Companies big and small know the key is consistency.
Customers expect the same treatment no matter where they go. Customers expect the same treatment no matter where they go. The benchmarks for good customer service is higher than ever! But, how often do you revisit your customer service strategy?
Below are 10 customer service examples of brands that went that extra mile with their excellent customer service.
To rake up great customer reviews or blow up on social media, it comes down to good ole genuine customer support.
10 Exceptional Customer Service Examples from Top Brands:
These customer services examples are the best in their industry. We’ve analyzed what puts them at the top of their game and how you can apply them.
These tips can turn bad customer interactions into exceptional customer service touchpoints. Here are our 10 examples of excellent customer service:
- Nordstrom — Be Willing to Say “Yes!” Every Time
- Drybar — You Can’t Replace a Unique Customer Service Experience
- Danny Meyer’s Union Square — Making Your Customers Feel Special Never Gets Old
- Virgin Atlantic Airlines — There’s No Such Thing as a Bad Customer
- Zappos — Empower Your Employees to Wow Your Customers
- Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers — Invest in Your Customer Service Reps/Culture
- Safelite Autoglass — Customer Service is a Team Sport
- USAA — Treat Your Employees as Your First Customers
- Umpqua Bank — It’s Easier to Stand Out When You’re in an Unglamorous Industry
- Starbucks — Focus on Setting Your Own Customer Service Standards
1) Nordstrom — Be Willing to Say “Yes!” Every Time
Staying in business for over 100 years is rare. Thriving in business for over 100 years — in a competitive field — is even more so. Seattle-based Nordstrom has managed to pull this off. Year after year.
For example, Nordstrom is so customer-focused that it once refunded a customer for a tire. The company never sold tires! You can always tell that the entire staff strives to get you a “yes” to anything you request.
At a flagship store in New York, virtual reality helps you get the perfect fit and fabric choice. Your new suit order is then sent off to Italy for manufacturing.
The store handles returns with an instant barcoded process for customer convenience.
The big idea: Be ready to say “yes” to your customers, regardless of the request. With this approach, not only will you care for your customers, they’ll care for you as well.
2) Drybar — You Can’t Replace a Unique Customer Experience
Drybar is the “blowout bar” that expanded to 100 locations from founder, Alli Webb’s basement. (Not to mention their bestselling line of hair dryers and products carried at Sephora.)
The Drybar concept could become a commodity and give in to knockoff operators. Their $40 hair wash and blowout have built massive customer loyalty.
Their secret? Exceptional customer service experience at every single touchpoint.
From romantic comedies on flat screens and custom-designed chairs, Drybar doesn’t hold back. “The customer service experience is everything,” says Drybar co-founder Michael Landau, co-founder.
“If it weren’t for the experience we create, we would be another place styling women’s hair. What we’re selling at Drybar is an experience. For 45 minutes, we’ll pamper you and you can relax.
Drink a mimosa and indulge in the latest chick flick or celebrity magazine while we wash your hair.”
The big idea: No matter what you’re selling, you can turn it into more than a commodity. Focus on every single touchpoint in the customer journey.
3) Danny Meyer’s Union Square — Making Your Customers Feel Special Never Gets Old
Danny Meyer is a successful New York restaurateur, who loves creating a real sense of hospitality. His many restaurants — Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Café, Shake Shack — have the distinctive Meyer touch.
He only selects new employees based on what he calls the “hospitality quotient.” This includes six personality attributes:
- Optimistic warmth
- Work ethic
You can apply Meyer’s tips to your customer support hiring process. Another idea is to train for these specific customer service skills.
The big idea: The human aspect of customer experience is irreplaceable. Make sure your customers feel recognized. In turn, they’ll give your company the recognition it deserves.
4) Virgin Atlantic Airlines — There’s No Such Thing as a Bad Customer
It’s impossible to please every customer every time. But customer service statistics show that your response to unhappy customers matters most.
Virgin Brands are spectacular at using negative feedback to bond with their customers.
“A complaint is a chance to turn a customer into a lifelong friend,” says Richard Branson. “At Virgin, we think that if we address a complaint well, and even involve the customer in the solution, it brings customers closer to our brand.”
In a famous episode, a customer in first class had what sounds like a dreadful Indian-themed meal on a flight. The letter he wrote (with stomach-turning photos) to Branson was both funny and disturbing.
The passenger described one item as a “miscellaneous central cuboid of beige matter.”
This passenger later explains elsewhere that “the potato masher had obviously broken and so it was decided the next best thing would be to pass the potatoes through the digestive tract of a bird.”
The most significant part of the story isn’t the letter, though, it’s how Branson responded. Branson invited the passenger to help Virgin overhaul its menu. He also later invited the passenger to be on the board of the airline’s culinary council.
