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Behind every act of amazing customer service is an intangible “KPI”: empathy. Truly connecting with customers on a human level — be it online or offline — is good for your business. But what does providing amazing, empathetic customer service look like? Let’s look at 10 companies that hit it out of the park.
1. Chewy’s response to a grieving pet owner
The online pet food retailer Chewy is so seriously pet-focused that they even include pets in their mission statement. So when a grieving Chewy pet owner contacted support asking for a refund after his dog’s death, the customer service representative’s response was both on-brand and human.
The customer service employee expressed deep condolences, inquired about the dog’s name (Connor), and requested some photos of Connor to share with her office. She also urged the customer to donate the food to a local shelter “on behalf of your furbaby.”
This LinkedIn post received hundreds of comments and thousands of likes, proving that great customer service is a powerful marketing ally. Empower your teams to use empathetic language when talking to customers online. Some examples of empathetic phrases featured in the Chewy response include:
- “rest assured”
- “deeply sorry for your loss”
- “please know everything will be okay”
- “my heart truly goes out to you”
2. Zappos’ 11-hour customer service call
The online shoe retailer Zappos has created a culture of customer-centricity. Their customer service reps are not afraid to have long calls if that’s what their customers need. In two separate instances, Zappos employees clocked in phone calls that went on for more than 10 hours. Asked how that this was even possible, the record-holder, Stephanie Van Hasselt, said the following:
"I don't know, I guess in a weird way, I find talking to my customers kind of therapeutic. If I'm having a great day, I want to share that joy with them or if I'm having a rough day, it's a way for me to get away from the roughness and vent in a fun way …"
Good customer service is just as much about solving problems as it is about building relationships. Zappos knows this and does this well. While many customer service teams are incentivized to resolve issues as quickly as possible, Zappos' team sets itself apart by serving customers no matter how long it takes.
If your business isn’t set up to take 10-hour phone calls on the regular — that’s OK. Start small by offering a 24/7 customer service experience online. This can be relatively simple to do with technology and automation, such as live chat and chatbot tools.
3. UK retailer Next makes special dresses for 6-year-old girl with autism
When a UK woman set out on a Twitter search for a very specific dress, Next delivered. Next contacted its manufacturer to reproduce the three-year-old item, just for Elsie, a 6-year-old girl who lives with autism and only wears a particular Next dress. Next delivered three dresses of varying sizes for Elsie to grow into.
Opportunities to provide amazing customer service might be living on your social media right now. While this wasn’t exactly a customer service issue, kudos to Next for listening to customers in online channels. The company was able to go above and beyond and fulfill a unique request just by being plugged in online.
Not tracking what your customers are saying online? Make sure you’ve got the right tools in place to communicate with your customers in real time, no matter where they are.
4. Toyota donates truck to nurse who rescued fire victims
When nurse Allyn Pierce drove his Toyota Tundra through the Camp Fire to evacuate patients in a California hospital, the last thing he was thinking about was his car. His truck took significant damage - with pictures showing the side mirror twisted and melted from the heat and the side doors scorched to a deep black.
Toyota, recognizing an opportunity to help, chimed in and offered to buy him a new truck.
Gifting a car is an expensive act of customer service, but the long-term payoff here is big: Toyota likely gets a customer for life. The company presented itself in the right place, at the right time, with a very personalized offer.
If giving a car away is outside of your customer service budget, fear not. There are many ways to show customer appreciation on a budget, including creating a loyalty program and sending handwritten thank-you cards.
5. Disney makes terminally ill Star Wars fan’s dream come true
Disney is in the business of making dreams come true on the big screen, but also in real life. In 2015, with just months to live, terminally ill Star Wars fan Daniel Fleetwood’s dying wish was to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens before the movie hit the cinema. The movement gained momentum under the hashtag #ForceForDaniel and the powers that be granted Daniel’s wish.
