One bad customer service experience can tarnish customers' opinion of a product or a brand indefinitely. But one exceptional experience, on the other hand, can them into loyal brand advocates.
So, how can brands actually earn the loyalty of customers? To answer this question, we've curated a list of B2B and B2C brands that are established as industry leaders -- and that deliver exceptional customer service. But, before we dive into those examples, we need to set a baseline for what "good" customer service is.
What is good customer service?
Good customer service means building relationships with your customers. This can mean you have a rapid response time to service requests, respond to all customer feedback (positive or negative), have self-service help documents, and a frictionless process for getting in touch with support.
In addition to the ones listed above, let's break down the six most common characteristics of good customer service teams.
1. Rapid Response Times
Customers are always looking for fast solutions. In fact, 66% of adults say that the most important thing a company can do is value their time. This means your team needs to focus on efficiency and develop a workflow that streamlines different support functions. Consider adopting a help desk tool to manage and automate a variety of service tasks.
2. Customer Feedback Collection and Analysis
Since customer needs vary from industry to industry, good customer service looks different depending on the type of business you're running. The best customer service teams use feedback collection tools to identify the specific needs of their customer base and create personalized solutions for them.
Rather than assuming you know what your customers want, reach out to them through surveys and interviews to get their perspective on your business. These tools will help your team uncover new opportunities to enhance your products and improve the customer experience.
3. Customer Self-Service
When your customers want to find their own solutions to service problems, they should use self-service resources provided by your business. For example, one of the most common self-service resources is a knowledge base.
Knowledge bases consist of categorized support articles and FAQ pages that supply customers with solutions to common user roadblocks. With more customers wanting to solve problems on their own, self-service tools like these are assets when providing high-quality customer service.
4. Omni-Channel Support
It should be easy for customers to contact your support team, regardless of the medium they're using. Your team should be equipped to respond to incoming service requests via phone, email, social media, live chat, and any other communication channel that your customers prefer. Providing this type of omnichannel experience makes your team more accessible and creates less stressful service interactions.
5. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence refers to your ability to read and react to other people's emotions. This skill is highly valuable in customer service roles because it helps with diffusing difficult customer interactions. Every business experiences a frustrated or upset customer, but the best service teams are able to de-escalate the situation and prevent potential churn. In fact, avoidable churn represents $35.3 billion.
6. Creative Problem Solving
At the end of the day, the best customer service teams solve their customers' problems. They're tenacious and determined to help their customers achieve their goals. In many cases, this requires agents to be creative and come up with unique solutions to customer issues. As you'll see in the examples below, sometimes excellent customer service means finding a solution that falls outside of normal company protocol.
Good Customer Service Examples
- ClusterTruck - Create brand loyalty.
- OhLolly - Ask customers for their opinions.
- AdRoll - Offer self-service options.
- Santa Cruz Bicycles - Adopt customer service tools to ease the pressure on your support team while improving the customer experience.
- Lyft - Stand up for the values that are important to your customers.
- Basecamp - Dedicate time to identify patterns, analyze data, and create processes to work more efficiently.
- Wistia - Create personalized how-to videos and individualized thank-you notes to help customers.
- Glossier - Respond to customer feedback.
- The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company - Empower employees to improve the guest experience.
- Whirlaway Sports - Commit to your customer's goals.
The customer service at ClusterTruck is so seamless, you may not know whether you're troubleshooting with the customer service team or the marketing team — a telltale sign of superior omnichannel support.
The CEO, Chris Baggott, sends regular emails to the ClusterTruck customers. In one of the emails, a HubSpotter noticed she could get a really good deal on her next order, but during the pandemic, she wasn't able to receive delivery in the area where she lived.
The customer service team sprung into action offering her a long list of exact locations she could pick up her order that were as close as possible to her address without leaving the ClusterTruck delivery range. Another customer service rep chimed in with a map that starred the locations for a visual representation of where she could pick up her lunch.
Good Customer Service Takeaway: That marketing email served as a beautiful example where a team could not only engage the customer but delight them, too. ClusterTruck put the flywheel in motion starting by attracting the customer to an offer, engaging them when they had a question, and delighting them with a solution. As a result, the customer sent the email with all of the helpful information to her network who were fans of ClusterTruck but had the same issue. Now that's brand loyalty in action.
Korean beauty brand Ohlolly has made waves in the LA beauty community as a result of their dedication to the customer. The owners describe their business as, "A place where customers were treated like friends."