The big idea: A complaint is a gift. If you can win over your upset customers, your business success will know no bounds.
5) Zappos — Empower Your Employees to Wow Your Customers
Can you imagine a leading e-commerce company whose core principle is “to live and deliver WOW”? Zappos is exactly that company. Zappos grew to be a leader in online shoe and apparel sales with their obsessive customer devotion.
The company is willing to spend any amount of time on the phone to serve and to bond with a customer. Even up to a world record 10 hours and 29 minutes made famous on late-night TV by Jimmy Fallon!
A customer service representative will do anything — even spend Zappos money — to “wow” customers.
Including flying to a customer’s home to return jewelry that a customer sent to them company by accident. Rob Siefker, the Senior Director of the contact center at Zappos recounts:
Not too long ago, two of our customers — a newly-wed couple — were packing up their belongings to move to a new home.
In their rush, the husband packed his wife’s jewelry inside one of her purses and then kept the purse inside what he thought was a spare Zappos box.
[Once the wife figured out what had happened and why her jewelry was missing], The rep she reached out to at Zappos decided to reroute the box to his desk.
Fearing for the safety of the valuables in transit, the rep hand-delivered the package himself.
When he and the jewelry arrived, the grateful couple invited him in for dinner. They’re now customers for life, as you can imagine.
Zappos even made a video out of this story!
The big idea: Strive to wow — to surprise and delight — every customer. Your customers are real people. And people love feeling special.
6) Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers — Invest in Your Customer Service Reps/Culture
Freddy’s has grown to over 280 locations in the U.S. while sporting a retro vibe and some delicious burgers. (Yes, steakburgers are hamburgers by another name. They’re good, thanks to a pounded-flat preparation on the grill!)
Also, they have great Chicago-style hot dogs. And, they have a wild assortment of custard-based desserts.
Their always-cheery employees distinguishes their customer service efforts.
Freddy’s invests well beyond industry norm in customer service training. They have a mix of in-person and online training (dubbed “Freducation”).
They also encourage employees to rise through the ranks. Recently, a group of employees who began as cooks and cashiers in Wichita rose to executive roles.
They then went on to be successful operators of not one but two franchises, with more on the way.
The big idea: A culture of customer service never gets old. Grooming an employee to be a future leader shows everyone how much you value your people.
7) Safelite Autoglass — Customer Service is a Team Sport (Technology, Training, and Personnel)
Safelite Autoglass has grown, quarter after quarter, with a focus on improving customer experience.
Part of this is through hiring. Every new hire makes it through a profile.
They do this profiling in-house with help from a company called Predictive Index. The profiling filters those applicants with an affinity for customer-facing roles.
Safelite also runs daily event-based training to improve their total customer experience. They call these the “daily huddle” where they discuss customer service principles.
Third, Safelite has developed a unique approach to review and parse customer feedback. They pay more attention to the feedback in the verbatim and not the actual net promoter score.
This is how they discovered that customers care about a technician’s live location along with their total arrival time. Customers like knowing that they’re on the way and that they’re in the neighborhood.
Now, using an app-based approach like Uber, customers can track a technician’s arrival.
The big idea: Customer experience improvement should be a multi-pronged effort. There are technology, personnel, and training aspects to consider. Nail these three and you can create a positive experience.
8) USAA — Treat Your Employees as Your First Customers
USAA is Fortune 500 company which operates in insurance, banking, and financial services.
Its campus there, holding 19,000 of its 34,000 total employees, is almost the size of Pentagon.
USAA always has a top rating across its various industries for customer satisfaction. One of their secrets is their unique approach to propelling customer-focused innovation.
The culture of innovation here is so strong that a security guard authored 25 patents for his company.
These patents are among the 10,000 submissions from employees each year. Each of these have ideas to improve USAA’s customer experience. And that’s not all — 900 of these have received U.S. patents!
The first thing that’s necessary to propel customer service innovation is a mindset. The mindset at USAA is ideal: every USAA employee is also a customer.
USAA urges employees to be on the lookout for moments to create loyal customers.
Beyond this, USAA harvests ideas through its “Always On Ideas Platform.” There are more ways for employee innovators to take part. The USAA hackathons and competitions are a good example.
The big idea: Build long-term relationships with your employees. They will then reate loyal customers for you.
9) Umpqua Bank — It’s Easier to Stand Out When You’re in an Unglamorous Industry
Located in California and the Pacific Northwest, Umpqua proudly and cheekily refers to itself as “the world’s greatest bank.”
Umpqua empowers employees to help customers in any way they can, using their creativity and the resources of the bank.
For example, a customer service representative fixed a jam-up at the drive-through when she jumpstarted a senior man’s car. She didn’t have to ask permission to do this, and Umpqua praised her for this.
