Customer service is free. So Seth Godin claimed in a recent post on his highly trafficked blog.

Years ago, I took a course from Godin on marketing. His calm, level-headed, thoughtful approach was refreshing. So were some of his counterintuitive theories. Like customer service being free.

This is worth unpacking for a minute -- from his 100-foot view.

Customer service is an opportunity businesses spend millions of dollars chasing: the rapt attention of an interested buyer.

As Godin paints it, many businesses try to outcompete with better products. That's costly. But good service just requires a bit of energy, attention, and the right information. And because businesses are all about people and relationships, if you can make people feel wanted, affirmed, justified, supported, then you've already won.

In other words, give people good customer service -- not just more of it -- and you've got another sale in the bag, and another and another and another. Because they trust you.

There's another piece to this that Godin doesn't directly address but I think is apt in this day and age. Good customer service is authentic, not perfect. It's personal. That's what people want. When you flub something, they want you to say "I'm sorry" and mean it.  They want you to apologize for a ridiculously long wait, a botched delivery -- you name it. But they don't want it from a script. They want it from an earnest human being.

They also don't want excuses. They want to know that your employees take pride in doing good work -- and are invested in fixing mistakes or going the extra mile to rectify a wrong.

And, yes, this is free. Hiring people to answer phones or to work in your stores is not free, but the way they do their work is something that doesn't cost a dime -- and, if done well, has enormous ROI.

Here's a stat that supports it: Ninety-six percent of customers say customer service is important to their choice of brand loyalty.

And another: Seventy-two percent of customers will share a positive experience with six or more people, opening the door to more business.

And another: Ninety percent of Americans use customer service as a factor in deciding whether to do business with a company. 

You get the idea.

Put this another way: Lead with kindness and you'll enjoy the best loyalty in the biz.