“Wow.” That three-letter word is one of the most meaningful and rewarding things you can hear from a customer or client. It reflects the amazement someone feels when your customer service exceeds their expectations—when your business
truly connects with them.
And those “wows” could be the key to your business’s growth. After all, customer service is the number one differentiator between brands. You’re more likely to attract and retain business if you can provide a better experience for your customers than your competitors can. People will even pay more for a superior customer experience.
At Ruby, we’ve invented a word for this phenomenon: wowism. It’s one of the reasons we’re more than an answering service. We don’t just answer; we create wow-worthy experiences.
To us, wowism means…
- Going above and beyond
- Anticipating customers’ needs
- Providing solutions before we’re asked
- Creating experiences people remember (in a good way)
- Making personal connections
But what does wow-worthy customer service look like in the real world? We’ve shared our own stories here plenty of times before. Today, we’d like to shout out some of the other businesses that have built their brands by elevating their customers’ experiences and wowing the people they serve.
6 examples of companies providing wow-worthy customer service
Nordstrom is well-known in the retail world for its generous return policy and world-class customer service. Take the legend of the man who returned snow tires to Nordstrom and got a refund—
despite the fact that Nordstrom doesn’t sell tires. (According the story, the shop where the man had bought them had gone out of business, and a Nordstrom store had popped up in the same location.)
At first blush, this sounds like an ill-advised business decision. Snow tires are expensive, and there would be no way the store could resell them. But if the legend is true, it was a shrewd move in shaping the public’s perception of the company. The snow tires were allegedly returned in 1975, and here we are, five decades years later, still talking about them.
It’s one example of how Nordstrom’s remarkable culture—a culture that centers customers and empowers employees to use their best judgment to serve them—continues to pay dividends.
Wow-worthy customer service doesn’t have to be a luxury, as the bargain-driven supermarket chain Costco demonstrates every day. You probably know that Costco offers great deals, but did you know that the stores will take pretty much any returns (with a few exceptions), even if a purchase was months or years ago, and you don’t have a receipt? Yup.
Notice a recurring theme here? Great customer service isn’t just about a positive initial experience, but also a willingness to
make things right when customers aren’t totally happy.
And like Nordstrom, Costco invests in customer service by investing in its employees, paying comparatively high starting wages and offering some pretty choice benefits. As a result, the company sees low rates of turnover, avoids excessive training and overhead costs, and ensures customers can get help from knowledgeable, experienced team members. I guess none of this should come as a surprise—anywhere with literal buckets of mac and cheese has to be a magical place.
3–5. JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, & Southwest Airlines
For the past few decades, three airlines have been competing to provide the most wow-worthy customer experiences.
JetBlue has been on a mission “to bring humanity back to air travel” by delivering personalized customer service and encouraging all crewmembers to do what’s right for customers at every opportunity.
Alaska Airlines, meanwhile, has been wowing customers by anticipating their needs, gathering their feedback, offering tons of in-flight options, and providing friendly and responsive service over the phone and other channels.
For my money, however, no airline’s customer experience can compare to Southwest’s. Story after story exemplifies the extraordinary lengths Southwest employees will go to to serve their customers. Take this story about a pilot personally delaying a flight for a grieving passenger. Or this story about an employee who dropped everything to save the life of a passenger’s wounded guide dog. Or this story about employees who not only allowed a passenger to check her pool noodle, but gifted her a hand-decorated one of their own—and then filled the baggage claim with pool toys to show their love for her.
Patagonia takes a different approach to providing wow-worthy customer service. The brand is known for its forward-thinking stance on sustainability and climate change, attracting a loyal customer base that shares its values. It also offers plenty of concrete ways customers can extend the lives of their purchases. For instance, through its Worn Wear program, Patagonia repairs customers’ products and teaches them how to repair gear themselves.
And then there’s the company’s donation initiatives, environmental activism, and internal campaigns such as Zero Waste Week. These programs not only empower customers and employees but prove that
Patagonia’s commitment to sustainability is genuine rather than an easy marketing strategy.
Lessons from companies with wow-worthy customer service
What can you learn from the Nordstroms, Patagonias, Costcos, and Southwests of the customer service world? Here are a few takeaways:
1. Focus on creating great experiences for your customers. Whether you offer a product for sale or are service-oriented, make sure doing business with you is an enjoyable experience.
2. Invest in and empower your employees. To hire and retain great people, offer them competitive pay and benefits, then allow them the freedom they need to be creative in solving problems and offering solutions.
3. Commit and deliver. Let customers know that if things go wrong or don’t meet expectations after the initial transaction, you’re ready and willing to make things right.
4. Listen and learn. Be open to feedback from customers and employees about how your business can be improved.
5. Prioritize long-term customer loyalty over short-term profit. It may not be profitable in the moment to accept a return or work through a complex problem. However, people remember when they’ve been treated well—and that creates
customers for life.
For more tips and tools to grow your business, check out Ruby’s small business resource hub.