When it comes to providing outstanding customer service, some companies just don't seem to get it. There are the businesses that hire customer service reps who don't possess the requisite skills to do their jobs properly and those who, once they hire reps, don't give them adequate training. Others don't deliver on the promises they make, or try to upsell customers complaining about the services they already have -- or put them on hold for extended periods of time, or argue with them when they want to cancel their subscriptions.
How's That Working Out for You?
These companies' arguably horrific treatment of their customers reflects a business model which is quickly going the way of the dinosaurs, and for good reason: it's unsustainable, causing continual churn and sometimes irrevocable reputational damage. Said differently, a business model which doesn't invest in providing outstanding customer service doesn't increase profits—over the long term, it reduces them.
According to American Express's Global Customer Service Barometer report, about 1 of every 3 customers surveyed said companies failed to meet their minimal customer service expectations. Another survey, this one from Harris Interactive, found that almost 90% of those who have poor experiences will abandon the companies which delivered them.
So, Why All That Bad Customer Service?
The fact that so many businesses continue to provide poor service in the face of these dire metrics begs another question: why? Why would a company risk not only losing customers, but also damage to their reputations and, in some cases, their very survival?
There are several reasons. For some, it's the unwillingness (or, particularly in the case of small businesses, the perceived inability) to provide sufficient customer service staff and funding. For others, it's simply not considering it to be all that important. Finally, some businesses get used to doing things a certain way and, if those protocols haven't yet caused them to hit bottom, they see no reason to chang e.
Some Brands Do a (Far) Better Job Than Others
While some businesses still haven't gotten the message, others hear it loud and clear, understanding and effectively prioritizing customer service as central to the brand promises they make. Here are 5 companies that have taken customer service to the next level:
1. Amazon: Giving Them What They Want
Amazon regularly tops the list on 24/7 Wall St. and Zogby's annual customer service hall of fame—and for good reason. Almost 60% of Amazon's users said their experience with the ecommerce giant was "excellent," and only 2% reported theirs was "poor." The reason for Amazon's success is, among other things their self-described "customer obsession," one which puts a singular focus on learning what customers want, and then giving it to them.
That includes everything from clear and useful product descriptions to relevant customer reviews, customer-centric shipping options, outstanding fulfillment and delivery services, and helpful product recommendations. Those who don't get what they want quickly learn that Amazon takes their complaints seriously and works hard to resolve their problems.
2. Apple: It Helps to Deliver on Promises
Apple, although behind Amazon, made it into the hall of fame with an impressive 40% of its shoppers reporting excellent customer service experiences. One of the reasons for Apple's success is its consistent delivery of products that customers want, and that do what they promise to do (it's one of the reasons Apple's products regularly land near the top of Consumer Reports' list of those which deliver the highest quality).
Another reason is the way Apple treats its employees, more than 80% of whom are satisfied with their Apple experience. That includes the company's customer service employees—said differently, when the employees whose job it is to resolve customer issues believe in the company they work for and the products they sell, they tend to go the extra mile to ensure those customers feel as good about their company as they do.
3. Zappos: Unpacking the WOW Factor
Zappos is one of just 15 companies to make it onto Forrester's US 2016 Customer Experience Index. Zappos is one of the leaders in outstanding customer service because of its emphasis on the "WOW" factor (they even have their own School of WOW where they teach their leaders how to do it).
What, precisely, is "WOW?" It's a philosophy which aims to put customers first, one captured in it's motto, where it describes itself as "service company that happens to sell shoes. And handbags. And more…" Zappos delivers on that promise by doing the unexpected, like the time it helped a woman who'd bought a pair of Zappos shoes but forgot to pack them for her vacation. Zappos no longer had those shoes in stock, so they bought them from a competitor and hand-delivered them to her—and they did it free of charge.
4. Marriott: Putting People First
It's right in their tagline: "Take care of associates and they will take care of the customers." Marriott, like Apple, understands that a culture of stellar customer service grows from a culture of employee engagement and satisfaction—something Marriott seems to have in ample supply. According to a recent Glassdoor survey, for example, almost 90% of Marriott's employees like the company's CEO, one of the reasons their employee satisfaction rating is an impressive 3.7 out of 5 points.
As their tagline suggests, Marriott's customer service workers, treated well by the company for which they work, pass that good will along to those with whom they work. It's one of the reasons approximately 40% of Marriott guests rate the hotel chain's service as excellent.
5. Kroger: Doing Things Their Competitors Don't
There are many reasons Kroger, with almost 3,000 stores in 34 states (and almost 800 convenience stores in 19 states), has become the one of the nation's largest retailers, second in fact only to Walmart. For one thing, in offering its own label products, Kroger cuts out the middle man, enabling them to offer low prices. Another is the company's loyalty program, which offers shoppers generous discounts which it tailors to individual customer preferences. And then there's Kroger's wide selection of the organic foods its customers want.
What really sets Kroger apart, however, is its unyielding push for outstanding customer service. It's one of the reasons 77% of Kroger's customers say they have a "good" or "excellent" experience with the company. That dedication manifests in doing for its consumers what their competitors don't, like what they did for Linda Marshall after a hurricane hit her local community:
"They are the only ones that opened up right after the hurricanes even while they were sweeping water out from their floors. They were there for the customers. It was a really community feeling from their employees."
Consumers are savvier than they used to be, which is one of the reasons an increasing number of businesses work hard to establish trust throughout the customer experience. For those which succeed, you can see it in the way they market their products and services, the way they deliver on brand promises, and the way they prioritize outstanding customer service.
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