MSN Money teams with Zogby, an international polling firm, each year to create its MSN Money Customer Service Hall of Fame. The list takes into account a poll in which Zogby asked customers whether a company’s customer service was bad, fair, good, or excellent.

The 2011 Hall of Fame featured a wide range of companies offering a wide range of services. From Trader Joe’s, the grocery store that offers organic products at reasonable prices to UPS, the delivery service that handles billions of packages each year, the cross section of companies was diverse and the results give a good indication of where customers really place their value.

When asked what they value most about a company’s customer service, the respondents answered as follows:

  • Knowledgeable staff – 47 percent
  • Friendly staff – 14.7 percent
  • Readily available staff – 12.5 percent
  • Service after a sale – 12.4 percent
  • Flexible policies for merchandise exchanges/returns – 8 percent
  • None/Product is all that matters – 2.6 percent
  • Not sure – 2.6 percent

Perhaps the most telling part of this whole survey is that 95 percent of respondents indicated that customer service is important to them in some form or fashion. A negative customer experience can be the most costly mistake a company can make, but by focusing on the above areas your company can lessen the impact of negative experiences on your bottom line. has won first place in the Hall of Fame poll for two years running, so it seems worthwhile to examine what that company is doing to earn such raving reviews. By the way, Amazon didn’t just win on the MSN-Zogby poll, they’ve received top marks from dozens of similar studies.

Simplicity is at the heart of everything Amazon does. Navigating a difficult web site is the equivalent of having to walk the aisles of a grocery store late at night during restocking, when boxes are scattered about, turning the store into some sort of obstacle course. Amazon’s site is intuitive and simple to use. It features a search bar (something that no web site should be without) and a no-hassle return policy. For most items, you can simply send the item back within 30 days of receipt and get a full refund.

The fact is, a lot of businesses are not in “simple” industries. Buying an integrated IT network for your entire office is not as simple as buying a copy of Abbey Road, and that’s why a knowledgeable and friendly staff is so crucial.

Customer service matters in some regard to 95 percent of the people who are visiting your site. If you think that your company can get by on the strength of its quality products or services, think again. Make sure your company has mastered everything from friendly and knowledgeable sales staff to an easily navigable web site.