Brands must understand that customer service is an important part of the "value equation" for consumers these days even though it might seem that price remains their most important criterion for brand satisfaction because of the continued financial struggles of so many Americans.
Apple, Cadillac, Four Seasons, JetBlue, Kohl's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Scotttrade, USAA and Wegmans are among the brands that understand the importance of people as a driver of service excellence has increased substantially these days, and that's why they were among the 50 brands named this week by J.D. Power & Associates as 2012 Customer Service Champions.
"Consumer expectations have heightened since the onset of the recession," Gina Pingitore, chief research officer for the closely followed surveyor of consumer sentiment about brands in a variety of industries, said in a J.D. Power press release. "While value is important, consumers want more than simply the lowest price or a product that is just good enough.
"They expect a superior product that is delivered in a compelling presentation, through fast and easy-to-understand processes that are supported by responsive and concerned people." And "price must be perceived as fair and competitive."
The Service Champions were in the top five percent of more than 800 brands evaluated by J.D. Power on the basis of performance in the five key areas of people, presentation, price, process and product.
And while some names on the list are far from surprises, such as Lexus, Ritz-Carlton and Southwest Airlines, others might rank as a bit of a surprise simply because their verticals don't seem at first glance to be people-intensive, such as Amazon, Enterprise Rent-a-Car and U.S. Cellular.
In any event, Power's list comprises companies that also are mostly are highly successful in other measures, including financial. And there's another testament to the important connection between service and brand success. Download the report here.