It’s not enough anymore to just have a great product or service. In order to really stand out, businesses have got to do more. They’ve got to not only meet but exceed expectations. They’ve got to create remarkable and memorable customer experiences. Ultimately, it’s the quality of those customer experiences that determine whether a customer will decide to return…or bring their business elsewhere.
The five inspiring companies mentioned below are aware of that. They know the importance of going above and beyond to make their customers happy.
So without further ado, here are five companies with customer service so remarkable that it will blow your mind.
The online retailer, Zappos, has long been known as a leader in customer service. As is stated on their website, “…our goal is to position Zappos as the online service leader. If we can get customers to associate the Zappos brand with the absolute best service, then we can expand into other product categories beyond shoes.”
Let me just say that their website is far from spectacular. But as Forbes put it, “Zappos invested their money in customer service rather than in expensive marketing campaigns. Their time is spent observing and tracking customer behavior with the on-going goal of creating more personal emotional connections with its customers. This speaks volumes as they put their precious resources (money and time) into creating customers for life.”
How does Zappos succeed in the customer service department? For one, they don’t outsource their customer service like many other companies do. Instead, they have 500 employees working in their call center in Las Vegas, each of who has been trained for seven weeks on how to provide outstanding customer service.
One thing that employees evidently learn in that training is to go above and beyond to exceed customer expectations.
For example, Zappos once ran out of a pair of shoes. But rather than informing the customer that they were out of stock (as would have been customary and expected), a customer service representative actually traveled to a rival shoe store to get that pair of shoes and bring it directly to the woman who needed it (who happened to be based at a nearby hotel in Las Vegas).
Zappos makes the buying experience as easy as possible for the customer. They offer free returns so that customers can order multiple pairs of shoes in different sizes and then return what doesn’t fit. But it goes beyond that.
One woman ordered six pairs of shoes due to a medical condition that made her feet sensitive. Her daughter called Zappos to find out how to return the ones that her mother couldn’t wear and mentioned her medical condition in the conversation. In response, Zappos sent a large bouquet of lilies and roses to let the woman know that they were thinking of her. The customer and her two daughters were also all bestowed with VIP memberships or free shipping on all products.
And let’s not forget about the phone call taken from a Zappos customer service representative that lasted a record-breaking 10 hours and 29 minutes. Believe it or not, most of the phone conversation was not even related to Zappos products. Instead of ending the call when most customer service representatives would have, this Zappos representative stayed on the line for as long as the customer wanted (in case you’re wondering, the phone call did result in one sale—and one sale only).
While almost everything seems to be digital these days, Nordstrom recognizes the importance of old-school, in-person customer service.
All of the salespeople who work at Nordstrom are trained to do things a certain way and to treat the customer with the utmost respect. Customers don’t even have to wait in line in order to check out—instead, they can check out directly with salespeople at any point in time. And at the checkout counter, the salesperson will physically walk around the register and hand the customer the bag, rather than handing it to them from across the counter.
In many stores, when are you looking for something, the salesperson will vaguely point you in the right direction. But at Nordstrom, the salespeople are trained to physically walk the customers there. No pointing allowed.
They have considered every little thing from the customer perspective. Nordstrom has even found a way to simplify the system of paging employees so that it would be less of an annoyance for customers. The solution? They simply state the employee name over the loud speaker—and nothing else.
Another way that Nordstrom wins is through their abidance of the age-old philosophy: the customer is always right. It doesn’t matter how long ago you purchased something, how worn it is, or whether you still have the receipts—Nordstrom will accept any item as long as there is a reason for the return.
Case in point: A man once walked into Nordstrom to return a tire, of all things. Does Nordstrom sell tires? Not even close. But because the store was located in exactly the same spot as the tire store once was, the man behind the counter accepted the tire as a return and handed the man cash for what the tire was worth. Sure, Nordstrom lost some money in the end. But more likely than not, they gained the respect and loyalty of that one man (not to mention, the good press that resulted from this story), which made it worth it for them.
Finally, Nordstrom employees go out of their way to help their customers. Like that time when a shopper lost the diamond on her wedding ring while trying on clothes at Nordstrom, and a security worker got down on his hands and knees to help her look, even requesting the assistance of two other service workers. Their persistence paid off: They finally found the diamond after opening up bags of the store vacuum cleaners.
Here’s yet another example: Members of the Nordstrom housekeeping staff found a customer’s bags in the parking lot, along with her receipt and a flight itinerary. A staff member looked up her phone number in the company system and attempted to call her—while driving to the airport with her bags in tow. When he finally got to the airport and she still wasn’t answering the phone, he had the airport page her to let her know he had her bags.
Now as a customer, how can you not want to return to a store that provides that level of customer service?
Like Zappos, Amazon has mastered the art of online customer service—in more ways than one.
For starters, they provide a personalized chat service for their customers. Key word here: personalized. Rather than acting like automated robots, Amazon representatives speak to their customers like human beings, personalizing the conversation to match the tone of whom they are chatting with.
