with near universal praise for how well it addresses their requirements.
  • Mechanism to address and quickly fix bugs or issues as they come up (and are reported by customers) with a solid release management system.
  • Ongoing way to continually get customer and market feedback to enhance the product or correct shortcomings.
  • High marks from customers for the product's inherent usability, ease of learning, ease of use. It works "out of the box" without needing a multi-day training course.
  • An "every customer a reference" objective within your company.
Under these definitions, few small companies would really have great customer service or quality products. But what's the common theme for both? And the connection I mentioned earlier about one helping the other?

Listening to the customer!

This is an incredibly important lesson for entrepreneurs and small business owners to learn. The customer will judge the level of your customer service and the quality of your product. But you have to listen and seek out their feedback from the very first design document to the product shipped today.

If you truly do have great customer service (according to my definition), it should provide the mechanism to fix a crappy product. If you've built a quality product (again, my definition) it would be almost impossible to not have gotten feedback that would enable you to have an equally high level of customer service. If you're listening, the customer is giving you your answers.

Great customer service and a quality product are two sides of the same customer experience coin.You need to strive for both to get and keep customers, long-term. Listen to the customers and they will provide the answers to make their customer experience incredible.

"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!

What's been your experience with ensuring that you have both great customer service and a quality product? Describe them to me how in your comments.It will help other entrepreneurs!

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