Find ways to move mountains for your customers. In this case, Disney and Lucasfilms performed an act of customer service that was cinematic in its own right.
6. HomeServe gifts lifetime home repair policy to centenarian
HomeServe, a home emergency repairs business, received a customer request for a policy discount. When the HomeServe employee responding to the request learned that the customer was turning 100, she wanted to do something more. HomeServe gave the customer a free lifetime policy. In addition, the company sent him a birthday card. According to the account, the customer was “blown away by the generosity.”
Good customer service is proactive just as much as it is reactive. In this example, the HomeServe employee proactively sought to create an exceptional experience for just one customer.
7. Hotel employee drives 8 hours to retrieve guest’s forgotten handbag
The Inn at Little Washington knows what it’s like to go the extra mile — or 200 — for a customer. A couple arrived to celebrate an anniversary at the 5-star hotel, and they realized that the woman’s handbag was left at home, which was 8 hours way in Pittsburgh. Without missing a beat, a hotel employee said, “Get me their keys and the address; I’ll be back before dinner.”
“I was floored,” an employee at the time recalled. “No one asked him to do this, and there wasn’t a moment’s hesitation on his part. He was so much a part of the service culture that he just knew the exact right thing to do. He was halfway to Pittsburgh before the lady actually believed that we were really going to get her luggage at her house. He drove eight hours straight and made it back before their dinner reservations at nine.”
Know your business’s level and scope of commitment to customer service, and convey that to your support staff. In this extraordinary act of customer service, the hotel employee knew it would be keeping within the Inn’s culture to grab the keys and go.
8. Virgin Trains is there when nature calls
When you have to go, you have to go. And when there’s no toilet paper left, it’s a bummer. But if this ever happens to you on a Virgin Trains, just tweet out an SOS, like this vlogger did. Virgin Trains replied with a simple question:
Several tweets later, Adam received his fresh roll of toilet paper, delivered personally by a Virgin Trains employee. The company cheekily asked Adam to return the favor.
Sometimes being funny can work well in customer service Despite how unusual this request was, Virgin Trains didn't shy away from helping a customer in need. With a swift response and a sense of humor, Virgin positions itself as a fun, responsive brand — while also helping a customer out.
9. Warby Parker customer reunited with lost glasses
Speaking of trains— if you lose your Warby Parker frames in transit, you might just get them back. When a Warby customer lost his glasses on the train, he didn’t know he was sitting across the Anjali Kumar, the general counsel for the company. The man was reunited with his glasses — two new pairs — and a copy of Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road”, along with the following note:
“Hi Michael, This might be odd... but you sat across from me on the train ride from NYC to Boston a few weeks ago and left your glasses on the train! As luck would have it, I happen to be the GC of Warby Parker, and there is nothing I like more than a good mystery... I hope these find you in good health! (also, we noticed your lenses were scratched so we made you a fresh pair!) Sincerely, AK”
Great customer service doesn’t just fall on the shoulders of your support team members: it’s part of your company’s culture. Determine what your customer service culture is and empower the leaders of your company to bring it to life.
10. Pearson’s Candy Company sends free treat 60 years after complaining
A Minnesota man had a dissatisfying experience with a piece of Pearson candy when he was 14 and it took over 60 years to finally make it right. Dave Bell wrote the company as a teenager disappointed after biting into one of the company’s salted nut rolls. The company apologized for the roll, but Bell really just wanted another candy bar. Decades later, Bell appealed his complaint and, this time, Pearson came through. They sent Bell several different candy bars, including a five-pound salted nut roll.
It’s never too late to provide great customer service. According to the company’s CEO: “We take care of our customers the best we can, his claim was totally legitimate and we decided to send him a little bit of free product to make good on what we did 61 years ago.”
Dare to be empathetic
Amazing customer service experiences are bold acts of creativity. They are human, interpersonal — and they don’t happen by accident. Companies that prioritize customer-centricity will set themselves up to win lifelong customers.