B.L. Ochman has a pointed, if brief, article on why customer service is where your business will be won or lost.
When you come right down to it, it's almost always the hourly employees who have actual contact with actual customers who create your bottom line results. It makes great economic sense to empower them to solve a problem with one phone call...
In case some companies haven't noticed, we are in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Customers count. Treat us like you know that. We'll all be a lot happier. And more prosperous.
I've come across a few other instances of this kind of thing in the last few days. A friend on a music site I'm part of noted that the Intellitouch tuner company cheerfully replaced his broken tuner, even though his kids had stomped it - not the company's fault at all.
As a counterpoint to Ms. Ochman's experience, you can't beat this kind of story. Intellitouch has made a customer for life - more so, an evangelist.
Here's a snippet of a similar, if more widely read, account, from BoingBoing, detailing KitchenAid's remarkable service:
The operator asked for my serial number, asked me to describe the problem, then asked if I could be at some address the next day to receive my replacement unit and ship back the defective one. I gave her my office address, and yesterday at around 2PM, a DHL guy showed up with a brand new espresso machine in its package. I lifted it out, replaced it with the defective one, watched as the DHL guy slapped a return sticker on it, and then he left, leaving me a shiny new coffee machine that I brought home in a cab (two people on the street and the cabbie all stopped me and asked me about this beautiful coffee machine and whether it worked as good as it looked and where they could get one of their own). This morning, I enjoyed a perfect cappuccino with breakfast, and ruminated on just how damned good the customer service from Kitchen Aid had been, and I figured, man, that deserves some public approbation.
Now, that was worth it for KitchenAid - BoingBoing's readership is enormous, and everyone now knows how good KitchenAid is. All because their CS team "got it". Now, what happens in the opposite case? Do you really want some widely-read blogger telling the world how atrocious your service is? Wise up, everybody.