Customer Service is the Deal-Breaker for Consumers in the Recession

14 April 2009

The recession is now in full flow and is hitting every industry in some way, from retail to finance, marketing to tourism. And while industries are doing all they can to stave off the effects, it remains to be seen just which tactics will work and who the victors will be when the dust settles.

If there is a silver-lining to the whole situation it could well be the increase of consumer power – the fact that the public are spending less money means that companies are competing for their slice of the action in a shrinking market and therefore need to stand out from their competitors even more than before. This in turn gives consumers who are making a purchase the clout to demand additional benefits.

On the other side of the coin, this trend will allow smaller, independent companies the chance to stand shoulder to shoulder with large corporations because they will be able to provide a level of customer service which faceless multinationals can not.

One such small business which is reaping the rewards of its strong customer service focus is Landmark Systems, a privately run software development business based in West Sussex. Among Landmark’s main competitors are software giants Sage, but the Sussex-based company has found that its customers have stayed loyal due to the superiority of the customer care the company offers.

The business was established over 20 years ago by MD Nigel Parsons who credits customer service as the one of the main reasons for his company’s success: “Although most people nowadays are computer literate it would be unethical and quite frankly foolish of us to sell a product and then offer a substandard after care service. We have dedicated people on the telephone to do precisely this, and it pays dividends in terms of customer retention. It is also very important to us that our customers get the most out of our products and understand the software’s full potential. If they only utilised it to a small percentage of its capability they wouldn’t appreciate the benefits it could bring to the business. I still get a rush of pride when our customers tell us how happy they are with our after-sales service because we genuinely put so much effort into it.”

A recent study carried out by Harris Interactive adds weight to Nigel’s statement, showing that poor customer service is still the number one reason for transferring business elsewhere. This is something that companies can ill afford to let happen, especially in these challenging times.

Obviously, the service has to be tied in with a quality product but to have one without the other these days leaves a company at a major disadvantage, one that consumers are increasingly aware of and acting upon. More and more advertising campaigns and marketing paraphernalia are focussing on their treatment of customers as a USP over their competitors. After all, with the prevalence of internet review sites these days it only takes one person’s rant to reach thousands of potential customers at the click of a button.

In a business world where every facet of a company is being squeezed hard there are certain aspects which cannot be sacrificed. Customer service is proving to be one of these – it would be encouraging to believe that this will carry over once the economy gets back on track. For this to happen customers must continue to demand the service they deserve.

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