I've written several articles about customer service and how quickly and easily they can passively sell your customers on defecting from your company and moving their business to a competitor. My favorite targets over the years have been Verizon, Dell and the airlines, but recently, my commercial insurance agent, and my accountant have accomplished this feat too. In this article, it's Apple's turn and just wait until you read this...
If you've dealt with Dell, and who hasn't, you know that first you have to wait, and wait some more just to talk with someone. When you do finally get someone to speak with, you can't understand a word they are saying. Then you get transferred a few times to more people you can't understand. Then you rinse and repeat (start from scratch with each person you have to speak with), and are asked 50 stupid questions that have nothing to do with your problem. They ask you to try all kinds of things that don't fix your problem because they don't know what they're talking about. Then finally, after two frustrating hours, Dell MIGHT resolve your issue but you are resolved not to buy from them again.
I went on Apple's support site tonight at around 5:45 PM. I entered the information (my user ID, password and the problem selected from a drop-down list) and the site said I would receive a call back immediately. Sure - right.
It took 5 seconds - 5 SECONDS! - to speak with a live person, who spoke English and actually had my information in front of her. No rinsing or repeating! Want to know what happened next?
She said she would get a replacement shipped out today. Done. The entire conversation - and it was a conversation, not someone following prompts on a computer screen, took less than 5 minutes. Makes we want to buy something else from Apple. That new iPad looks pretty awesome, doesn't it? [UPDATE - it arrived less than 17 hours later - 10:30 AM]
Customer Service has more impact on customer retention than your salespeople because they may interact with them more than your account managers do. This is such an important concept. They must be able to hold conversations and make your customers thrilled with the outcomes. And consider that if you want to make this transition, you may not have the right people in place to get them to perform the way you want.
You expect your salespeople to find and close business. You should expect your customer service people to not only retain the business, but uncover new opportunities too. Sounds a lot like inside sales to me...