As we have noted, to effectively manage customers marketers must be concerned with the entire experience a customer has with a company. While much of the value sought by customers is obtained directly from the consumption or use of goods or services they purchase (i.e., offers benefits that address a need), customers’ satisfaction is not limited to direct product benefits. Instead the customer’s buying experience covers the entire purchasing experience and is a mix of product and non-product benefits.
When it comes to managing customers, an important non-product benefit that affects customers’ feelings about a company is customer service, which is defined as activities used by the marketer to support the purchaser’s experience with a product. Customer service includes several activities including:
- Training – services needed to assist the customer in learning how to use a product
- Repair – services needed to handle damaged or malfunctioning products
- Financial Assistance – services needed to help customers with the financial commitment in purchases or using the product
- Complaint Resolution – services needed to address other problems that have arisen with customers’ use of a product
In many industries customers’ experience with a company’s customer service can significantly affect their overall opinion of the product. Companies producing superior products may negatively impact their products if they back these up with shoddy service. On the other hand, many companies compete not because their products are superior to their competitors’ but because they offer a higher level of customer service. In fact, many believe that customer service will eventually become the most significant benefit offered by a company because global competition (i.e., increase in similar products) makes it more difficult for a company’s product to offer unique advantages.
Customer service manifests itself in several ways, with the most common being a dedicated department to handle customer issues. Whether a company establishes a separate department or spreads the function among many departments, being responsive and offering reliable service is critical and in the future will be demanded by customers.