Customer Service is a Strategy: Think Long Term

By | November 3, 2014

Kool Derby

Regardless of the business, you all know that you must treat your customers right, go the extra mile, focus on the long-term, provide value-add, and on and on. However, you must avoid thinking that customers will always reciprocate by being loyal to your organization and referring their family, friends, and colleagues. If you have a quid pro quo mindset, your customer service plan will soon hit a brick wall.

Machu Picchu Example

I was recently in Cusco, Peru, and purchased a tour to Machu Picchu, an Incan ruin that is still largely intact. Let me take a step back and explain how it started. After landing in Cusco, I was assigned cab driver Wilfredo, who doubled as a tour guide. Instead of going directly to the hotel, I went to the travel agency where the different tours were explained. Before I knew it, I had purchased a package that included the 4-hour train rain on PeruRail, a bus trip up to Machu Picchu, an entry fee to the historical site, and payment for the guide.

All was going well until I arrived at Machu Picchu, and the paid guide was nowhere to be found. Wilfredo made it clear that a tour guide would call my name, but none of the many tour guides had “Jimmie Flores” on the list. Not wanting to be left behind, I paid another tour guide 20 soles to join his group.

Upon arriving back in Cusco, I called Wilfredo and advised him of the situation. He informed me that payment was made to the tour guide, and that once the money was received from that person, I would receive a refund. Here is the problem: my return to Lima, Peru was immediate, meaning that it would be impossible to collect while in Cusco. Second, 20 soles converts to about $7US, and that is petty cash in the scope of things.

The Point

Wilfredo knew that I did not have any time to wait for a refund. Second, he is banking on the fact that our paths will never cross again. The lesson here is that many people operate their businesses in the same way. They think of the customer as a one-time transaction, and are largely concerned with making the sale, and moving on to the next “victim.”

Even when you know that a customer will purchase only one time from you, you cannot deviate from a long-term customer service plan. In other words, you have to follow your plan and do what is right, despite the fact that the customer has little interest in you. The point here is that a customer service plan is about how you treat all customers, and not just one. In other words, leaders are concerned about the big picture, or the macro perspective about how their businesses are conducted.

If you take the Wilfredo approach, you might survive. However, tourism in Cusco is competitive, and soon enough the customer-focused companies will take the lion’s share of the market, and less reputable tourism agencies will share only the ruins left behind.

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