Case Study: The companies with a gold standard in customer care

Sep 21

Case Study: The companies with a gold standard in customer care

Customer care is an essential part of building a sensational customer experience. Beyond simple complaints handling it reflects the way your agents are enabled to truly care for your customers, every step of the way.

Here are some companies that are winning in this space and lessons we can all learn from them.


Zappos and Southwest Airlines

While you wouldn’t normally put clothing business Zappos and Southwest Airlines together in the same sentence, they share one important customer care philosophy.

Southwest says, “We are a customer service company that happens to fly airplanes.”

Zappos says, “We are a service company that happens to sell shoes.”

Both companies well and truly put customer care front and centre of their mission. So what does this look like in real life? Well, in 2009 a traveller to Las Vegas realised she had forgotten to pack her favourite pair of shoes. She headed to the Zappos website to reorder them. Unable to see the shoes online she called the company’s call centre. They no longer had the shoes in stock, but their headquarters were not far away. The agent located identical shoes at a nearby mall, went there, bought them and hand-delivered them to customer.

Rather than worry about the cost of such an exercise they focused on caring for the customer in their time of need. This generated the business a huge amount of goodwill, social media airplay and media coverage. Not such a costly exercise after all.

Another excellent example is from Southwest Airline. Another traveller arrived at her destination to find her luggage has been damaged en route. Frustrated she headed straight to the customer service. Southwest offered, on the spot, to either repair the case or replace it with a brand new piece. Right there. It turned out that Southwest had a room full of new luggage for just such an situation. Shep Hyken wrote about the incident for CustomerThink, “What started out as a moment of misery turned into my favorite customer service experience: a moment of magic.”


What we can learn from Zappos and Southwest:

Putting the customer first doesn’t mean putting yourself last. Outstanding customer care can be a powerful tool for brand building and awareness.



Amazon is the hungry beast that has local retailers running scared. And rightly so. Not just because of their size but because of the quality of their customer services. Amazon uses an omnichannel customer service system meaning customers can contact them whenever and wherever they want for a no questions asked refund.

In store they are implementing an app which means customers can simply select the items they want to buy and walk out the door, taking self-service to the next level.


What we can learn from Amazon:

Amazon is always looking at ways to make things easy for customers, whether it’s online or in store. While not all of us can afford to have no questions asked refunds on purchased items, there is always a way to make customer interactions effortless.



Putting staff first can actually mean putting customers first.

Insurance company, AAMI, pitches its brand as “not-very-insurancey”. They don’t want to be thought of as just-another-we-don’t-care-insurer, and so they behave differently.

AAMI knew that 80% of their call centre agents were parents and decided to make life easier for them. In a not-very-call-centrey move they encouraged their agents to work from home.

This allows parents to work flexibly – during school hours, in the evenings or even when children are home sick.


What we can learn from AAMI:

In a recent interview with Fairfax, AAMI head of distribution said that by putting the needs of their employees first, “Employee engagement is improved, customer experience is better if not the same, and turn-off and absenteeism is improved,” Retention rates were also higher than the industry average.



Apple’s genius bar is famous. As the world of online forums, chat bots and AI becomes all pervasive, the genius bar is a refreshingly human place to find assistance when technology fails.

From start to finish the process is friendly and customer focused. You have an appointment, you’re greeted at the door, you’re shown somewhere comfortable to sit, your problem is seen to and the genius in charge of your issue will not stop trying until it is fixed.

There is a collective sigh of relief from customers when their problem becomes a shared problem.

Part of the success of the program is the insane knowledge of the geniuses. They are just that. They are passionate tech-heads with a love of Apple and the ability to speak ‘human’.

Apple’s hiring process is long and in-depth with multiple rounds of one-on-one and group interviews and tests.



What we can learn from Apple:

Getting the right people for the job pays off. Apple has the highest sales per square foot of any retailer in the US; more than $5,000 per square foot per year.



Sometimes you need to get creative to win a customer over.

A helpdesk agent at hosting and cloud computing company, Rackspace, was on a marathon call to a customer, troubleshooting a connectivity issue. During the call the agent overheard the customer tell someone in the background they were getting hungry. Then agent put the customer briefly on hold and ordered them a pizza. Half an hour later, while they were still trying to resolve the issue the doorbell rang and the customer was thrilled to find dinner had been delivered!


What we can learn from Rackspace:

This example shows just what an impact a call centre agent can have on the customer experience when they’re enabled, by the business, to be creative and empathetic. And it also helps first call resolution rates!

All those companies kicking goals in customer care space have two things in common – the customer is never seen as a burden and the businesses put faith (and training) in their staff to deliver exceptional service as promised.