• 08:15:45 pm on August 6, 2009 | 3

    Service = Brand

    Ideal customer service. That is the mantra of customer service vendors as they tout their wares. However, is this what companies really want to offer? Or is it good enough customer service where the cost of doing service is balanced with the ability to satisfy and retain a customer. Or is it something else – like providing a customer service experience that parallel’s a company’s business model?

    Think about Apple. Their products are high-style and high cost. You would expect their customer service to be in-line with their brand. Customer Service on the customer’s terms – where you can arrange a phone call with an Apple Expert who specializes in your exact question. You can talk with them now or later at your convenience. They’ll even call you. You can email them, or browse their extensive knowledgebase.

    Now think about IKEA. Their products are high-style but do it-yourself low cost. You shop at IKEA because you are comfortable with serving yourself – pulling products off shelves, to self-checkout to assembling them yourself. And, IKEA’s service to mirrors their brand. They have exhaustive web self service in a multitude of languages, a chat bot, some email support and limited phone support. You are not disappointed with their lack of white-glove service because you would never expect it from IKEA – it is not their business model.

    I quickly mapped out some retailers on a graph of cost vs style. It looks something like this:

    cost vs style

    Your Walmart shopper is not the same as your IKEA or Nordstrom shopper. They don’t expect to have the same shopping experience, or have the same level of service at each of these stores. Companies need to know what their key value proposition is to their shoppers, and align their service offering with their brand. Not everyone needs to deliver “exceptional customer service.” Thoughts anyone?



  • Sarah 9:01 pm on August 6, 2009 | # | Reply

    I agree, but “exceptional customer service” is in the eye of the beholder with “exceptional” being the operative word. EXCEPTIONAL varies at different levels of EXPECTATIONS. WalMart shoppers don’t expect what a Nordstrom shopper expects, but when the Nordy shopper goes to WalMart (for what ever reason) they lower their expectations thus receiving and accepting “exceptional customer service” at their current level of EXPECTATION.

    As you stated: “Companies need to know what their key value proposition is to their shoppers, and align their service offering with their brand.”

    So I believe all companies NEED to deliver exceptional customer service at their shoppers level of expectation.

    It could be construed that EXPECTATIONS=BRAND.

  • Esteban Kolsky 3:47 pm on August 7, 2009 | # | Reply


    I have to disagree with one statement you made. Nordstrom shoppers don’t lower their standards when they go to Walmart, they still expect to receive service at the level they are accustomed and they don’t – then they make the decision of either 1) saying, it’s waltmart… what did i expect? shrug it off and complete the experience, or 2) leaving outraged because walmart did not even offer the most basic level of customer service.

    the customer has set their minimum acceptable levels of CS, and they will act on those. problem is that each one has different ones. if i have very high expectations, then regardless of the brand they won’t be lowered. ibid for low expectations. the brand needs to make sure their level of expectations match their target audience (there are variations, but social class and demographics tend to influence your expectations to an average). anyone outside of their target audience will be glad to pay more (or less) for their expectations.

    just don’t expect to see nordstrom’s shoppers at walmart — they are ok paying more for the right experience (which nordstroms knows and caters to).

    i know, lots of rambling… but here is the bl- match your brand to your customers expectations (which you should set) for service and be successful. try to attrach varied audiences and you’ll fail…

  • The IKEA Model « 8:37 pm on September 29, 2009 | # | Reply

    […] with this lack of “white-glove service,” as my colleague Kate Leggett pointed out a recent post. They’re not disappointed because it’s not IKEA’s business […]

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