Recently, we discussed the importance of creating a customer service experience that builds your brand.
After reading that post, you may be wondering: What does this look like in practice?
To answer this question, we turned to the world’s best customer service companies to find out:
- Which companies provide the best experience?
- What are they getting right?
- And, more importantly, what are they doing differently?
In analyzing the mountain of surveys, studies and lists designed to rank which companies are excelling at customer service, several stood out. Big time.
There’s definitely a lot to learn from these successful brands, and we uncovered some concrete takeaways that can be applied within your own organization. To start, we turned to one of the most widely recognized systems for scoring customer service in the US.
2 top customer service companies according to ACSI
While many analysts have talked at length about what makes for outstanding customer service, one ranking system is widely viewed as the most definitive: the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).
Typically, ACSI ranks companies for customer service within each industry. But recently, researchers were convinced to create a list of the best customer service companies across all industries.
It’s a fascinating compilation. One that helps answer a lot of big questions.
How, for instance, did a small German grocery chain grow to captivate a global cult following? And what led a small independent market to sell more per square footage than competitors more than twice its size—even though it has no online store or loyalty program?
Turns out, you can find the answers to these questions just by examining one or two customer service methods at each of these brands. Let’s take a look right now.
Few brick-and-mortar stores—and even fewer grocers—are a destination in and of themselves. Many of the world’s most recognized chains rely heavily on predictive analytics firms to help decide which intersections and shopping centers will bring in the most foot traffic.
Not so at Trader Joe’s. This is a store that people drive to, rather than treating it as a stop on their ways home from work. Customers who are lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s in their neighborhood consider themselves blessed; those who don’t pine for it.
It’s no surprise, then, that Trader Joe’s consistently takes a top spot in ACSI’s supermarket segment.
Customers consistently rave about the stores’ attentive employees and exceptional service. Which is kind of crazy, since salaries aren’t anything to write home about. According to PayScale, Trader Joe’s employees earn an average of $16.90, compared to $16.79 for the industry at large.
So what is it that makes the service at Trader Joe’s so meaningful and memorable?
The secret to brand’s success can be summed up in two words: Employee experience.
Trader Joe’s service is so consistent because it invests so heavily in empowering its employees and advancing their careers. Nearly eight in ten supervisors started out as entry-level staff, and 100% of store managers were promoted from manager roles.
Meanwhile “crew members,” as Trader Joe’s call its employees, are given the freedom and flexibility to interact with customers as they see fit. As one staffer described it:
“As long as I make sure the customer is having a great time, and I’m emphasizing Trader Joe’s values, I can talk to people about whatever I want.”
To cap it all off, the chain has been named a best place to work by Glassdoor and Forbes. And that’s no small achievement. Studies have shown that companies with high levels of employee engagement are as much as 22% more profitable than companies with unhappy and disengaged employees.
Key takeaway: Invest in your employees and take pains to set them up for success. When you take care of your people, they’ll take care of your customers.
Trader Joe’s may have captured the hearts of Americans, but worldwide the glory goes to its affiliate and predecessor, ALDI.
ALDI has frequently been called the world’s best grocery chain. An estimated 90% of Germans shop at ALDI, where the company is based, and it’s developed a huge cult following at nearly 12,000 stores around the world. Customers love it so much that they frequently share tips and tricks on how to best shop its shelves.
So, what is it that has made the brand so beloved?
On the surface, many of the company’s most defining characteristics might seem counterintuitive to the customer experience. No one bags groceries for you, and the only way to get a shopping cart is to deposit a quarter into a mechanism that keeps them secured to each other. There’s only one or two options for each item, most of them generic brands.
But look a little deeper, and it becomes clear that these practices are exactly what keep people coming back again and again.
There’s no paradox of choice—caused when an overwhelming number of options paralyzes people into a decision to buy nothing at all. Fast shopping is matched by ultra-fast checkout lanes, where easy-to-scan items keep lines moving. And those generic brands? They earned the company more than 200 private label brand awards and are widely viewed as the crux of the customer experience when shopping in-store.
Even in England, where ALDI was once predicted to fail in the face of established grocers and a cultural predilection for sophisticated shopping, nearly two-thirds of households now visit stores regularly.
The company website explains the philosophies behind ALDI’s customer service: “For over 40 years, ALDI has stuck to the same guiding principle: Great quality shouldn’t come at a high price.” The company describes its no-frills grocery shopping experience as one that “focuses on customers first…[with] responsive customer service, everyday low prices and a quick-and-easy shopping experience.”
Key takeaway: It pays to pay attention to what your customers actually need—and not just what the market suggests will make for a memorable customer service experience.
There are a lot of great lessons to learn from these two companies alone, and there are big payoffs for companies that take the key takeaways to heart. With more than 80% of customers willing to pay more for a better experience, even incremental improvements to customer service can have a big impact.
Would you like to get more ideas you can use to improve your customer experience? Stay tuned! We’ll be exploring the best practices from several more top customer service companies in upcoming posts.