Where are companies investing their money? Customer service, customer service, customer service. In particular, they are focusing on pleasing their best customer segments to earn the highest returns. Customer service is obvious and tangible to customers; it affects them directly. More and more customers therefore make purch ase decisions based on the service they receive.

Recognizing this trend, Walgreens is investing in training its pharmacists to meet regularly with their customers suffering from chronic illnesses for 20–45 minutes. When an employee devotes this much time to a customer’s case, that customer is likely to consolidate all of his or her prescriptions at Walgreens—and be loyal forever. The program is starting with diabetes patients, more than 4,000 of whom are diagnosed every day. In the competitive prescription drug sector, customer service represents a true differentiator, especially when the illnesses get so serious that people value the simple human interaction, as well as information about managing their disease.

Comcast may seem like an opposing example, considering its rating as “the Worst Company in America” by The Consumerist based on a collection of consumer reviews. But it hopes to change this perception through, of course, improving its customer service. Call center agents now receive increased training to minimize the number of calls a customer must make to resolve the same problem; that is, the customer’s problem should be solved the first time he or she calls. In addition to greater training, Comcast has shifted its sales metric, away from one that rewards representatives according to the number of calls they take rather than how many problems they actually resolve. Call center reps offer callers new products and let them know about other services as well, in an attempt to increase sales during the call rather than moving to the next caller as quickly as possible.

Discussion Questions

1. What opportunities do companies encounter when they invest in customer service? 

2. Consider customer service encounters that you have had recently. Discuss a well and a poorly executed one.

Dana Mattioli, “Customer Service as a Growth Engine,” The Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2010.