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Viewpoint: Customer Service Can Make or Break Your Business

Jay B. Myers
(Image credit: Future)

One of my favorite quotes about customer service (opens in new tab) is from Christopher McCormick, the former CEO of LL Bean. He said, “A lot of people have fancy things to say about customer service, but it’s just a day-in and day-out, ongoing, never-ending, persevering, compassionate kind of activity.” Seems to me that comment could have easily been made about the AV industry these days.

I know that as the owner of an AV integration firm (opens in new tab) for more than two decades, we prided ourselves on delivering “above and beyond” customer service day in and day out. Why did we take that approach? Weren’t we just trying to tell our customers/prospects what they wanted to hear? Not at all!

For my company, it was literally all about survival. Why do I say this? Because for many years, more than 90 percent of the company’s revenue came from repeat customers. Do you think those customers would have continued to buy from us if we did not take care of them and provide a high level of customer service? I think not. Through the years, we built a reputation for delivering a high level of customer service, which became an essential part of the company’s brand identity.

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A classic example of reinforcing our brand/reputation was when we had an installation of some new AV equipment at a local financial institution that included sophisticated audio systems in multiple rooms. It was a complex project that took many weeks to complete, and the customer was very concerned about using the equipment for an upcoming executive board meeting. We could have taken the approach that many companies do and told the customer to call us if they ran into a problem, but that simply wasn’t in our DNA.

A company that provides high-quality service sends a message to their customers that is simple yet very powerful: We care.

What did we do? Rather than leave our customer in a state of high anxiety, we sent our two best support engineers to the site, who proceeded to spend the next 24 hours (with no sleep) testing and retesting the system to make sure it worked perfectly. On top of that (still with no sleep), they remained at the site on standby to make sure that any last-minute issues could be handled quickly and efficiently.

A one-off heroic gesture? Not at all. We provided this level of service all the time.

It is my belief that a high level of customer service is essential to the success of any AV integration firm these days. With so many customers having the option to purchase hardware and other items from big box stores or online retailers like Amazon, it seems to me that the most important product a company has these days is its people, specifically the ones that deliver customer service.

After all, the company’s support team will likely be dealing with the customer a whole lot more than the salesman after a contract is finalized. It is the one thing that is not viewed as a commodity item but is more times than not the key differentiator for any company that wants to separate themselves from the competition. A company that provides high-quality service sends a message to their customers that is simple yet very powerful: We care.

And that brings up another aspect of customer service that I believe is a key to long-term success for any business in any industry. Never take a customer’s business for granted. My advice is to keep doing the things day in and day out that earned you the business in the first place. It’s that important.

I know this from a recent personal experience of having the unfortunate task of severing a long-term business relationship with a financial advisor for the simple reason that they took my business for granted.  No business, whether it’s in the AV integration industry or any other, has the luxury of assuming the customer’s business will continue to come their way because that’s the way it’s always been. You have to earn it each and every day.

Customer service really is that important and can make or break your business. And at the end of the day, it is an ongoing, never-ending, persevering, compassionate kind of activity.

Jay B. Myers is the founder and CEO of Interactive Solutions, which was sold to AVI-SPL in the fall of 2018. He is the author of Keep Swinging: An Entrepreneur’s Story of Overcoming Adversity and Achieving Small Business Success and Hitting the Curveballs: How Crisis Can Strengthen and Grow Your Business.