Published: February 17, 2016 | Comments
Last week, a bunch of fellow #ICMIchat-ers and I met to discuss our customer service crushes, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Some of the regular suspects were mentioned (Amazon and Zappos, naturally), but it got me to thinking—what are some other brands that are doing customer service really well? What really makes them great, and what could they do to continue to stay great?
I decided to do a little research of my own to see if I could find more examples of companies with great customer service, and I wasn’t disappointed. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are seven companies whose customer service makes us swoon (and could be made even more “crushworthy” with a few key tweaks).
Zappos is basically the gold standard in customer service. They’re known for doing above and beyond for their customers, some of which is outlined in their ten core values:
“Deliver WOW Through Service; Embrace and Drive Change; Create Fun and A Little Weirdness; Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded; Pursue Growth and Learning; Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication; Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit; Do More With Less; Be Passionate and Determined; Be Humble.”
Their support stories have also reached an almost mythic level. Take, for instance, the team member who went to a rival shoe store to get someone shoes when Zappos was sold out. Or the time they overnighted shoes to a best man who needed a pair at no cost. The great thing about Zappos is that they’re able to deliver on that service across channels—they’ve got live chat, email, phone, and social support available 24/7, all backed by their dedicated Customer Loyalty team. On social, they’re not afraid to have a little fun with emojis and GIFs, but at the end of the day, they’re all about putting the customer first.
But Zappos doesn’t want to just help customers (although they do that very well)—they also want to help other customer service organizations. Take a visit to Las Vegas and you’ll find their School of WOW, where customer service managers can learn about Zappos’ company philosophy to help improve their own organization.
strong>What they can do to continue “crushing” customer service: As mentioned above, they’re able to provide customer service across multiple channels, which is a must for any organization today. What they could do to make it even better is to ensure that it’s omnichannel—integrate their various service channels so that customers can switch between them without losing context. They do a great job of managing questions one channel, like Twitter, and can make their already great service better by providing an omnichannel experience.
Nordstrom has this customer service commitment on their website:
“We have a long-standing commitment to provide our customers with the best possible service every time they shop and to continually maintain a strong and lasting relationship with them.”
Their dedication to providing the best service possible helps inform the following situations, like when they let a customer return tires there, or when they searched for hours to help a customer find a lost diamond from her engagement ring that was sucked up by vacuum cleaner. They’ve also got a strong customer service presence online, be live chat, email, phone, or social support (all of which are available 24/7). On Twitter in particular, they’re helping customers find the right clothes, offering to replace an out of stock coat, and even giving kudos to their customers’ fashion choices.
While Nordstrom provides great digital service, it’s their in-person service that truly differentiates them from the competition. On Quora, Ambra Benjamin, a former employee, explained that they added a personal touch that many other retailers don’t. For example, they walk you over to an item rather than point at it, but they also walk purchase around the counter. They also ring up purchases without you having to standing in line. Talk about luxury service!
What they can do to continue “crushing” customer service: As mentioned above, their personal touch is what really separates them from the competition. But one way to continue to knock their digital customer service out of the park is to add that same level of personalization to customer communications. Including a customer name in a tweet or email is a great touch, but sending them a link to a pair of jeans that would go great with that halter top they just bought? Now that’s personalized service.
3. Southwest Air
Southwest is one of the most well-known airlines in the U.S., but they don’t really see themselves that way. Here’s what they have to say about themselves on their website.
“We like to think of ourselves as a Customer Service company that happens to fly airplanes (on schedule, with personality and perks along the way).”
Their dedication to customer service is renowned, so much so that they’ve pinned a tweet showcasing a great service story on their Twitter page. The story is as follows: when a woman who had been training for a relay race landed at their airport, her shoes and running gear didn’t show up. Distressed, the woman was about ready to go to Walmart to buy shoes, but a Southwest team member drove 3 hours to deliver the bag to her when it arrived so that she could continue with her team and go on with the race.
Southwest absolutely dominates social customer support. While they’re available 24/7 for phone support, and also offer a knowledge base, email support, and a mobile app, social is where they shine. They’ve amassed over two million followers and make sure to respond to tweets within five minutes. When they’re not responding to inquirers, there’s no love lost between customers and the airline. (Also, their NYSE ticket symbol is LUV).
What they can do to continue “crushing” customer service: Southwest does social support and in-person very well. They’re also doing a great job of using alternative channels like text messaging for loyalty programs and flight alerts, as well as traditional channels like voice to change flights, check status, etc. One change they could make to improve their already great customer service is to allow customers to pivot from voice to text to text chat with an agent immediately, something 44% of customers would prefer.
When you think of the great outdoors, you probably don’t think about customer service. That’s because you’re not thinking about REI. They’ve got a strong commitment to helping customers live an outdoor lifestyle:
“Our core purpose guides everything we do: we all work to inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.”
