Is The Only Purpose of Customer Service To Change Feelings?

Seth Godin, in a recent post on his Blog contends that the only purpose of customer service is to “change feelings.” Here’s what Seth wrote:

The only purpose of customer service … is to change feelings. Not the facts, but the way your customer feels. The facts might be the price, or a return, or how long someone had to wait for service. Sometimes changing the facts is a shortcut to changing feelings, but not always, and changing the facts alone is not always sufficient anyway.

If a customer service protocol (your call center/complaints department/returns policy) is built around stall, deny, begrudge and finally, to the few who persist, acquiesce, then it might save money, but it is a total failure.

The customer who seeks out your help isn’t often looking to deplete your bank account. He is usually seeking validation, support and a path to feeling the way he felt before you let him down.

The best measurement of customer support is whether, after the interaction, the customer would recommend you to a friend. Time on the line, refunds given or the facts of the case are irrelevant. The feelings are all that matter, and changing feelings takes humanity and connection, not cash.

Seth is right to conclude that “the best measurement of customer support is whether, after an interaction, the customer would recommend you to a friend.” But he is only partially right that the only purpose of customer service is to change feelings.

Sure, it’s very important to deal with the customer’s perception of your product or service. Some customers contact support after a poor experience with your company. Your opportunity to recover and rebuild that customer’s trust in your company depends on how quickly you respond, how well your customer service team understands the customer’s frustration (whether merited or not), the empathy with which they talk with the customer, and how they solve that customer’s problem.

But customer service is not always about fixing problems or responding to a customer’s frustration. At crowdSPRING, we’ve handled hundreds of thousands of customer service requests. Some have come from frustrated customers. Many are from customers asking simple questions or looking for assistance with their project brief. We’ve even had people ask us why apples turn brown after you cut them. Oh, and there’s the one about whores

We talk frequently with our team about empathy and the need to fully understand how each customer feels, the importance of each and every interaction with that customer, and the fact that we must deliver great service in response to any request – ranging from the mundane to the very complex. In most cases, our customers already love our service and our team. Here’s one measure I’m extremely proud of: 95% of all customer that interact with our support team are very happy with the support – it’s the reason that we say, on our homepage, that “we guarantee that you’ll be happy”). We don’t want to change their feelings – we want to prove to them that their feelings about us and our team are justified.

If your customer service team does their best work only with the most difficult customers, you’ll miss an amazing opportunity with the vast majority of the people who contact your support team. You should worry about frustrated customers, but you should equally worry about every customer who contacts your team, whether frustrated or not. After all, you want every customer to recommend your product or service to others, don’t you?

What do you think?