Leading in Customer Service Success – What Industries and Companies are Setting the Standard?

Image of cartoon dog with CSAT.AI cape flying and post title Leading in Customer Service Success

Leading in Customer Service Success – What Industries and Companies are Setting the Standard?

There are many aspects to leading in customer service success. Depending on the company, customer service can conjure anger and disappointment or warm fuzzies and devotion. Today we’re looking at:

  • Industries known for great service
  • Companies that are setting the standard
  • What makes a great customer experience

Of the many customer service metrics, one of the top is Customer Satisfaction (CSAT). Satisfying customers has always been a challenge. However, these past two years the challenges have been off the charts.

Supply chain interruptions have caused ripple effects, prompting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2021 to begin an in-depth study into the causes of the ongoing supply chain problem. On top of ordering major retailers to provide data, the commission is gathering voluntary data from all along the chain from suppliers to customers. 

It’s hard enough for businesses to function without adequate product or without their main product at all. How do you make a hamburger without the patties? How much can businesses raise the prices of limited goods before customers stop paying it? 

Businesses are having to be diligent and creative now more than ever.  There are industries and companies creating a great customer service experience regardless of current challenges. 

Industries with the Best Service

  • Full service restaurants (particularly upscale dining)
  • Food manufacturing
  • Tech and cellular
  • Luxury retail

According to The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Full Service Restaurants and Food Manufacturing companies are the industries with the highest scores for 2021. 

Proper sit down restaurants cannot survive without providing quality service. Customers could eat at home, or go through a drive through, but they eat at restaurants specifically for the experience. 

Other high ranking industries include personal computers and cell phones. These technologies have become necessities in modern life. This is especially true when they became the only mode of communication and work for many during the pandemic. The competition between manufacturers has created clear lines of brand loyalty as seen by the 38 year Mac vs PC war

Luxury retailers and service providers also have brands in their ranks known for excellent service. When the cost of an item or experience is high the expectation is too. Many of these businesses set legendary standards for customer experience that all brands can learn from.

Leading in Customer Service Success – Setting the Standard

Despite supply chain and other pandemic difficulties, there are companies in various sectors thriving. Here are a few incorporating different strategies for success with their customers.

Winning by Knowing Your Customer Niche

Newsweek and Statista joined forces for a  Best Customer Service 2021 study. Scores of a sample of 25,000+ American consumers were based 50% on NPS (Net Promoter Score) and 50% on five criteria: communication, competence, services, customer focus, and accessibility. In that study Consumer Cellular beat out T-Mobile and Verizon in the mobile carrier category. Tom’s guide for 2022 places them at #8. However, Tom’s acknowledges that they are a “hit” with their targeted demographic – seniors.  

So how did they win over their customer base? They have cost-effective options for users who need less data, offer AARP discounts and provide solid coverage. Tom’s indicates they do receive customer service criticism, but reviews.org says they are “Especially friendly to the non-tech-savvy person”. Sounds like they know their audience, offering two channels: online chat and phone service. 

Though omnichannel is key to the success of many companies, it depends upon the customer base.  There is little point in offering channels that your target audience doesn’t use. Zeroing in on your customer preferences can save you money on channels that you can put into creating quality service.

Luxury and Respect – A Lasting Classic

Nordstrom ranked number one on Newsweek’s Best Customer Service 2021 in the Brick and Mortar: Department Store category. They also ranked number one in ACSI’s (American Customer Satisfaction Index)  Retail and Consumer Shipping 2020-2021 report. As ACSI’s press release noted, retail is one of the most disrupted industries since 2020.  Still, Nordstrom has a history of accolades for it’s customer service creating many “wow” memories. 

In a case study detailing their great service is the story of someone coming into a Nordstrom for an Armani suit. Nordstrom didn’t have one, but the sales associate took the customer’s measurements and contact information. Through an impressive amount of focused effort, the employee got a suit to the customer, already tailored, in time for the event he wanted it for. Even more impressive: Nordstrom didn’t sell Armani suits.

