10 Best Companies in Customer Service & What You Can Learn From Them

Customer expectations are at an all-time high. Stories of worst customer service? They are at an all-time high too. Besides teaching you in ways no amount of research can, these stories can save you customer relationships, money, and even your brand name. Back in 2013, a disgruntled customer went as far as buying a promoted tweet to get the attention of British Airways and 76,000 Twitter users about his lost luggage. Hell indeed hath no fury like a customer scorned.

Despite these trends, there are some companies that have consistently stood out for their excellent customer service. Some usual names, some mild surprises make up this list of 10 best companies in customer service. Let’s read, share, and learn some life lessons.

1. Apple

Apple is the brainchild of the man who epitomized excellent customer service, Steve Jobs. Continuing his legacy, Tim Cook is leaving no stone unturned to ensure his customers remain loyal. Apple even operates a personalized support portal where you can view every Apple product you have ever bought and receive support for the same. An ACSI of 82 and an NPS of 49 are anything but coincidences. At this rate, what they have is not a customer base, but a cult following.

Lesson from Apple’s Customer Service

Maintain a positive, upbeat tonality when interacting with customers. Empathize with them, and give every issue, no matter how trivial or complex, the same level of attention.

2. Publix

Publix the supermarket chain has a reputation for acing customer service in its own right. This 91-year-old company has the unique distinction of playing to the community. They take inputs from local customers, stock items that they request, and make the shopping experience quite pleasing. And this is just a fraction of what they do for their customers. While every big name in the industry was spreading good gospels about their unbeatable price, Publix stood for what they think should be the priority – service. Price and quality follow. If you think the pricing is the only way to win customers, think again. Publix and its loyal customers tell a different story.

Lesson from Publix’s Customer Service

A noteworthy attribute of Publix is its completely employee-owned operation. Employees are well taken care of, and Publix does everything to boost workplace morale. Lesson? Happy employees create happy customers. Look out for your employees.

3. Zappos

Zappos is an online retail company that is known for “going extreme” for the customers. Zappos’ customer philosophy may even seem risky for some – they offer free shipping for any number of back-and-forth transactions, offer a 365-days return policy if a customer is not satisfied with the product, and never outsourced customer service so as to capture the local culture and persona in their experience.

Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos says that this indeed costs them some money. However, the philosophy of Zappos is that most of the money they might ordinarily spend on advertising is being invested in customer service so that their customers will stay long-term with them and compensate for the lost marketing with positive word-of-mouth. Is it working for them? Astronomically!

If you think that is unusual, look at the following reply for a question that is, in no way related to what Zappos offers.

Lesson from Zappos’s Customer Service

A Zappos customer service rep once made a record-breaking 10:29 hours customer service call. To a customer who forgot about his return request amidst losing a loved one, Zappos sent the item for free along with a basket of flowers. For a defective item, Zappos offered a complete refund, two pairs of new shoes with a suggestion to donate the extra one to charity. No wonder customers call Zappos “Happiness in a box”. And if there is something to be learned from their service, it’s the idea to sell happiness over products and services. The rest will take care of itself.

4. Ritz Carlton

Ritz Carlton is a well-known customer service fanatic in the hospitality industry. One step into the hotel and you understand why. Every staff member warmly acknowledges you, the hotel services are available round the clock, and they have fool-proof damage control strategies. But these fairly common practices are not enough to differentiate them. A luxury brand also has an inevitable need to justify the premium price points. Ritz Carlton does it with the right customer advocacy language. There is no other way a company founded in the ’80s can provide phenomenal service and relate to customers across generations, age, and time. 

They invest a lot of time and effort in their voice – for instance, they say “we’re fully committed” instead of “we are fully booked”, and “my pleasure”, “we guarantee that” among other phrases that sound professional yet relevant, crisp yet non-robotic, friendly yet non-colloquial. And the best part? Most of their evolution can be attributed to customer feedback. If you ask Ritz Carlton something, you will almost always get it.

Lesson from Ritz Carlton’s Customer Service

The lessons from Ritz Carlton are two-fold. Focus on a consistent customer advocacy language, and listen to your customers. You’ll get great results by asking your customers first and aligning your service with their needs rather than expecting customers to get accustomed to how you operate. 

5. Amazon

Free shipping above a certain limit, automatic refunds, price guarantees – Amazon is among the top customer service leaders for obvious reasons. Every customer service rating manual on Earth has an Amazon case study in it. According to Forbes, Amazon shoppers say:

“They listen and they fix every problem on the side of the customer whether the purchase was made through them or a third party. They are one of the BEST customer service companies out there.”

How many times have you ordered, reordered, and returned on Amazon at ease, without any signs of friction? The answer is many. Amazon has built a brilliant and intuitive user interface that everyone can use at ease. Their product is the main component of their critically acclaimed customer experiences.

Lesson from Amazon’s Customer Service

Empower your customers with a great product they truly need. Assess your product-market fit – assess the degree to which your product fulfills the market and customer demands. While this sounds like a no-brainer, most companies tend to get carried away by the notion that they should build something great and advanced to build a successful business. They forget about their relevance and place. Amazon thinks otherwise. They solved or better-solved a major problem – an online e-commerce platform that lets you buy (almost) everything you need in one place. And they made the user experience a breeze. 

