How does customer support/service figure into how you see a service/product?

Customer ServiceI was reading a post over at The Digital Reader today which came down heavily on Barnes and Noble’s support response to a few of the writer’s issues with their products and services.

I personally have never dealt much with Barnes and Noble’s remote customer support. My experience with Barnes and Noble has been limited to the retail stores and the agents therein. As usual, the merit of each agent’s response to my requests has always been evaluated on the basis of the individual encounters and not on the overall experience of a Barnes and Noble retail store. As a result, I can’t really comment on the remote customer service quality in the detail that this particular writer has.

Conversely, I can comment on the customer service at Amazon, because I have been dealing with them for over 10 years and prior to the advent of eBooks and the eReader.

Some companies place a huge emphasis on customer support, and sometimes to the detriment of other aspects of the business. In Amazon’s case, they have spent a great deal of time and effort on the customer and less on a retail or local presence. The complaints about Amazon in the old days of book purchasing was that there is no store to walk into for help if you found you needed it. In fact, there isn’t even a 1-800 number you can call. You can email them with your complaint, and they were sure to respond. In my case, those responses were always friendly and favorable.

I remember I once purchased a book that was scheduled to arrive on a particular date. When it had not arrived a week later, I wrote in with the issue, and with no questions asked, I was told that a replacement item was on its way. There was no mention of course of action if I ended up with two copies, so I wrote in again and asked: “What should I do if the original book turns up later on?” The response was: “Keep it, or share it with a friend. This is on us.”

That kind of customer service gives you a warm fuzzy feeling – as if you are trusted, and that you are their number one priority – over and above everything and everybody else. Once you get past feeling warm and fuzzy, however, it is easy to see how that kind of approach is guaranteed to not only keep your patronage, but to gain as many others as you have friends who also purchase goods and items online.

So my question to you is this: what portion of your loyalty to a company, service, or product would you say hinges on how good their customer service is?

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