Special Report

Customer Service Hall of Fame

Thomas C. Frohlich, Samuel Stebbins, Evan Comen

Apple Logo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

3. Apple  (NASDAQ: AAPL)
> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 45.4%

More than 100 million Americans currently have an iPhone, roughly 43% of the U.S. smartphone market. Unlike the Android, the iPhone’s iOS is a closed system, meaning developers cannot make changes to the device’s source code and have limited freedom when developing applications. The closed system is fundamental to the simple design and user interface that has won Apple so many loyal customers — but also may make some Apple customers more dependent on company support services.

Apple’s in-store customer service is hosted at its Genius Bars, where trained staff members offer product support and guidance. Apple also has 28 customer service call centers with approximately 19,000 employees. Although outsourcing its call centers would have been cheaper, Apple keeps its call centers within the U.S. to ensure quality assistance. The strategy is likely working as 45.4% of customers believe Apple’s customer service is excellent, the third largest share of any company.

Apple’s products and product support have managed to create some of the most loyal customers of any company. On a recent survey conducted by RBC Capital Markets, 83.4% of iPhone owners claim their next smartphone purchase would be an Apple product. Meanwhile, 64.2% of Samsung Galaxy owners claim the same about Samsung. In the fourth quarter of 2015, 30% of new iPhone purchases were by customers switching from Samsung to Apple.

Restaurant Chick-Fil-A
Source: Wikimedia Commons

2. Chick-fil-A
> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 48.9%

Nearly half of survey respondents consider Chik-fil-A to have excellent customer service, the second largest share of any major company. The restaurant chain employs a number of strategies to ensure quality customer service. Chick-fil-A spends more than $1 million each year in evaluating its service and honing the four elements the company believes are important for customer retention: taste, speed, cleanliness, and courteousness. Intended to create a more personal experience, employees end transactions with the phrase, “It’s my pleasure,” instead of “thanks,” or “you’re welcome.” When a new store opens, Chick-fil-A invites regulars from nearby locations and other Chick-fil-A fans to a free dinner before the grand opening. The restaurant also gives these customers 10 free meal coupons and asks them to spread the word about the new store.

High customer satisfaction has helped Chick-fil-A become incredibly popular in the past few years with current annual sales nearly double what they were in 2009. The average store earns roughly $4.2 million each year — more than McDonald’s, Starbucks, or Subway — despite doing business only six days a week.

Amazon.com
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1. Amazon  (NASDAQ: AMZN)
> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 61.2%

Amazon is again the No. 1 company on the Customer Service Hall of Fame, with 61.2% of survey respondents reporting an excellent experience. A sign of the changing consumer landscape, there are few, if any, customer-facing Amazon locations. While this is not necessarily an advantage in terms of customer service, it means unlike other retailers, Amazon is not associated with long lines or interactions with employees.

Amazon’s highly praised customer service is likely a reflection of its priorities. Recently, the Internet retailer has put customers before profits. While Amazon was profitable in 2015, it lost money in 2014. Amazon’s business model is frequently described as providing a wide variety of merchandise at a low-cost with an emphasis on convenience — all to preserve customer loyalty. The first of the company’s guiding core principles is: “customer obsession rather than competitor focus.”