Customer service is at the forefront of OhLolly's business operations. To make the customer experience more personalized, they've started requesting feedback on the brands they offer. This helps the team curate the perfect selection of beauty solutions for their customers. OhLolly even goes the extra mile to share updates when they restock a beloved brand or add new products to their collection. Our very own HubSpotter, Kassandra Mendes, experienced this first hand:
Good Customer Service Takeaway: This example shows us that a simple gesture to show our customers that we are actively listening to what they tell us can grow brand loyalty far beyond our initial interaction with them. Depending on the size of your business, your team can recreate this interaction fairly easily. When you bring on a new product or service, do a search in your customer service inbox for mentions of it. Then follow up with customers who made the request and let them know it's available. If your company is too large to do this manually, you can export a list of email addresses and upload them into your email marketing system to notify them that way. Either way, the outreach is well worth the reward.
AdRoll helps D2C marketers reach and resonate with their audience by centralizing their marketing and advertising activities in one platform. By spending less time looking for data, marketers who use AdRoll spend more time doing the work that makes the data.
We've mentioned before that one of the tenets of good customer service is self-service support. AdRoll's robust help center begins the user's customer service experience with four options to choose from: an intro into AdRoll, getting started with setting up your AdRoll account, FAQs, and an option to browse by topic. If none of these get you exactly what you're looking for, there's a search bar at the top. Of course, if all those options still leave you lacking, their customer support team is available to help answer your questions. One customer wrote a review about AdRoll on G2 and said this:
The retargeting has helped generate a consistent conversion rate over the last 6 months and their customer service is helpful and super efficient.
Good Customer Service Takeaway: Your customer service team doesn't have to provide round-the-clock live support to be a champion of the customer experience. AdRoll gives us an ideal example of "work smarter, not harder" when it comes to solving customer pain points. With a self-service solution that is easy to navigate, your customers will be just as happy that you saved them a phone call and gave them a tool to find a solution instead.
4. Santa Cruz Bicycles
Santa Cruz Bicycles manufactures and sells high-quality off-road bicycles. Its bikes are known for their high-performance and its customers deeply care about the technology that they're riding.
But, the bike's performance isn't the only feature that Santa Cruz customers love. They're loyal to the company because its service and support teams match the quality of its products. Customers can trust that any problem they have with a bike will be solved swiftly and with excellent service. Kyle Harder, Santa Cruz Rider Support Lead, noted in an interview with HubSpot that,
"What sets us apart as a company is that we want to deal with anyone that owns our product, regardless of where you bought it. If you have an issue with a Santa Cruz Bike and come to us with your issue, we'll help you resolve your issue."
And, Kyle wasn't just talking about problems with the bike. The company is also focused on removing long-term roadblocks from the customer experience.
For example, when the business was first starting out, it experienced a sudden growth. Customers loved the bicycles and the demand for the product rose beyond what Santa Cruz's service team could support. Agents were working tirelessly and the team's email inbox nearly reached capacity.
Recognizing this flaw in its service experience, Santa Cruz adopted customer service tools to aid its support team. Reps started recording data on customer issues and highlighted problems that were most common with their customer base. They created a shared inbox with an email alias so customers could easily contact the support team. They also created a customer feedback loop so they could collect and share customer reviews with the entire organization.
Good Customer Service Takeaway: When your company experiences growth, it can sometimes create unexpected problems that pop up down the road. If these issues are left unchecked, they can become a detriment to the customer experience and halt your business's success.
Santa Cruz recognized a potential flaw and acted immediately. They adopted customer service tools to ease the pressure on their support team while simultaneously improving the customer experience. That way, reps weren't being overworked and had the time and energy to provide excellent customer service.
Additionally, Santa Cruz used its new tools to conduct reporting as well. This allowed the company to maintain high levels of customer satisfaction while its customer base continued to grow. Even though more customers were interacting with the business, each interaction still felt genuine and personalized because of the customer data Santa Cruz had gathered.
Ride-hailing app Lyft succeeds in the customer service space by making its customers proud by putting its money where its mouth is toward values and causes customers truly care about.
For example, Lyft announced its commitment to minimizing the environmental impact of the millions of car rides it provides every day by declaring all of its rides to be carbon neutral, thanks to its voluntary purchase of carbon offsets.
And in 2017, Lyft donated $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in response to the introduction of an executive order that restricted immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries to the United States -- an act majority of Americans opposed. Lyft condemned the executive order, writing in an email to customers:
"Banning people of a particular faith or creed, race or identity, sexuality or ethnicity, from entering the U.S. is antithetical to both Lyft's and our nation's core values. We stand firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community."
