I’ve had to make a tough decision recently when our company shifted purchasing from a traditional supplier to another. Let me explain.
My traditional supplier offered prices that were lower than their main competitor but their customer service was very lousy. We’ve had to call to remind them that we’re waiting for a delivery; that the supplies sent were all wrong or that the amount they sent was below what was ordered yet being billed for a larger amount. This is a company that boasts in their ads that they go beyond their call of duty to serve and satisfy all the needs of their customers!
Over the past few months, we took a decision to switch to the competitor company whose costs were relatively high. However, doing business with the new company has been stress-free; we’re getting deliveries on time and receiving follow-up calls on whether we received everything and whether we were satisfied with delivery timing etc. We have not had to call this new company to give them reminders or to complain or to receive refunds for products paid for and not supplied. For us, spending the extra money on suppliesfrom the new company was well worth it.
Customer service is at the heart of the customer experience and it’s the reason why many companies worldwide spend millions of dollars in training their staff to get it right the first time. Even though there may be hiccups from time to time in business transactions, issues must be resolved professionally when the customer emails or phones the company with a complaint. When there’s repeated complaints, companies need to realise there’s serious underlying issues, that if left unattended, would result in the loss of customers and ultimately, revenues.
I admire Starbucks for their excellent customer service which, in my book, is their main competitive advantage over every other coffee chain. Yes, anybody can sell a cup of coffee, but Starbucks has created an experience beyond purchasing a latte in a cup with your name written on it. As Howard Schultz remarked in an interview, “We are not in the coffee business serving people, but in the people business serving coffee.” Now, imagine if my traditional stationary supplier had this mindset and ‘was in the people business serving stationery’, my story might have had a different ending.