The sales department has traditionally been upheld as the most important player in a successful organization. They’re the ones bringing in the money, so it makes sense, right? But as the world gets smaller, competition increases and technology advances, the service experience is what’s driving customer satisfaction and loyalty, and ultimately sales.

Just a few weeks ago, the Better Business Bureau gave Tesla an “F” for its response to customer complaints. This from a manufacturer whose leaders have been known to take to social media and not only respond to but immediately take steps to rectify customer complaints. Tesla has also been known for its outstanding customer service up till now, so why the poor mark? The BBB cited 65 complaints from dissatisfied customers with unresolved issues. That’s a minute quantity given the number of people who’ve purchased Tesla vehicles, but it was enough to result in a bad report.

This is an ideal example of how even the smallest number of complaints can have a large impact. From social media where word of mouth can spread far and wide to consumer agencies like the BBB, customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction is well known. That’s why customer service and the experience after the sale is so important. Whether or not Tesla’s ranking has an impact on sales remains to be seen, but it’s certainly not something the company wants to have on record.

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. After all, what a third party says about a company and its products has a much greater impact than anything that company could ever say 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. Chris Sutton, Vice President, U.S. Automotive Retail Practice at J.D. Power stated, “When a customer is happy with the service a dealer provides them, they’re more likely to tell their friends and family members about it.” This further emphasizes the importance of service when looking to maximize success and profitability.

An additional reason service has come to the forefront is the advancement of technology. 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 on 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. That requires a long-term view of profitability rather than 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.