Wherever you stand on these important issues, it's undeniable that Lyft's customers care about these topics all over the world. Lyft is doing work that's important to its customers with initiatives like those described above, and Round Up & Donate, its program that lets customers round up the price of their rides and donate the extra change to the charitable organization of their choosing (the ACLU is one cause).
Good Customer Service Takeaway: An important facet of customer service that can be difficult to measure is standing for the values that are important to your customers. Customers take pride in supporting businesses that represent them -- and 70% want to know what businesses are doing to address these issues -- so companies shouldn't be afraid to serve customers in big-picture ways that make them proud to support them, which will encourage them to share and refer their friends and colleagues. Even if you don't have the budget for a $1 million donation like Lyft, getting customers involved with and excited about fundraising and charity partnerships can go a long way towards fostering loyalty.
I recently heard from Kristin Aardsma, who works in customer support at Basecamp. She spoke about Basecamp's customer support team -- more specifically, how the team measured success to reduce employee stress and turnover, and achieve better outcomes for customers.
Part of Basecamp's solution to solving for the customer and reducing employee stress was creating time in the workday for research, innovation, and creativity. To that end, customer support reps spend two hours per day off the phone lines and away from the queue -- and they re-dedicate that time toward other projects. Employees have more opportunities for company-wide impact by collecting research, analyzing data, identifying patterns and trends, and working on projects and processes to achieve better results.
Two hours per day, or 10 hours per week, might sound like a lot, but it paid off for Basecamp. Employees weren't burning out due to overload and stress, and Basecamp wasn't over capacity and unable to solve customer problems because team members were happier.
Good Customer Service Takeaway: Time spent away from the queue isn't time wasted -- so make sure to dedicate time during your week to identifying patterns, analyzing data, and creating processes to work more efficiently. When you're burning through tickets or on the phones non-stop all day, it can be hard to step away, but front-line customer service insights and feedback can help your organization, so make sure to collect and share them.
Our friends over at Wistia -- a video hosting and analytics platform -- believe in the power of video to help tell company stories. And that isn't just restricted to marketing videos and social media content -- Wistia uses videos to provide great customer service, too.
Wistia team members create personalized how-to videos and individualized thank-you notes to help customers and demonstrate how to use different aspects of the software using a visual medium.
It makes sense for a video hosting brand to use videos when helping customers, but it's also helpful for the customers themselves, too. As Harper, a Customer Happiness team member at Wistia says,
When it comes to communicating technical concepts or processes, videos are the best."
"Even if I can explain something clearly with words," he says, "it's totally different to be able to show someone how few steps it takes to get from point A to point B. Realistically, eyes will gloss over a wall of text."
That's how Wistia has seen such success in achieving good customer service -- by showing, rather than telling, customers how to troubleshoot, they can learn more effectively and remember solutions better than reading an email or hopping on a phone call.
Good Customer Service Takeaway: Don't feel restricted to phone calls to provide exceptional customer service. Instead, use technology to deliver support in the medium that makes the most sense. Tools like screenshots, GIFs, and videos can go a long way toward explaining a tricky concept, and they don't need to be fancy to work. Tools like Jing, Awesome Screenshot, LICEcap, QuickTime Player, and even your own smartphone or webcam can be used to create helpful resources customers can refer to again and again.
And, of course, if you're a HubSpot customer, you can integrate with Wistia to create and host video using its neat software.
Skincare and makeup brand Glossier is hailed as an industry disruptor for preaching "skincare first, makeup second," but its customer-centric business model and customer service team are disruptive, too.
CEO and co-founder Emily Weiss explains that she built Glossier around the crowdsourced opinions of real women about the beauty and skincare products they loved -- and the ones they wanted, too. By reading and engaging with readers on her blog and on social media, she built a brand that was about affordable skincare and beauty products that made women feel good to use.
That social media savvy and crowdsourcing prowess hasn't faded from view since Glossier has grown bigger and bigger -- in fact, it's still the guiding philosophy when Glossier brings new products to market, like when it launched its first sunscreen after calls from customers to create a product that wasn't sticky and didn't smell like sunblock. Weiss told Entrepreneur that she received "so many DMs from people on Instagram writing to say, 'Thank you so much for listening; we've been waiting for this moment.'" Most of the products Glossier offers are made vegan and cruelty-free in another example of the brand listening to and immediately implementing customer feedback.
Glossier's customer service department, otherwise known as the gTEAM, are responsible for collecting and responding to customer comments and messages on social media, and creating individualized experiences with each engagement. Perhaps that's why the team is a team within the marketing department, and why they're called "editors" -- because content creation is a big part of Glossier's customer service strategy. With likes, retweets, emoji-decorated DMs, and blog posts, Glossier strives to make each piece of content engaging and authentic to the brand.
