It's certainly not new to emphasize customer service. Marketers have pushed that for decades (although it could be said that the last 10 years has seen a move away from this emphasis for short term gain). Here's something to make those think who are perhaps succumbing to panic and throwing out the idea of customer service in favor of short term economics.
At the weekend a family member dropped my digital camera, pushing the zoom lens out of its track. I began to call stores to find out who had onsite repair, and what the charge would be. Most companies do not have onsite repair. However, I called a family business in the process of my search and the gentleman at the other end offered to look at the camera for free, and if possible fix it!! For free!! Needless to say, I went down to the store an hour or so later. While I was waiting to see if he could fix the camera, I began to look at potential replacements, with the idea that I'd find out the info and then probably buy it at a cheaper price online.
The man could not fix my camera onsite, but I was so impressed by his service I began asking questions about the cameras they had. I was then impressed by his knowledge and his honesty in telling me which models were "not really worth" it for me. To cut a long story short, as I had already done some research about price before I went, I was offered a very good deal with an exceptional make of camera.
I left extremely happy, determined to buy a second camera there for my wife and to recommend this store over all the megastores (who have lousy customer service and generally seem to just want to get your money out of you). The price was more than comparable because camera firms are competing in all marketplaces. All I can say is I hope this company takes over from one organization I could mention where I bought my computer. That well known national chain, has arguably the worst and nastiest customer service out there (including a corporate customer "service" person who told me "When you leave the store it's no longer our business" - and that despite the fact I bought an extended warranty). Not only do I never buy anything there anymore, even if it's a little cheaper. I always advise others to avoid this store.
Where will these two organizations be in 2 years time? My guess is that the family business will have survived the recession nicely, while the national chain will have downsized and worsened its reputation. We'll see.