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Product vs. Customer Service: What Has More Value?

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Amazon-goWhat has more value, a company’s product or its approach to customer service?

The first Amazon Go store opened its doors in Seattle offering customers a unique shopping experience.

You simply scan your smartphone upon entering the store, cameras track you through the store, while sensors automatically charge you for what’s placed in your “cart.”

A seamless experience that’s lacking something noticeable – customer service.

Is this the trend of the future? Are consumers willing to sacrifice customer service for convenience, speed, and ease of execution?

Not So Fast

Before you discount the importance of customer service, read on.

The Amazon Go concept has received its fair share of criticism. Some worry that automation will eliminate jobs, others fear the technology compromises consumers’ privacy, while many, like Joshua McNichols for the Pacific Standard, are concerned it will eliminate interpersonal connections, “Amid the impersonal bustle of city life, cashiers provide people with an opportunity to forge a brief human connection.”

Research supports the notion that customer service is key:

customer service surveyA recent customer service survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that 88% of consumers prefer dealing with a company with strong customer service than one with the most innovative product offerings.

Customer intelligence firm Walker conducted extensive roundtables, interviews, and surveys for their Customers 2020 study.

They predict that “As the pace of innovation continues to accelerate, companies will focus on creating a competitive advantage based on the experiences they deliver, placing less emphasis on product and pricing strategies.”

A Universal Question

technologyThe question of which has more value—the product or customer service—is one shared by both B2B and B2C companies alike.

It’s one that affects our industry and the industries of our clients and partners.

In fact, it was one of the topics tackled in a recent meeting of the Balance Point Insurance Consultancy, an assembly of Balance Point’s management team and prominent insurance experts.

During a conversation about how the market is saturated with competitors selling both insurance and human capital management (HCM) solutions, Balance Point’s founder Pete Luciano asked the group, “Is there a point where technology and the ability to automate things takes precedence over service and relationship? Think about the what the big players are selling from a technology standpoint. They are presenting an overall solution. Does that infringe upon the relationship you have with your clients?”

“Only if you’re not talking about it,” remarked Phil Cohen, President of Broad Reach Benefits, underscoring the importance of remaining relevant, knowledgeable, and visible among your clients. “If you told me ten years ago that I’d spend 20% of my time doing technology consulting, I would have laughed at you.”

Referencing the common use of call centers, Gerry Purcell, Vice President of New Agency Partners, added “It’s still a relationships business and there’s no relationship with these competitors. At the end of the day, all everyone wants is a point person to talk to.”

The Customer Experience

The Customer ExperienceCustomer service does, and will continue to, play an important role in how consumers choose where to spend their money. To remain competitive, experts recommend you focus on both, or what is often referred to as the customer experience.

To create a positive one, a variety of elements should be considered: the quality of the product and service offered, the professionalism and knowledge of those representing the company, and the ease of getting help.

Taking the time to optimize every step of the customer’s journey will result in loyal customers and word-of-mouth referrals.

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