I was interviewing the plant manager of a well-known consumer products company for a case study feature article to promote my client’s conveying systems and asked him why he selected this conveying system versus the competition. I was hoping he’d describe the months of painstaking research he’d done in reviewing spec sheets, watching videos, attending trade shows, visiting installations, and assessing the impressive engineering behind the system, leaving him with no choice but to conclude that it was plainly obvious to anyone willing to look that this was the best conveyor for the job.
“Why yours? Well, your system is basically the same as the one I have from [the competition] so there’s really nothing new or special about your system.”
Oh. I guess this will be a very short article…
And then, “I went with your company because the other guy’s service is awful. I can’t get a hold of anyone, they take forever, and then charge insane amounts of money for a service call. But [Steve] answers the phone and replies to my emails every time. The installation was smooth and overall, it works like it’s supposed to work.”
If this was the only example where prompt, courteous, knowledgeable customer service earned the sale, as opposed to the brilliant engineering, stellar track record, or exceptional Website, then I might’ve left this alone. But I’m having enough similar conversations that we now have to consider delivering stellar service a selling point that has become just as important as the benefits of buying the latest machine or new technology – especially as people seem grateful for barely adequate service.
Does Poor Treatment Outweigh Quality Manufacturing?
When interviewing the owner of a small manufacturer for another case study article, he admitted he’d moved most of his business to my client’s company because of the “poor treatment” he received as standard procedure from the nearby competitor. Otherwise, since the quality of the work was fine, there was no reason to leave. For another, the owner of an MRO products distributor said a customer was shocked a real person who understood the product answered the phone and was able to answer every technical question accurately on the first call.
This isn’t a new phenomenon, unfortunately, but it has become quite widespread to the point that we, as customers, now expect poor customer service, and often accept it as normal. This is why in the marketing campaign for a family-owned machinery manufacturer, we use subtle attacks on the competition for its service failings. For years, we’ve been highlighting “easy to work with” as a dig at the arch rival, who had become infamous for being infuriatingly difficult to work with. Sales have soared.
What do your customers expect when calling or emailing? Would they consider a competitor just because it’s easier? Or to feel the kind of special that only a new prospect feels?