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In a previous post, I wrote about the continuity of operations, or the need for small businesses and start-ups to dedicate themselves to a continuous flow of operations from the beginning of a customer’s transaction to the end. If a continuity of operations is important, then we also need to start thinking about a related concept that deals with a continuity of customer service. Recently, I had a debacle at the “genius” bar over my ailing Mac laptop. The service I received from Apple was atrocious. Now, with my laptop tottering around on its last legs, I find that I’m thinking about ways businesses can provide a continuity of service to their customers so that customers, like myself, don’t turn to other companies for similar products or services. To me, continuity of service is all about follow-through. It starts from the moment a customer begins to interact with your company to well beyond the final purchase of product or service. Basically, continuity of service would encompass a sort of post-service for your customers. It would include implementing feedback from customers, keeping communications open, and deepening your business’ relationship with your current customers. Now that I’ve started thinking about a replacement laptop, continuity of service becomes imperative to me. I want to know that a company cares enough about me as a customer to include me–again–in an excellent customer service experience. Frankly, this is the ultimate opportunity for a business to keep or lose a customer. The beauty of a continuity of customer service is that good post-service can sometimes smooth over previous negative experiences. For example, having already had a bad experience with Apple’s technical support, I’m less inclined to buy another Mac. And yet, in my previous post on the subject, I offered several options Apple could have employed to make me feel as if I mattered as a customer–even after I’d already bought my laptop. Even now, when my computer is about to give up the ghost, I can think of at least one way Apple could offer a sort of post-service customer service experience to someone like myself that might help change my initial negative opinion of their company. I mean wouldn’t it be nice to get an email from Apple saying, “It’s been two years since your last purchase with us. Bring your old laptop in and get a $300 credit toward a new computer!” It seems like such a small effort on their part, but can you imagine the huge difference in loyalty, profits, and customer satisfaction that it would create? What ways could you extend your customer interactions to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty over the longterm?    

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