When does Good Customer service supersede the cost of an Item?

When I was in college I was a waiter. I was damn good at it, made 36k my sophomore year. I bent over backwards for people when they came in so they would have a nice dining experience. My number one rule I never broke: Treat everyone who sits in your section, as you would wish to be treated. Even the assholes left good tips, because they had nothing to complain about.

No one knew at the time I was a fledgling Psychology student and playing mind tricks on them…Just kidding :slight_smile:

I have always had a good work ethic, instilled from a North Ave Chicago Polack father…who was an engineer but believed in responsible customer service. That is how I am today 15 years later, and this is how I treat those in the service business. Sometimes Customer service will even supercede the cost of an item for me. For instance a few years ago we (my wife and I) bought her a mercedes, it was something she worked for, and when she could afford it we did it. We went to several dealerships and the one we ended up buying from was the very one where the customer service was impecable. No pushy people, we made the decisions and that was that… What about other service oriented situations?

I’m thinking of several examples: Your Oil Company X, you have been with them for years, they send you x-mas cards, breaks on your oil cost etc…etc…They charge the 10% over market price for oil. You know it is high, but you pay it anyway because you like them.

Oil Company Z solicites you and the price reduction alone would save you hundreds a year. Their customer service pales in comparison to Oil Company X.

Do you go with the lower cost?

How about something as simple as ordering from a deli? Food quality in deli A is wonderful, their prices are high but their customer service is perfect. Deli B has equally good food at a lower cost but their customer service is shitty.

What do you do?

My SO and I are finally at a point in our lives where price isn’t the be all/end all. We can shop where we like the service, rather then where we can save $5.

Liquor store - We really aren’t big drinkers, but since we moved to this town, we’ve bought way more then usual, at a slightly higher price then necessary, because the service is so good. They remember us. They special order for us. They make great recommendations.

Auto mechanic - Dang, I really wish I could import a guy I’d found, from Chicago. He didn’t treat my like an idiot. He was willing to rebuild, buy used or jury rig something, if that’s what I wanted. Once, he even took care of a small thing for free. A happy repeat customer was worth more then that $15 check would have been.

At this point in my life, never. As a student, I don’t have enough money to pay extra for good service. Plus, if I eliminated the businesses in town that treat students like something on the bottom of their shoes, I would have very limited options.

I would follow cost in almost every case. I really don’t care about customer service, at least not to the level that most people seem to.

In your oil company example, I would probably see if company X would meet or beat the other offer and if not it would be bye bye. With the deli example, I would probably just start going to the 2nd one.

Of course, price and CS are not the only considerations. There is also convenience. Are the two delis the same amount of travel time? Are there generally longer lines at one of them? So normally price would drive my choice, but there are other things that could affect it.

I have a good auto mechanic that I trust. If he told me something was going to cost more because labor would take him longer than some other shop, I’d certainly go with what he recommended, even if it was a significant amount.

In something as simple as a deli I can easily say I’d go with the more expensive but friendlier place. I’ve been saying for a long time now that I’ll gladly pay a bit more to get groceries and household items somewhere a bit more pricey so as to not have to shop at Walmart. I like to be able to move through the aisles and not have to chase down employees when I have I have a question.

I don’t mean to say I’m too good for Wally world, but being in a crowded, messy store with clueless employees genuinely makes me angry.

I’m a sucker for good customer service, and I will pay a higher cost for the product if the customer service is consistently very good.

The example that comes to mind is our local hardware store. The prices are a little higher than at Home Depot, not crazy higher, but what seems a realistic amount given Home Depot’s volume. Anyway, I love our local hardware store and after shopping there for a few years, the hardware store guys know what kind of crap I already have and what I’m using it for, and have steered me to products that were more appropriate for my needs, even if they were lower-priced items.

Oh, you know what I just realized? It’s the combination of very good service with personal service that I like. I’m willing to pay a lot for it. I’m not entirely sure about the oil service example in the OP. It’s not really that personal. Inertia would also enter in to it … I would be hesitant to change if I liked the service, even if it wasn’t very personal, because the hassle of switching to another company only to discover that they suck and I have to change back is daunting. If I was starting from scratch and comparing the two oil companies as a first-time customer, cost would be a bigger factor.

I’m in the middle. I don’t need perfect customer service, just competent customer service. I won’t put up with shitty service for very long, no matter how cheap the price or how good the product. If I get stellar service somewhere, I’ll often go back for it, even if it costs more, but I don’t go looking for it specifically.

In the oil company example, it depends on what you mean by “Their customer service pales in comparison to Oil Company X.” Is it just that Oil Company X service is so wonderful than Oil Company Z can’t compare, even though they’ve got decent service, or is Oil Company Z known for shitty service? In the first case, I’d consider switching for hundreds of dollars; in the latter case, no.

In the deli example, I’d stick with Deli A. Especially if they’re like my current Sandwich Girl, who has my usual order memorized and starts making it for me when I walk in the door.


I’m also at a point where I’m too poor to really be selective of anything other than price, but someday I most certainly would like to be in a position where the money is of less importance than the treatment I get.

If I can afford it, I go with the upper service.

In the OP deli example, even if the recipe was the exact same, I’d trust its freshness and cleanliness more in the place with the servers who can say “good morning” without sounding like somebody died and who don’t get a stroke from the effort of adding an extra item (listed on the menu as such) to a standard dish.