Umpqua employees also undergo Ritz-Carlton-led customer service training refreshers on a regular basis.
The big idea: Even if you’re in an unglamorous industry, there are always efforts you can make in customer service to stand out in the crowd.
10) Starbucks — Don’t Just Smile Hard, Create Strong Customer Service Standards
The mantra, which you’ll often hear if you spend some time with Starbucks, is “Make It Right.” This means every bad customer interaction is a Make It Right moment for them. But it also represents a commitment at Starbucks to always improve customer experience.
Areas of improvement at Starbucks, for example, include their wildly successful mobile app. Some of these customer service standards can be quite elaborate.
When you order a caramel macchiato at Starbucks, it has a precise pattern of caramel sauce. It has a lattice of seven vertical and horizontal lines with two full circles around it.
This standard is less about visual consistency and more about giving you a taste of caramel in every sip. It’s true regardless of which Starbucks location you’re in when you take those sugar-laced sips.
And those wooden stir sticks? They source it from a specific variety of birch tree. Company testing shows it won’t interact with the flavor of a coffee drink.
The big idea: Great customer service is more than smiling hard. It also depends on having exceptional standards that govern portions of customer experience.
So, What do All These Companies Have in Common?
While these customer service stories vary across industries, they have these in common:
- Accessible FAQs, self-help content or self-ordering kiosks.
- Prompt follow-up emails/response to customer queries, complaints, or feedback.
- Easy access to a customer support representative (via live chat, email or social media.)
- Personalized solutions based on each customer’s situation or context.
- Widespread practice of active listening and empathy.
- Sense of accountability, including a full willingness to offer a customer service apology.
- Smart use of software like CRM, data analytics, and surveys in customer support.
- Focus on building long-term relationships and seeking feedback and customer testimonials.
- Seamless alignment with the overarching customer experience strategy.
- An authentic, motivated, and highly trained customer support team.
Any business with an effective customer service organization will stay relevant. Customer service has a measurable link to customer retention, customer satisfaction, and revenue.
4 Bad Customer Service Examples
1) FCK KFC
— Andrew Bloch (@AndrewBloch) February 23, 2018
Due to supply chain issues, hundreds of KFC outlets in the UK closed in early 2018. They had no chicken to serve patrons.
What!? To manage irate customers, KFC published a public customer service apology
The apology used the company’s branding but tweaked its three-letter acronym into “FCK”. Because it tickled customers’ funny bones, the apology was a hit.
To do: Creative humor sometimes works. When the issue is not serious, infuse humor into your customer service apology.
2) Plane of Pain
In 2017, social media ignited after United Airlines removed a passenger from his seat. The controversial and violent episode resulted literally in spilled blood — the passenger’s.
The public apology from the airline company’s CEO lacked any hint of either remorse or empathy. The backlash, thus, was massive, and the public cried for blood.
The market concurred: UA’s parent company bled almost a billion dollars in market value. It took heroic efforts at crisis management to bring this down to around $250 million.
To do: Show empathy — especially after a tragic event. Well-informed, and well-equipped customers control the conversation. Give them the slightest excuse, and they’ll ditch your brand for another.
3) Accounts and Apologies: Faking it at Fargo
Forcing employees to create fake customer accounts is, well, dishonest. What’s more disenchanting is the way Wells Fargo handled the scandal.
Wells Fargo created about 3.5 million banking accounts without customer approval. What’s worse? They also failed to articulate any sort of apology.
In fact, they appeared to condone the fraud by not holding executives accountable.
After a series of missteps, the scandal finally forced the CEO to resign.
To do: When a serious incident happens, you have to show that you are working out a long-term strategic solution. Temporary placation won’t cut it.
4) Battery Burnout
In 2016, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 became an internet meme because its faulty battery tended to burn.
The company turned the PR nightmare around by recalling millions of units. To ensure customer safety, they also implemented stronger quality control.
— Samsung Mobile US (@SamsungMobileUS) October 17, 2017
The brand initially suffered a sales contraction, but its genuine countermeasures paid off. Their market valuation went up while the brand regained the trust and love of millions.
To do: Old school values will remain hot forever. So, be honest and hold yourself accountable when something bad happens in your turf. Show genuine concern for customers even if doing so will cost you. (The Note 7 recall cost Samsung at least $5.3 billion).
Where is Your Customer Service Strategy Headed?
Customer service plays an important role in attracting, retaining, and nurturing customers. It supports revenue generation, customer loyalty programs, and referral campaigns. Along with product features and your UX, customer service keeps customers engaged.
In the future, customer service will also be the key area where brands will fiercely compete. So, maybe take these examples and build them into your customer service strategy for 2019?