6. Disney

No one walks out of Disney without moments they can remember and appreciate for life. This doesn’t just apply to the ultimate experiences, food, and the games. Disney’s customer experience is unparalleled in the entertainment industry. In the way they assist, you will learn that Disney and its staff are on the constant lookout for delivering happiness. They refer to customers as “guests” and take every measure to treat them as such. They are devoted to the language they use similar to Ritz Carlton. 

Disney shows that hiring the right people is essential to deliver customer happiness. They hire friendly, enthusiastic people not just to deliver good experiences but to deliver magic. Anything less is unacceptable in the universe of Disney.

Lesson from Disney’s Customer Service

Set the standard for customer service high. If you want to be remembered as the leader in exceptional customer service, be one.

7. Lexus

Lexus, Toyota’s luxury vehicle division, is known for its noteworthy customer service. Right from the website to the employee ID cards, they have their customer-focused covenant etched everywhere – “Lexus will do it right from the start. Lexus will have the finest dealer network in the industry. Lexus will treat each customer as we would a guest in our home. If you think you can’t, you won’t. If you think you can, you will. We can, we will”.

Many luxury car owners go for independent car maintenance shops due to their own brand’s sub-par customer service. Right from the start, Lexus used customer service to make up for what they lack in legacy and brand reach. And they succeeded. 

Lesson from Lexus’s Customer Service

Any car owner who walks into Lexus for a car wash is sure to be welcomed with lattes, fresh cookies, and welcoming service reps who can assist them in the best way possible. On average, 48% of customers return to the Lexus dealership to buy a new Lexus. Not for the cookies but the assurance that their future needs will be met with due care. The lesson here is to understand how you compare to your competitors and put on a pleasant facade particularly when you operate in physical stores.

8. Starbucks

Every single step Starbucks takes culminates in establishing a near personal relationship with their customers. The average customer visits Starbucks about 6 times a month whereas their most loyal customers visit up to 16 times. This could only mean that Starbucks consistently provides good customer service on top of their delicious offerings and inviting atmosphere.

However, the ace up their sleeve is their reward programs. No customer would want to miss out on recurring complimentary drinks or points that could be converted into free add-ons and merchandise. It is also Starbucks’s way of creating a continuous loop of transactions between the business and its customers. Starbucks also engages in philanthropy involving gift cards and customer visits, making customers feel like they are part of something big.

Lesson from Starbucks’s Customer Service

Reward your customers with the help of a strong voice of the customer program. Invest in listening tools, listen to your customers, and actually act on them. If you think 10.9M customers follow Starbucks on Twitter just to learn how Starbucks’s latest Pistachio Latte tastes, you are mistaken. Listen to a customer’s own words.

“I love Starbucks, but not necessarily the prices. But I will keep paying those prices as long as they continue their exceptional customer service. Recently, my daughter spilled her vanilla bean frappuccino shortly after ordering it and they were quick to get her a new one. That goes a long way in my book. Keep up the amazing service!”

9. Nordstrom

Nordstrom, a luxury department store chain has become synonymous with customer service. Every CX enthusiast knows this 120-year-old brand’s legendary story of “A Guy Walks into a Nordstrom” – In 1975, a man drove down to a supposed tire store to return his defective snow tires. He perhaps didn’t pay attention to the fact that a Nordstrom shop has replaced the tire store he was looking for and explained the situation to the staff members. Any other situation would consist of a disappointed customer loading the tire back in his truck and driving off.

Behold, Nordstrom allowed him to return the tires and actually refunded him. They don’t even sell tires! We don’t know if it was a customer service gimmick. But if it was, we wouldn’t be quoting this story 46 years later. Not a chance. 

Lesson from Nordstrom’s Customer Service

While Nordstrom actually sets impossible standards here, you can still derive a practical lesson out of this story – Don’t say no to your customers if there is a tiny bit of chance to say yes. Even if there’s not one, give the best alternative instead of shooting the request down. Your customers will pay you back in spades in terms of loyalty and share of heart.

10. Virgin Atlantic

Any Richard Branson follower would know where Virgin brand’s fierce inclination towards customer happiness comes from. “Every complaint is a chance to turn a customer into a lifelong friend”, says Richard who urges everyone to get comfortable with uncomfortable customer scenarios. That doesn’t mean you should be comfortable with making more mistakes. When mistakes happen, which they do sometimes, you should approach them in a level-headed, positive way. You don’t know what you’ll get out of it.

Like this – a passenger who was not satisfied with the meal he was served on his Mumbai to Heathrow flight wrote a funny complaint to Richard. How Richard responded goes on to show that he indeed walks the talk. He invited the passenger to be part of the food advisory board of Virgin Atlantic where the customer’s insights and wit could be put to good use. The passenger joined!

Lesson from Virgin Atlantic’s Customer Service

You will learn more from unhappy customers than happy customers. They burst the bubble of self-acclaimed customer success and show how you are really performing – which may not be what you want but very much need.

Conclusion

Companies around the world are constantly reinventing their customer service models to ensure their business is identified more by the service they provide rather than the products they make. If every company strives to deliver customer service with the intention of wanting to be on this elite list, it would pave the way for some great customer experiences.