For example, one man once chatted Amazon and said, “Greeting, Thor. Can I be Odin?” to which the Amazon representative replied, “Odin, Father. How art thy doing on this here fine day?” The entire conversation proceeded to be in role-play mode, with the customer acting as Odin and the Amazon representative acting as Thor. Oh, and of course the representative solved the customer’s concerns in the end, providing him with one-day delivery for the product.
Amazon also wins by taking responsibility for things that are not their fault. One time, a customer ordered a bunch of books on Amazon before a big trip to South America. The books were shipped out via Canada Post, but the shipment was lost and the books never arrived before the buyer went on the trip. Despite the fact that they could have easily blamed it on the shipping company (who was the one responsible), Amazon took responsibility for the lost package and paid for new books, even working with a local shipper to get the books delivered directly to the customer in South America.
In another instance, a woman’s credit card was stolen and used to buy $600 worth of items from Amazon. When trying to get the money back from the credit card company, Amazon was contacted. They then sent the customer an Amazon gift card for the trouble that she experienced. In doing so, they turned a negative customer experience into a positive, memorable one.
I don’t know about you, but when I think of fast food, I normally don’t think of great service. Chick-fil-A is the exception to that, ranking highest in customer service in its industry.
It’s the little things that make Chick-fil-A customer experiences so remarkable. For starters, employees use a certain vocabulary to communicate with customers. Instead of just “you’re welcome,” they say “my pleasure.” The company’s founder, Truett Cathy, was inspired when he visited the Ritz Carlton and noticed that the employees responded with “my pleasure” to his “thank you.” As a result, a Chick-fil-A word choice was born.
Even though Chick-fil-A is a fast food (not a sit-down) restaurant, they act more like a sit-down restaurant. Each day, fresh flowers are placed on all of the tables in the restaurant. And instead of calling out an order number or name when an order is ready, the staff will bring the food directly to customers’ tables and will check in with each table during the meal to make sure that they don’t need anything else. Chick-fil-A employees are so courteous that they will even walk customers to their cars with an umbrella when it’s raining.
Chick-fil-A has a low turnover rate (one third of the industry average). The managers treat their employees well, so employees in turn treat the customers well and provide them with remarkable service. Bottom line? Great customer service starts at the top.
5. TD Canada Trust
The Canadian bank, TD Canada Trust, likes to spoil their customers just for the fun of it.
Here’s an example: TD bank once had new ATMs installed in various branches. When customers went to take out money, instead of cash, the ATM, labeled an “Automated Thanking Machine,” spat out gifts. One mother received a family pack of tickets to Disneyland; another customer with a sick daughter in Trinidad got a plane ticket to Trinidad, and every customer in the TD bank at 2PM received a $20 bill (while customers logging in through the online banking system got a deposit of $20).
But it’s not just the free gifts that make TD bank stand out from all the other banks. They are aware that it’s the little things that make all the difference.
Theresa McLaughlin, SVP of Canadian marketing planning and CMO of Canadian banking, auto finance and wealth, told Marketing,
One example is being able to pay your bills through your phone. We didn’t just say ‘look, other competitors have this service, let’s just duplicate that service.’ We’ve thought about it and we’ve said, ‘what are the pain points in that?’ We’re spending a lot of time on the customer journey, which is thinking through the entire experience of using a product and service. An icon in this area is Disney. Who would have thought that parking your car should be a part of the experience of going to the park? Yet it is. And calling their phone centre and hearing Mickey Mouse answer the phone. It’s all part of that end-to-end journey. It’s not just going on the rides. They pioneered that early on and banks are beginning to catch on to that and say every part of the process needs to be thought through.
One example of this? TD bank discovered that a major pain point for customers was taking pictures of checks for remote deposit, finding that many customers had to try multiple times to get it just right (I know that I’ve struggled with this myself). So they added a stabilizer to facilitate the picture-taking process, helping to ensure that customers would succeed the first time around.
As McLaughlin pointed out, “We want to do the customer journey work, which is a fancy way of saying really talk to our customers and watch them experience products and services, and then make sure that we’re delivering things that are excellent.”
If you can make your customers happy, then your business will be rewarded with success. It’s really that simple.
The leaders of the aforementioned companies know that. And so they train their employees to treat customers like good friends. To build relationships with them. They give their employees the authority and freedom to deal with certain problems on their own, so that customers don’t have to consult with a manager for every single problem that arises.
Their employees treat customers like individuals, not numbers. The company policies and procedures are flexible, so that when problems arise, they are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
These companies understand that a little bit of lost money along the way is worth it, even if it gains the trust and loyalty of just one customer.
They go above and beyond to serve the needs of their customers—even if it does not result in a sale at the end.
And they focus on the customer’s journey and experience, recognizing that it’s the little things along the way that make all the difference.
Follow in the footsteps of these companies and who knows—you may just create a customer experience as unforgettable as those colorful hot air balloons flying over Mae Ping National Park at sunrise…