Customer focussed companies – Businessweek’s list

Businessweek has come out with first ever ranking of the best customer service companies in the US. There are a few things to learn from them. Here’s what I found interesting about these companies:

  • They emphasize employee loyalty as much as customer loyalty, keeping their people happy with generous benefits and perks. Since 1984, No.5 Wegmans has given away $59 million in scholarships to 19,000 employees.
  • Senior management logs hours on the front lines, listening in on phones in the call center or working by staffers’ sides. At No.15 Cabela’s Inc. (CAB ), for instance, Vice-Chairman James W. Cabela spends hours each morning reading through the retailer’s customer comments, and hand-delivering them to each department, circling the issues he’d like to have addressed.
  • Apple’s customer service shows its bruises–device problems frequently erupt just after warranties expire–the in-person support offered at the "Genius Bars" in the electronics maker’s more than 170 stores sets it apart from its peers.
  • Low-cost brokerage firm Vanguard, whose top executives are each trained to man the phones during heavy call periods.
  • Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts (No. 2) has been trying to enhance the check-in process for customers, a service that’s in little need of improvement. "We call it having a healthy paranoia," says Craig Reid, senior vice-president of operations for the Americas. So over the last 18 months the hotel has been quietly extending curbside check-in. It aims in advance to identify customers who’ve stayed at the hotel as infrequently as five times and literally hand them their room keys as they step out of the car.

To me what what was interesting was the passion these brands demonstrate in ‘bringing alive’ the philosophy. The common thread of taking the credo seriously across the company and seeing it through all the way is something all these service brands seem to have done.

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