And when it comes to customer service, they do just that. They offer live chat seven days a week, a really robust FAQ section, and even let them fax you if you so desired. On social, they help customers find the right product, direct customers to repair services, and more. They also encourage customers to be brand advocates and help share their stories, further promoting the idea of their great customer service.
As mentioned above, REI has a really robust FAQ section, and nowhere is that more evident than in their awesome video page. There, they offer a huge video library showing customers how to do common outdoor tasks like sizing skiboots or slacklining. And given that customers want to be up and running (literally) with their gear in as little time as possible, there’s no better way to serve them.
What they can do to continue “crushing” customer service: As mentioned, REI has a strong FAQ section and video page, but they could take both of those to the next level. They might consider adding a forum where customers can ask questions about how to use their new gear, or what are the best places to visit to use that new gear. Then, they could get answers from other people who have more experience. This would let their customers share their passion with the outdoors and encourage interaction with the brand after the purchase.
It’s not hard to see how Amazon offers great customer service. Their commitment to service goes all the way up to the CEO, Jeff Bezos, who said this:
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It's our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
And that they do. One great story is how they shipped a new Playstation 3 free of charge on Christmas Eve so a little boy’s Christmas would be that much for magical. They’ve also got a robust knowledge base and forums, and they offer email and phone support. They post content proactively on Twitter to answer customer questions before they ask them, and they have a dedicated twitter help account which responds in multiple languages 24/7.
While there’s no outlined policy (that I could find) telling reps to let loose, they’re certainly not afraid to inject a little fun into proceedings, web chatting with customers as Thor and Odin and using emojis and Vines when responding to tweets. (There also must be something in the Seattle water—REI, Nordstrom and Amazon are all situated in the heart of the Northwest).
What they can do to continue “crushing” customer service: As discussed above, Amazon is doing a great job of helping customers in need. They also have great self-service options. What they could do to make their phone and email support better is to make it easily accessible. I had to search through their site quite a bit before finding the traditional methods to contact them. Having these options readily accessible would make for a better customer experience and allow customers who’d prefer to use these channels a better chance to do so.
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs always had a great view of customer service and customer experience. In fact, he’s noted as saying:
“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology — not the other way around.”
Apple seems to have taken that mantra to heart for their customer service, doing everything they can to help customers. Most products come with 90-day phone support, and there’s phone support numbers for almost every country you can think of. They’ve also got discussion forums, chat, and social media support. Interestingly enough, Apple doesn’t have a dedicated twitter account—rather, it has accounts for different branches like Apple Music, iTunes, AppStore, etc. When they do tweet with customers from subaccounts, they’re seen pointing customers in the right direction if they can’t find something, and smartly shifting conversations to DM and other channels for more private conversations. They also share helpful content before customers even have to ask.
The thing Apple is probably known for besides its sharply designed products is its in-store service at the Genius Bar, where Apple experts meet one on one with you to discuss how to set up or fix your device. Personally, every time I’ve gone in there I’ve received exemplary and knowledgeable service.
What they can do to continue “crushing” customer service: As mentioned, one of Apple’s competitive differentiators is its Genius Bar. But the lack of a dedicated main Twitter support account for Apple is glaringly obvious. It’s their prerogative to add it or not, and their other subaccounts are doing a great job of providing support, but having a main social support channel, like 90% of big brands do, could fill a customer need. (Then again, not having a Twitter account sets them apart from the competition in yet another way).
Want to show that you’re committed to customers? Look no further than JetBlue and their Customer Bill of Rights. Here’s an excerpt:
“JetBlue Airways is dedicated to bringing humanity back to air travel. We strive to make every part of your experience as simple and as pleasant as possible.”
JetBlue delivers human support across channels: they’ve got phone support, email support, a searchable knowledgebase, text updates, and a smartphone app. They make sure their service is human, especially on social, responding within minutes, pointing customers to pages that can help them, and responding with emojis and GIFs to any questions customers might have. For instance: a customer jokingly tweeted that she wanted a parade when she got back, but the airport she was arriving at saw her tweet and staged a little mini parade. Talk about winning a fan for life!
As mentioned in their Bill of Rights, they’re definitely not afraid to deliver personal service. Take, for instance, the time when a customer’s flight was delayed and it looked like she was going to miss her second flight. The manager booked her another flight home that took off from another airport, and made the effort to drive her to another airport so she would make her flight on time. Or the time when a JetBlue employee in Salt Lake coordinated with employees in Boston to track down a customer who had missed his flight and brightened his day with a gift bag.
What they can do to continue “crushing” customer service: Just like Southwest, JetBlue absolutely crushes social and in-person service, so they should continue to focus on that. However, they’d also benefit from looking into alternative channels like SMS, which they’re already using for flight updates but could enhance quite a bit. Instead of just letting customers know their flight has been cancelled, why not let them text back to reschedule a flight? That’s just one way they can keep their customer service soaring.
What are some companies that you think deliver crushworthy customer service? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to show your customers some love this week!