Advertisers struggle to be heard through the noise. Customer service reps, on the other hand, can whisper.
A few organizations have figured out how to turn customer service into a marketing opportunity and thus a profit center. They figure if they've got your attention, if they're talking to you at a moment when you care a great deal, they can turn that into an opportunity to delight. And being delighted is remarkable and worth talking about.
That means that if your organization has a stall, deny and avoid policy when it comes to customer interaction, you will almost certainly be defeated if a competitor comes up with a scalable way to delight.
Overseas call centers and online chat handled by untrained workers with no incentives seem like clever ways to cut costs during stressful times. What they actually are is scalable engines of annoyance, time-sucking processeses that raise expectations and then totally dash them. Better to not even have a phone number. (You can't call Google but you don't want to call Adobe–which one generates more animus–the inability to call, or the promise, unfilled, of respect and thoughtful help?)
Or consider: Some airlines are starting to realize that a delayed or cancelled flight is actually a chance to earn some remarkability. In the two hours that someone is stranded, they're paying very careful attention to your brand. What are you doing? Notifying them by email that the flight is late, offering them free wifi, even giving them a link to a free book or movie online–none of that costs more than caring…all of them important opportunities to be heard and remembered.
Investing in delight via customer service is cheap to experiment with and easy to prove. Just siphon off 1% of your calls to a trained person who actually cares and wants to help–and see what happens to customer satisfaction and word of mouth. Cancel a few TV ads and you can pay for it–soon it will pay for itself.