Support is the new marketing.

 "There's no street address here," the woman said to me. I had just handed in my US Immigration cards at the pre-screening section of Dublin Airport. I grimaced. I knew I had the full address on my computer somewhere but my computer was so slow to start and it would take about 10 minutes for me to find the address. Plus, I'd lose my place in the queue. "Hold on," she said and started typing into her iPhone which was beside her. Within less than a minute she had the address.

This is service! Small things, but things that can make someone's day and stick in their memory. She didn't need to do what she did but she did it because that's what service professionals do. They aim to serve in order the make your life easier and better. It's the human touch.

In an age where so much is automated the human touch has never been more important. I'm totally for automation. (It's how I make my living after all.) I want to book my flight online. It's faster, easier. When building stuff for the Web by far the most important thing to remember is that:

Human beings will use this.

As I walked towards my plane I thought about the new Lenovo computer I'd just bought. I haven't received it yet but I'm already dreading the experience. I bought the most expensive laptop they had. Price was not an issue. I wanted speed, lightness and reliability. I made a mistake entering my delivery address and emailed them. I got an automatic email back saying that they'd be in touch soon. They weren't. I emailed three times, got the same automatic email but nobody got back to me.

I'm quite loyal. Each car I've ever bought has come from one of two manufacturers. I didn't have a problem with the garages I dealt with. I've bought even more computers but I constantly have to keep changing manufacturers. Things break, I accept that. But it's how you deal with people when things break. Computer manufacturer support is appalling. Why?

Because they see support as a cost. They don't think of service. No, support is a cost to be minimized. But service is the new sales. Service is the new marketing. As the world automates, products will become more and more the same. Service is how you will differentiate yourself in the market. Service is how you will make the next sale. (We all know, of course, that it is easier and more profitable to sell to a current customer than to a new one.)

Not just that! Service is increasingly how you will sell to new customers. From observing how many customers use websites I have noticed that they avoid traditional marketing content and go for the detail. They want to know about installation and troubleshooting and they hang around the online community section to see what people who have actually bought the product are saying. Support is the new sales. Support is the new marketing.