A Ticket to Hot-Growth Heaven

According to the CEOs who should know, pleasing the customer is the best way to build business

How can you rev up your company's growth engine in troubled times? Start with good customer service, say the CEOs of fast-growth companies.

In PricewaterhouseCooper's latest Trendsetter Barometer survey, 87% of these hot companies called customer service "very important" in helping their businesses grow over the next 12 months. According to 31% of the respondents, investing in customer service gives the best return on their dollar, compared to any other growth strategy.

Interestingly, nontech companies were more likely to cite the importance of quality customer service than tech companies -- 91% vs. 83 %. Why's that? G. Steve Hamm, managing partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers' middle-market advisory services, says nontech companies in competitive industries often have to struggle more to differentiate themselves from their rivals. Good service may be a key way to do that.

In addition to good customer service, more than 50% of the CEOs also cited other growth strategies, including product improvements or extensions, information technology, sales promotion, and the development of new product lines as "very important."

By Robin D. Schatz in New York