Bucking the Recession with Exceptional Customer Service

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print


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Horror stories of unbelievably poor customer service are everywhere these days. And if your customers aren't buying, it may be tempting to cut back on your service levels to them. But a handful of IT solution providers have proven that exceptional customer service can lead to growth, even during the worst economic recession most people can remember.

You hear the stories all the time. Stories of unsatisfied customers. Stories of unbelievably poor customer service.

Case in point: A business needs to upgrade its bandwidth with its ISP but gets routed to a call center in the Philippines (or insert your favorite outsourcing location) and the person on the line can’t tell them who their local sales rep is because the information in the file is incomplete. When the local rep is finally identified and dispatched to the customer office, the problems don’t end there. Thirty days later, the bandwidth still hasn’t been upgraded, and the business customer has lost his last shred of patience.

This is the kind of customer service that drives business customers—or any kind of customer—into the arms of competitors. You’ve probably done it yourself—abandoned a company you did business with because they were unresponsive to your needs.

And yet stories like the one about that business looking to upgrade ISP service—a true one—still happen every day. Is your company the kind of company that can provide brilliant customer service, or do your customers end up frustrated and annoyed? Have the economic realities of the recession tempted you to cut back on customer service resources or outsource them?

Experts say that a commitment to customer service can give any company an advantage, even during a recession.

"The level of customer service that IT service providers offer makes a difference," says Kendra Lee, president and founder of The KLA Group, a sales consulting and training company specializing in IT service providers.

And VARs and MSPs who have made a commitment to customer service say it has helped them to weather this last year of deep economic recession. Some who have made customer service their No. 1 focus have even reported growth during 2009 as competitors' customers have come looking for a better experience.

Five Nines
Five Nines Technology Group of Lincoln, Neb., is one such example. Co-founder and CEO Nick Bock says his company doesn’t use a call center model or multiple tiers of technicians. Instead, everybody is the most advanced tier of technician. Every customer is assigned to a single senior technician who understands not only their infrastructure but also the vertical applications that may be unique to their particular line of business. When they call for help, they get their senior level technician.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com