Too much service – is it possible?

The world of modern business is a fiercely competitive one and getting more so. In these tougher economic times it is tempting to believe that increasing customer service will be the answer to who survives and who becomes history.

But what do we mean by improved service? It’s tempting to believe that better means faster delivery or greater choice and yet are we sure that’s what customers really want. Just because customers take up the offer of quicker delivery or choose the new lines it doesn’t mean that you are satisfying true demand. They may have been perfectly happy with the previous choice.

For many, price will be more important than choice and predictability more important than speed and yet improved service can be detrimental to either one or both.

Customer service is all about giving customers what they want and what they value. If you over serve them by offering lead times that are expensive to achieve and difficult to deliver reliably you may find they go elsewhere taking profit potential with them.

Of course finding out what customers really want is notoriously difficult but do not be mislead into believing that the simple act of choosing a product or service is proof that there is real need for it. A great example of this can be seen when comparing the likes of Aldi and Lidl with the big four supermarkets. The former will typically have a thousand or so lines on sale whereas the larger chains could have more than twenty times as much but customers are being attracted by the lower prices rather than the huge range.

The next year or two is going to be very difficult in all sectors of the economy. Knowing what your customers really want has never been more important.