The sales department has traditionally been upheld as the most important player in a successful organization. But as the world gets smaller, competition increases and technology advances, the service experience is what’s driving customer satisfaction and loyalty, and ultimately more sales.

The importance of customer service can be put into context when considering the negative impacts of a bad customer experience. Even the smallest number of complaints can have a large impact. From social media where word of mouth can spread far and quickly to consumer agencies like the Better Business Bureau, customer dissatisfaction is difficult to keep under wraps. That’s why customer service and the experience after the sale have become increasingly important to the overall health of a brand.

At the other end of the spectrum, brands that achieve the highest customer service rankings—whether from J.D. Power, Consumer Reports or other institutions—can tout their achievements, which in turn drives sales. Every year, companies pour millions of dollars into efforts to improve their performance in these rankings. Since the first J.D. Power Customer Service Index (CSI) Study of automakers in 2015, overall satisfaction has improved 39 points. Manufacturers are competing to achieve the highest scores so they can market the results to current and prospective customers. What a third party says about a company and its products tends to have a greater impact than anything that company could say about itself.

J.D. Power took the CSI Study a step further in 2018 by adding a new metric, Net Promoter Score®, a measure of customer loyalty and predictor of business growth. The results revealed a strong correlation between a brand’s CSI score and its Net Promoter Score. This further emphasizes the importance of service when looking to maximize success and profitability.

The advancement of technology has brought about another need for a higher level of customer service. From telematics and infotainment systems on cars to smart home appliances, consumers need more assistance after the sale of a product than ever before. Satisfaction with products depends on understanding and being able to operate the technologies found inside them. While consumers can find a wealth of information online to determine which product they want to purchase, it’s service professionals who are the lifeline, helping them learn and repair technologies.

Companies like Apple, Zappos and Amazon have elevated the importance of customer service and the results show in their remarkable success. From knowledgeable representatives who can troubleshoot and solve issues to same-day shipping and free returns, these and other companies are standing out in service and delighting customers.

It’s time to elevate customer service departments for their crucial role in the ownership experience, overall satisfaction and loyalty. It requires a long-term view of profitability rather than focusing on the short-term gains realized by the initial sale. While every company needs to make sales if they want to be around for any length of time, service cannot be underestimated for its importance to the ongoing health and success of a business. In the end, service is where customers are won or lost every day.