ANALYSIS & OPINION
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Its about money, not all about customer service

Exemplary customer service is surely a pre-requisite from any vendor of informatics products or services? Be careful what you wish for, says Gloria Metrick.

Selling and implementing laboratory software is about money, not customer service. All the marketing from our industry about how we ‘put the customer first’ or that we ‘make customer service our #1 priority’ just is not true.

Companies exist to make money

Companies are in the business of making money. We often wonder why there are so many companies that give terrible customer service and survive. It is because they are making money. That is the bottom line. A company that makes money survives; a company that does not make money, folds. If a company gives great customer service, but does not make money, it will go out of business.

So no company exists only to give great customer service. In my own business, I do strive to give great customer service. I happen to target those customers that actually choose that as important. But, just like everyone else, I am in business to make a living: to pay the mortgage, feed the family, etc. It just so happens that the way I do that is to provide great customer service as one element of what I offer my clients.

Let me rephrase this: any company that sells software products or services puts itself first, not the customer. It is putting its ability to make money first. It might not be terribly greedy about this, but it is not running a charity. It is not giving its products or services away for free; none of us is that philanthropic.

Customers make choices

Customers would probably all like to receive great customer service when they purchase products and services from those of us who sell to their laboratories. But when customers purchase what we offer, they get to choose what is most important to them. If they select vendors of products and services that have terrible customer service but are extremely inexpensive, that is their choice. It is up to customers to determine what is most important to them.

Customers gather requirements and prioritise them to understand what features are most desirable in a system, as it is not possible to get absolutely everything that is on the requirements list. They sometimes do not realise they have non-feature-related requirements and, even if they do realise what these are, these types of requirements are much more difficult to quantify.

So, before we shake our finger at those companies that provide terrible customer service, let us remember that they exist because customers buy from them.

Caveat emptor (Buyer beware)

Then, again, what about those poor unsuspecting customers who purchase the very cheapest software product or service they can find, but are then caught unawares when they learn that the customer service is terrible? While we might feel a bit of pity for them, we all know that old axiom that ‘if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.’

However, that does make it difficult to purchase software or services from a brand new vendor. Customers sometimes assume some minimal level of customer service when they make a purchase. Unless they examine this tacit assumption carefully, and cost the customer service in from the start, there is the opportunity for disappointment.

Finally

Every vendor of products and services determines what it has to do to make money. Some do it with great customer service; others by offering what they have as cheaply as possible. Everyone has their target market. And to each combination of offerings, there is a customer segment to purchase from them.

While customer service might be a reason that certain companies attract certain customers, it is not a prerequisite to making money from sales. For those customers who insist that customer service is their #1 priority, I would caution them to revise that statement else they will end up with lots of attention from their provider, but no real features or tangibles to show for the project. In other words, ‘be careful what you wish for.’

Gloria Metrick is the owner of GeoMetrick Enterprises , specialising in the implementation of Thermo Fisher Scientific’s SampleManager and the LabWare LIMS/ELN products. GeoMetrick Enterprises is the home of ‘Out on a LIMS: The Newsletter and Blog For People Who Risk Life and LIMS on a Daily Basis.'

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