Two Sides of Customer Service for Small Businesses

The good ole’ business adage of “Customer is king” has been a persistent motto for many small and mid-sized businesses.  While such approach has been somewhat dismantled by dishonest consumers (abusing return policies, misuse of promotions, theft, etc.), customer service has been shrined as a key business virtue for the most part.  Some companies like Starbucks live off on customer service as a part of its core business model, spending much resources on staffing and accessibility, while forgoing much of traditional advertising (anyone seen a Starbucks Super Bowl ad, let alone a regular TV commercial?).  Despite the general consensus that customer service is important for success, many small business owners often focus too much on politeness and friendly responses as the metric for good customer service.

Yet, research shows that customer service is largely divided into two main dimensions: personal and procedural.  The first dimension is the one that discussed above- providing courteous, friendly, and caring service.  Although this is an extremely important aspect, we all know that employees can’t be smiling 24/7- and thankfully, many customers understand this fact.  On the other hand, studies have shown that procedural elements of customer service matters more to people than the personal dimension.  We want our drinks served properly, phone lines opened quickly, and orders processed accurately, than a kind but clumsy service.

Of course, achieving the best of both dimensions will be optimal, and it can be only achieved through continued monitoring and clearly established, strategic customer service guidelines.