Telefónica, aka Timofónica (Rob-a-phone): 14.95; every Saturday morning they “run traps” on their own users. One of their CSRs once called me a junkie. Reports of suspicios activity from one of their computers or one of their users are met with “oh that’s not this department”. They assign their biggest “modems” to the big towns; the ones that just got downgraded go to provincial capitals; if you’re from “a village” (which can actually be bigger than your capital), you’re stuck with the models from years before (not the one in your computer, the one your computer calls to).

Wanadoo: 15.95. They’re a reseller from Telefónica (by law); their CSRs sound like your 15.95 are going directly to their salary and don’t insult customers (I got to recognize some of the weekend shift ones by voice as soon as they said “hello”, because often my call was the first hint that one of their servers was down). I’ve never had an assault by one of their computers. Reports of suspicious activity linked to one of their users are met with interest and “can you send us a screenshot?” I don’t know if they do anything, but at least they sound like they will!

Guess which one I only use when there’s nothing else available. If wanadoo is available, I’d use them at twice the price of Rob-a-phone; heck, being able to pay for it, I’d use them at 3x the price! One gives service; the other one is just a leech.

Yep. Forgot the local hardware store. I can spend 45 minutes wandering around Home Depot, trying to find someone that can help me find the correct plumbing widgit, or I can got to the Ace Hardware, where they greet me at the door, point me to the correct aisle, and radio someone to meet me there and help me.

I’ll pay the extra and avoid the Home Depot hassle.

“When does Good Customer service supersede the cost of an Item?” - When the customer service is part of the item. I walked out of a Home Depot because I asked for assistance, a call was paged, and no one showed up, dspite repeated pages. I called the manager later and reported the problem. I didn’t return to that store for some months. I finally returned because it is a store on the way home and I wanted to give them the chance to have improved. I haven’t had that problem since.

Large stores like Wal*Mart or Home Depot or even a Tom Thumb I don’t expect to have help available at a moments notice. To my mind that would unnecessarily increase expenses (and my cost) when a well-labeled set of aisles and a store map would suffice. I consider automation, labeling, and the ability of a customer to self-serve as well designed customer service. E.g. it’s cheaper to put in self-checkout stands and have one clerk monitor four stations And I’m faster using it than waiting on a checker.

In the deli example, I would require a clean place without dour employees. I wouldn’t expect them to recognize me or my order because I would assue their volume was too high (or perhaps because I don’t remember names well I don’t expect others too :)).

If it’s an everyday purchase like groceries or gas, customer service doesn’t matter all that much. I’d rather pay a few cents less than have someone fawning over me, complimenting me on my choice of 87 octane.

On the other hand, I’d pay a little extra on a major purchase if it meant getting personalized treatment. I ordered a new laptop from Dell because they took care of me the last time. I know I could have gotten similar computers at a lower price, but I chose to go with Dell because of the service I got in the past.


As long as you actually buy your stuff from the local hardware store *, then that’s cool. There are a lot of people out there who will go to the local hardware/craft/shoe/music/whatever store, pick the workers’ brains and get excellent customer service… and then they leave and go to Home Depot/JoAnns/Bakers/FYE and buy it there since they’ll save a few cents or dollars. I can’t freaking stand that.

  • not saying that you personally don’t.

It depends on the product, and on the cost difference.

Where I’m a self-sufficient consumer, such as (as mentioned above) gasoline, I’ll pay attention to cost and shave pennies where I can. I do the same in grocery stores, usually, because I don’t need people to tell me where the spice aisle is or what fennel tastes like.

But where service counts, such as (also as mentioned above) the hardware store, I’ll pay more, occasionally a lot more, to get good service.

Example: I’ve been looking at furniture lately. There’s a place in town that sells acceptable-quality merchandise at discount prices, but their sales staff is aggressive, pushy, and (bad combo) uninformed. They shadow you through the store, pestering you with financing questions, but when you want to know about the internal construction of the sofa, they have no clue. By contrast, there’s another place with good-quality merchandise and top-dollar price tags; their sales staff greets you, finds out what you want, and then hangs back until you flag them, and they answer your questions carefully and thoroughly. Guess who’s getting my business.

I shop by inertia. I picked my oil company years ago and don’t have a reason to change. Same with insurance.

I don’t like to be bothered when I go to shop, so actually a salesperson who wants to help me too much would make me avoid a place. But when I do ask, yes, it’s worth something when they can actually answer the question.

I guess I just don’t shop for high-end things where that kind of customer service is part of what you’re buying. There are a couple of snooty grocery stores here and I actually feel uncomfortable there, but I know many people only go there because there is a real difference between them and the chain stores. In restaurants, certainly service matters.

Car insurance. I don’t think I pay more than I would from most companies (more or less, obviously prices can vary dramatically even in one area), but the customer service I’ve gotten from USAA has been so good that I’ve never even considered changing insurers. As far as I’m concerned, unless they change drastically, they’ve got themselves a customer for life. I’ve also had excellent experiences financing two cars through their bank. USAA rocks!

If all else is equal I prefer the better service, but I can’t afford to pay a lot more for something if I can get it more cheaply. I’ve worked at Wal-Mart (yes, and I have a brain, I needed a job dangit!) and I’ll only say that their training lacks a lot. About everything, in fact. They like to throw people on the floor and then they get on your case if you don’t know how to do what they didn’t teach you how to do. Given that, I did my best to give good customer service, and I had customers remember and like me for that.