Nordstrom is also a Hall of Fame member of Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” making the list year after year. They not only respect their customers, they respect their employees. Instead of overwhelming handbooks on customer service, they hand employees a card with one rule, “Use good judgment in all situations.”  That trust has gone a long way toward creating legendary service.

The company was not immune to pandemic issues like supply chain problems or even human error. How have they weathered the storm better than their counterparts? They apply effective problem management that puts the customer first in-keeping with their legendary service reputation. CustomerThink has an article about a direct Nordstrom experience detailing an excellent example: hold times minimized, automated systems concise, service agent friendly and empowered, and a solution that lessened both customer cost and effort.

Investing Early for Success Year After Year

From casual to upscale dining establishments there were multiple steakhouses that ranked in the top five of the Best Customer Service 2021. This included Morton’s Steakhouse and Ruth’s Chris, with The Capital Grille ranking number one in upscale dining. 

There are many things they are doing right. They have a menu that accommodates a huge range of customers, including many vegetarian and gluten free options. For a steakhouse, that is saying that they are listening. They also offer customized menus for events and provide a comprehensive nutrition pdf. 

Instead of throwing food away they donate surplus to local food banks, shelters and charities. Making an impact in their communities is an empathetic move many customers value. 

They put in place many of the aspects customers rave about years ago, and have consistently ranked high in their industry on everything from atmosphere to menu to price to quick and excellent customer service.

What makes a great customer service experience vs a disastrous one 

As the aforementioned companies leading in customer service success show, great customer service Includes:

  • Timely response
  • Empathy
  • Outstanding Service
  • Effective Problem Management

Timely Response

When customers have a problem they want a solution as quickly as possible. That’s providing one aspect of quality service, including having omnichannel support or listening to customers about the channels they use most. For some customers email is preferred over phone or chat.  

This also includes having ample support coverage. Hire more employees, agents, temporary staff or outsource or offshore to other time zones to increase coverage. Self-service options and automation are cost effective ways to help customers when an agent isn’t available or when autonomy is preferred.

The opposite is denying customers a solution: burying customer service channels; limited channels; or only providing self-help. This leaves customers with unique issues out of luck. Another example is the infinite customer service loop where the customer is passed from one channel to another getting nowhere. 

These limitations deny the customer an answer (with empathy) and increase customer attrition. Both sides lose.

Empathy

Merriam-Webster defines empathy as: “ the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.” 

Regardless of the channels customers receive service through, they want it with empathy. Even having multiple methods of contact is being empathetic to customer needs. Companies that hear their customers’ needs and follow through with action that addresses those needs are ahead of the pack in service. 

The opposite is not considering the human aspect of business at all. A hospital interrupting a patient with a customer service survey during a cancer diagnosis is a total lack of empathy.

Outstanding Service

The kind of service experience that elicits a “Wow” from customers is outstanding. Making the customer feel special by going above and beyond and creating thoughtful and creative customer experiences yield outstanding service. 

There are great one-off examples of amazing service.  When an inflight customer jokingly tweeted Morton’s Steakhouse asking them to meet him at his arrival gate with a steak dinner and they did, it made the news. Considering that the closest Morton’s was over 23 miles from the customer’s airport it’s even more impressive.

These kinds of exceptional service make for impactful publicity, but they aren’t a sustainable model. A restaurant can’t be giving free steaks to every customer who tags them in social media, let alone driving over 20 miles for free delivery. However, the creativity, surprise factor and listening to the customer are components that can be applied to an effective customer service experience architecture. Though there weren’t stories about The Capital Grille surprising a customer at their arrival gate, they still ranked number one in Best Customer Service 2021: Upscale Dining because they apply these ideas consistently.

This is the opposite of customers feeling like a number. Robotic responses, convoluted menus, and asking customers to repeat their information/issue multiple times inspires frustration not ‘wow.’

Conclusion

Quality customer service isn’t dependent on industry, cost of product or years in the business. The companies leading in customer service success effectively provide timely, empathetic service with a wow factor and manage problems while reducing customer effort.