For example, here's an email I received from the gTEAM after making one of many recent purchases:
The emails were clearly written by a real person, and they feature analytics and feedback tools to get quantitative numbers to support the qualitative feedback editors receive, too. This simple act of proactive outreach and help was helpful and memorable for me as a customer, and it ensured that Glossier would solve a problem I was having with the product before I got frustrated and complained.
Good Customer Service Takeaway: It's not enough to acknowledge and respond to every piece of incoming customer feedback if you're not listening to what your customers are saying. Make sure you're responding to customer feedback, but also make sure your team is identifying and communicating any recurring trends to your company's leadership and product teams so you're able to consistently meet customer expectations and fulfill their needs.
9. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company
The Ritz-Carlton's service policies are so legendary, stories of satisfied customers have even made it into books -- like this one.
In it, customer experience expert and author John DiJulius describes the story of his stay at a Ritz-Carlton hotel -- when he unknowingly left something behind in his guest room.
I left The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota in such a rush for the airport that I forgot my laptop charger in my room. I planned to call when I got back into my office, but before I could, I received a next-day air package from The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota. In it was my charger, with a note saying, 'Mr. DiJulius, I wanted to make sure we got this to you right away. I am sure you need it, and, just in case, I sent you an extra charger for your laptop." The note was signed by Larry K. Kinney, in Loss Prevention.'"
If this customer service story sounds over-the-top good, it's not. Ritz-Carlton's commitment to exceptional customer service is so strong that any employee is independently authorized to spend up to $2,000 per day to improve guest experience. That's right -- whether an employee works at the reception desk, in the restaurant, or cleaning hotel rooms, they can independently decide to make a guest's experience exceptional -- as was the case in the example above.
In an interview with Forbes, The Ritz-Carlton Group President and COO, Herve Humler, describes the organization's key to making customer service so stellar: employee engagement. Humler noted,
I believe in the power of recognition and empowerment leading to great employee engagement. And employee engagement is critical to guest engagement."
Good Customer Service Takeaway: Employee empowerment is critical to achieving good outcomes for your customers. The first step toward employee empowerment is engagement: Make customer service part of your mission, and make your mission a part of everything your organization does. Then, structure and incentivize your team so employees can work independently to solve customer problems and think creatively.
And if you don't have $2,000 per day in your budget, you can still empower customer service reps with strategies like:
- Measuring qualitative and quantitative feedback, and not just how many cases or tickets they resolve in a given day
- Freeing up employee time off the phones or the queue to conduct research, analyze data, create processes, or work on other projects to have greater impact
- Devote creative or monetary resources to helping employees create moments to delight your customer with handwritten thank-you notes, small swag gifts, or discount codes
10. Whirlaway Sports
Whirlaway Sports is a running apparel and equipment store located in northern Massachusetts. It differentiates itself from competitors through its above-and-beyond customer service experience. And, that's not just my opinion. Facebook and Yelp reviews give it a five out of five-star rating.
Here's why Whirlaway Sports is different. They guide you through every step of the buyer journey. For example, I went there to purchase a pair of running shoes. Another disclaimer: I never purchase running shoes. I'm more of an athlete who begrudgingly chose running. So, when I needed a pair of shoes I went on Yelp and found Whirlaway Sports. The reviews didn't let me down as I was greeted immediately as I walked into the store. I told them I needed shoes and they paired me with one of their running specialists.
This rep knew his stuff. He asked me about my running style, where I ran, how often I would run. Then we talked about price range and brand preferences. They even had a high-tech foot scanner that analyzed my feet to match for potential inserts. It was clear that every step of the experienced was planned and detailed.
And, to really go above-and-beyond, the rep knocked the price down because he knew the shoes I chose were going on sale the following week. He didn't have to mention that, but it was clear he was focused on my goals, not getting me out of the store.
Good Customer Service Takeaway: It doesn't matter if you're a multi-billion-dollar company or a local business, your service should be consistent throughout the entire customer experience. Even though Whirlaway is a small business, they've made their mark by committing to the customer's goals. This, in turn, produces loyal customer advocates who willingly refer new leads to the business.
You're On Your Way to Good Customer Service
Every year, customers change their buying habits, marketing preferences, and so on. One thing that will never change is the customer's need for support and service. Companies should always be thinking about the best way to serve their customers and how they can adapt to meet the moment. Now that you have the tips and best practices for good customer service, apply this information during your next customer interaction.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in July 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.