Like million of others who have purchased goods and or services from any number of venues, I have had more than my share of customer-service nightmares.

Like the time I went to Toys ‘R Us to purchase a wagon for my youngest daughter. When I got home, I discovered the contents of the product box were garbage – literally.

Incredibly, someone had stolen the wagon and, to avoid suspicion in terms of weight, had filled the box with assorted pieces of scrap wood and heavy cardboard.

You should have been a fly on the wall during that conversation with the offending store.

Or the time I brought my car in for a routine oil change and was called several hours later by a nonchalant service manager who informed me that his lot man had accidentally backed my car into a retaining wall. So in addition to five quarts of 10W-40, my car would now need a new rear quarter panel and bumper as well.

As you can imagine, these were not service experiences destined for awards bestowed by J.D. Power or any similar organization.

I regale you with these nightmarish vignettes only because it’s been my experience — and others’ as well — that service is often talked about, but much more frequently overlooked.

Many people and concepts currently occupying a place in the pantheon of business pioneers and success stories – particularly those before the technology revolution – were grounded in rigorous service standards.

Wal-Mart, for example, doesn’t sell items you couldn’t get anywhere else, but their homespun combination of value and service is a tough one to pass up.

By now, we’ve all heard the story of how one Nordstrom location took back a set of car tires from a dissatisfied customer, despite the fact the upscale retailer does not sell tires.

Ray Kroc, the visionary founder of McDonald’s Corp., made a pledge that every diner, whether eating at a unit in Peoria, Ill., or Reno, Nev., would get the same hamburger made and served the same way.

The accounting profession should display a similar commitment to service.

Nearly every firm that has a Web site usually includes a paragraph buried at the lower right-hand side of the page on their commitment to client service.

But it begs the larger question of whether the service claims are an affirmation of the myriad services they offer, or have they made a commitment to true customer service?

Do any number of firms back up their work with money-back guarantees, as one innovative shop did last year?

Are there a required number of follow-up visits and calls to ensure client satisfaction? Do firms indiscriminately blanket their client base with a cross-selling of services, or do they take the time to data-mine and determine the applicability of, say, cost-segregation services, to their clients who may benefit the most?

Someone once said that good service is not giving customer what they expect, it’s giving them more than they expect. A client should feel he was treated the same way by his CPA firm as by an attentive assistant at Nordstrom.

It’s fair to say history is replete with volumes of true success stories. But I’ll wager none of them replaced customer service with lip service.

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