I am admittedly one of the worst customers to come along. I have high expectations when it comes to customer service. I know what good customer service looks like, both in terms of giving and receiving it. Although the quality of the product or service being peddled is important, equally important is the relationship between the customer and the vendor. It’s more than just standing behind one’s product. It’s an intangible quality that leaves the customer feeling like he or she is the most important component to the vendor's business. The customer might not always be right, but he or she should leave feeling like it. Competent customer service is worth paying for.
There are companies, some of them very large multi-national corporations that know where their money comes from. It doesn’t come from R&D, it’s not marketing or production or any of the other components that make up the structure of a successful company. The income - the money - comes from the customer. None of that other stuff would mean a damned thing if nobody spent their money on the company’s products (or services, etc.). To that end, every part of the company should be focused on making the customer the top priority.
Unfortunately, committed customer service seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Apple treats its custom like they are more important than an isolated issued, which measured by itself might not be profitable. Case in point: My dad gave me his old Apple iBook G3 laptop when he upgraded to a G4. When it was a little more than three years old, it developed a problem in the video card. Of course, one can’t just swap out a video card in a laptop. It was a latent problem with these particular iBooks - Apple knew about it and offered to fix them at no cost for up to three years - two years beyond the original factory warranty.
They didn’t have to. The warranty was clearly only one year against manufacturer’s defects in materials and workmanship. It is a pretty standard warranty. My iBook was beyond even the extended three-year grace period - but they fixed it anyway. No proof of purchase, no receipt and I’m not even the original owner, but they replaced the entire motherboard and cleaned it to near new condition for free.
Hang on - it gets even better. They shipped me an empty box to pack it in. After packing it, I only had to make a phone call to DHL who picked it up the next day. If you’re counting, that’s three days so far. It was repaired and shipped back to me within seven days total. Not seven business days - seven days! And they weren’t obligated to do any of it; they would’ve been completely within their rights to say “sorry about your luck.” But they have an attitude that looks toward future business and ate a small loss to secure my loyalty. It worked. I am Apple brand-loyal. I’ll go to Apple first, even if there is a competitive product that costs less.
Ok, perhaps Apple is an anomaly in respect to customer service. Surely no other corporations go the extra mile to keep its customers happy. Not so. Not only have I had similar repeat experiences with Apple, but also Canon (very recently) and Hewlett-Packard… and there are others. Additionally, there are retailers that treat customers similarly. The point is that with a sufficiently broad focus that isn’t aimed at capturing every opportunity to extract every available dollar, the long-term success of an enterprise is virtually guaranteed. Customer service is what separates the outstanding ventures from the also-rans. It’s what keeps me coming back.