Every company in the United States likes to promise an exceptional customer experience. Polls show that at least some corporations do an excellent job keeping their promise — these companies provide great customer service.
In order to find those companies that truly stand out by creating positive customer experiences, 24/7 Wall St. collaborated with research survey group Zogby Analytics, which polled more than 1,500 adults about the quality of customer service at 151 of America’s best-known companies in 17 industries, asking if the service is excellent, good, fair, or poor.
The companies with the highest share of poor ratings make up the Customer Service Hall of Shame, while those with the highest share of excellent ratings make up the Customer Service Hall of Fame. E-commerce company Amazon tops the list yet again — for the seventh year in a row. Phone and electronic device manufacturers Apple, Samsung, and Sony; restaurants Chick-fil-A and Starbucks; and mail carriers FedEx and UPS also made the Hall of Fame this year. Hospitality companies Hilton and Marriott as well as Internet companies Youtube, Netflix, and Google also made the list.
Most of these companies serve thousands of people every day, and bad customer service experiences invariably occur. It is for this reason that branding and customer service go hand in hand, according to Tim Calkins, clinical professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Calkins explained, “With positive feeling for a brand, [customers] are inclined to both appreciate positive experiences and be forgiving of negative experiences.”
In other words, if consumers like the product, and the overall experience with the brand is positive, they are more likely to rate customer service well — even if there are occasionally bad experiences. When asked to rate the overall experience with a company as positive or negative, 75% or more people gave a positive rating to 14 of the 15 companies in the Hall of Fame.
Healthy competition within an industry also tends to improve the quality of customer service. “When customers have choice then there is more pressure to deliver a great experience,” Calkins said. While this is specifically not the case for the cable and Internet service provider industry, which is represented by multiple companies on this year’s Hall of Shame, competition largely explains the high customer service ratings at companies such as Hilton and Marriott. Calkins added that UPS competes with FedEx, Samsung competes with Apple, and for each of these companies, “there is competitive pressure to keep up.”
In addition to competition, some of these companies succeed at providing stellar customer service by focusing intensely on this aspect of their business. Customer service expert and consultant Shep Hyken described Hilton, Marriott, and other members of the hospitality sector as having “a culture of service.” Similarly, Amazon’s nation-leading customer service rating is likely due largely to its focus on the customer. The company’s first of four guiding core principles is “customer obsession rather than competitor focus.”
Technology companies like Amazon, and hospitality companies like Hilton share this customer focus. In an email exchange with 24/7 Wall St., Praveen Kopalle, professor of management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, highlighted the importance of creating not just a good customer experience, but a unique one. These companies, he wrote, “strive to create a personalized environment for their customers—be it Apple or Victoria’s secret. For personalization to work smoothly, customer service has to be top notch.”
While large Internet companies on this list such as Amazon, Youtube, and Google do not have customer facing brick-and-mortar locations, interactions of customers with employees are a key factor in customer satisfaction in most other businesses. Friendly and knowledgeable staff matter most in customer service to more than half of survey respondents. Unsurprisingly, satisfied employees often translates to higher customer satisfaction. Many of the companies on this year’s Hall of Fame — notably Apple, Chick-fil-A, and Starbucks — score especially well in employee satisfaction on employee review website Glassdoor.
This is 24/7 Wall St.’s Customer Service Hall of Fame.
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