When a Barrett .50 caliber M-107 machine gun malfunctioned on the battlefield during a live firefight in Afghanistan, one Marine decided to call customer service.

Now, I can hear you wondering, "Doesn't the military have someone available to help in these situations?"

Yes, yes, they do. Armorers are often responsible for weapons repair and troubleshooting. But getting an armorer to that location wouldn't have been easy, so a call to the manufacturer's customer service line was a potentially faster solution.

And Barrett does provide tech support for their weapons.

A Tale of Exceptional Customer Service

Don Cook, a Marine Corps veteran and one of the people who answers customer service calls for Barrett, received a call for help from a Marine in the field.

Cook's discusses his experience in a video (found here, just past the 9-minute mark), where he states, "It's probably one of the biggest highlights in my life to be able to help a Marine unit in a firefight."

The Barrett M-107 wasn't firing properly. The lower receiver got bent during the last round of maintenance. The piece is considered delicate but, even though Cook couldn't see the malfunctioning weapon, he was prepared to help.

Since the Marines didn't have access to tools, Cook walked them through a process that allowed them to use the bottom of the bolt carrier to bend the lower receiver back into place. The improvisational fix required quick thinking on Cook's part, and the solution worked.

The problem was corrected in a mere 30 to 45 seconds, and the Marines were able to rejoin the battle.

While the exact impact of Cook's actions can't be fully known, his stellar customer service could have actually saved lives that day.

The Importance of Customer Service

While Barrett doesn't take calls from the battlefield every day, they pride themselves on proving a high-quality customer service experience.

Often, customer service agents play a prominent role in your company's reputation. Typically, they are the faces and voices that people associate with your business. Customer interactions with these employees are critical because these may be the only direct contact your clients have with your company.

When customers have a question, concern, or problem, they expect someone to be available who can come to their aid quickly, completely resolve the issue, and let them go on with their day, using the product as normal. And, when that doesn't happen, you'll likely pay the price.

To put it simply, failing on the customer service front will cost you customers. And not just the ones that have a poor experience, but potentially everyone they talk to as well.

But excelling at customer service leads to many rewards. It can serve as a differentiator between you and your competitors, generate positive word-of-mouth (including on social media, a potent marketing tool), and lead to new and repeat business.

The Rewards of Outstanding Customer Service

Customers reward superior customer service with cash. An American Express Survey found that people are will to spend 14 percent more for great customer service and nearly half of the respondents (46 percent) said they'd share details about their good experiences with others, telling an average of eight other people.

Positive recommendations help too. During the same survey, they discovered that about 42 percent of people said a recommendation from a family member or friend would convince them to try a new company, which is a bigger impact than promotional sales (34 percent) or the company's overall reputation (15 percent).

A Zendesk survey supports those results, discovering that 40 percent of people start purchasing from a competitor because of that company's positive customer service reputation. Additionally, 55 percent of people are willing to make recommendations to others based on customer service experience, even more than those based on the product or price.

The Zendesk survey showed that a stunning 85 percent of respondents were willing to pay up to 25 percent more if exceptional customer service was part of the deal. And 82 percent of people have abandoned a company because of a bad customer service-related experience.

Improving Your Customer Service Experience

According to Forbes, recent trends in customer service show there are multiple factors to providing a stellar experience to your clients.

Harnessing technology to provide a more personalized experience can help your customers feel appreciated and that you recognize their unique needs and history with your company. Additionally, a proactive approach based on identifying problems and providing solutions before customers notice the issue is also compelling.

It is also important to examine alternative support channels beside the phone, as more people are turning to chatbots, messengers, and social media for customer service. And, when engaged in any interaction, speed is crucial, as having to wait an exorbitant of time for a response is guaranteed to lead to frustration.

Ultimately, customers want their experiences to be quick, convenient, and effective, and any mechanism that can help you deliver an awe-inspiring interaction might be worth an investment.

Your customers are the lifeblood of your company, so make sure all of these actions show that you appreciate their business, care about their satisfaction, and want to help them find a solution, and you almost can't go wrong.