Good customer service is good PR, and conversely bad customer service is bad PR. Companies spend a lot of money advertising their products and services, but a customer having a bad experience is just as able to reach a wide audience with no cost to them at all, but a great cost to the company.

You call Company A and tell them what your problem is and you get a live person on the end of the line who answers all your questions and handles the issue right there and then … it makes you feel good and it makes you want to deal with them again in the future. You might even tell your friends that they are really cool in the way they handled your issue, and how you didn’t have to wait around for good service, and that the people answering the phone were very polite and efficient.

You look for a phone number for Company B and there isn’t one. You navigate through the FAQ section and finally find a form that lets you choose from a limited number of options, and then you write out what your problem is. You get a form email back that tells you your query has been received and that you can expect an answer in 2-4 days. Nothing materializes. You send a follow up email to further the query and you finally get an answer that is more relevant, but is still a cut and paste job. You need something more specific, because you have a case number and you want to know if you can resolve it. You get the same form email sent back to you. Frustration is starting to mount at this point – you have been a loyal customer for 15 years or so and no one really seems to give a damn about the issue. You submit another more exasperated email, and … nothing; diddly squat. The communication breakdown is a lack of service and it is so slow in rolling in that you feel like you are wasting your time … you start to doubt this company’s claims about what their brand means, and what you as a customer mean to them. You start to grumble about them to your friends who used to use the same service, or have used alternatives, and you begin to look elsewhere.

Even if a question you asked is answered in the negative, it is better than getting no real answer at all. Company A says it cares and proves it with every call that they take and every outpoint that they handle. Company B and its lackadaisical attitude basically says that they don’t care whether you are with them or not, and if you have a problem you can pretty much take a long walk off a short pier.

Both are communicating something. One company is likely to expand, and the other is likely to contract. You can get buried by negative reviews, and having to dig yourself out of that can be expensive – a lot more costly than tackling the problem before the customer becomes truly disgruntled and tweets or Facebooks about their issue.

A smiling shiny exterior means very little if you don’t follow through. All promises and no service is only going to work for a very short period of time. – your failings will definitely catch up with you. Good PR only works in so far as it represents a demonstrable truth – integrity has to thread through the whole fabric or the Emperor’s Clothes are going to fall apart.

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