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March 26, 2017

Shocker: Great Customer Service is not for everyone

By michaelpace on July 18, 2011

Twitter Conversation

Great Customer service is not for everyone.

There I said it.  My fellow customer service leaders may hate me for saying it, but it is true.

After reading a great post on B.L. Ochman’s blog “Google’s missing link: customer service. It has none.”, we began engaging in a conversation over twitter.

My heart agrees with B.L. about the importance of great customer service as a key differentiator for many companies, and my head knows many of the most profitable companies in the world are not customer service focused.  Take a look at the most profitable companies of 2010 from CNNMoney, I don’t see any customer service superstars.

Most Profitable Companies

Don’t forget, for companies, customer service is not the end goal.  The end goal is for the company to win, and for most companies, that usually directly ties back to share of wallet, profitability and/or shareholder value.  Exxon, Microsoft, Walmart, BP and IBM do not inspire customer service leaders or customers, but evidence shows that they are successful (at least monetarily).

B.L. brought up a good point around Apple.  I do not think Apple provides a great customer service experience, I think they provide a great customer experience.  I think they provide a great customer experience through design and usability.  The Genius Bar is nice, but if I have to go all the way to an Apple Store to get something fixed and speak to someone, I would not consider that a great customer service experience.

So does Google need great customer service? I do not think they do.  Their core competencies are about search technologies and other work tools.  Just as in Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, Google can be the best in the world at search.  Customer service does not fit into their hedgehog.

Now all this being said, customer service can be a huge differentiator for many companies; it is part of the mission and value proposition of the company that employs me.  Superior service can keep customers loyal in high competition and commodity markets.  Incredible service can make it easier for your customers to spend more with you each month/year.  With the addition of social business and media tools, fantastic customer service can help you acquire customers via word of mouth promotion.   Delivering “awe inspiring” customer service is critical to many companies, especially small businesses, but I do not believe it is right for everyone.


Do you agree with B.L.?

Does Google need to provide good customer service to remain a top performing company?

When does customer service matter, and when does it not?

About mpace101


  1. 8 Comments
    Helga Iliadis says:

    If your organization’s policies, processes and products are designed to provide a consistent high quality customer experience, then perhaps the stakes related to Customer Service are not as high. If, however, you operate in a fiercely competitive, change intense environment, or if you operate with some less than customer-friendly policies, processes or products, then the quality of customer service makes ALL the difference. Competitive advantage related to Product or Price is ephemeral at best. The truly sustainable competitive advantage comes from the quality of the customer experience – including the quality of service experience. When your people walk, talk and breathe customer service they can make up for those inelegant gaps in policy and process. My 2 cents worth ….

  2. 8 Comments


    I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I have had really excellent customer service experiences with Apple in the not so distant past. They messed up an order I had placed and they fixed the problem in a very timely and professional manner. They even compensated me for the trouble without my even having to ask them.

    Anyone can make mistakes (and probably all of us do). What differentiates them is what they do in response. In my view, Apple is first quality.

    Michael Kraft


      It’s funny, about 1/4 of the comments to me on this post have been about me giving Apple a “short stick” in the service game. I will commit to giving them another shot.


  3. 8 Comments

    A very thought provoking article; anything that challenges our preconceptions is worth reading and boy doesn’t this do just that but I think that you are probably right with the examples that you cite! Another example of a company with limited CS is Adobe and their support for Photoshop, the level of technical support that these products could consume is probably beyond the total worth of the company but instead there is a fantastic customer generated self-help community out there which gives all of the support that you need – now that’s clever; get you customers to do the work!


      Hi Keith,

      We need to break our paradigm of what we consider customer service and great customer service. Traditionally, it is getting a smart, supportive person on the phone; I do not believe needs to be the case anymore. I am a huge fan of support communities, I should be I manage one (Constant Contact). And very often, these communities can provide insight that no customer service representative with the greatest knowledge base can provide.
      The purpose of a company is to win (winning is relative to each), typically its purpose is not to provide great service. Great service is only 1 option to help achieve your winning goals.

      Thanks for commenting Keith.


  4. 8 Comments


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