customer experience

By now, we’re all familiar with customer experience horror stories—those viral videos of customer service gone terribly, terribly wrong. The airline passenger dragged from an overbooked flight. The holiday package destroyed by an inept delivery man. The four hours in phone calls required just to cancel your cable subscription.

But, believe it or not, consumers are quite good at recognizing good service, too. In fact, they’re willing to pay more for it—up to 16% more, according to one PwC survey.

So what does a great customer experience look like in 2018?

Here are four excellent examples:

Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s doesn’t deliver groceries, but one company rep changed that policy for an 89-year-old Philly man trapped in his home by a holiday snowstorm. What took this experience above and beyond, was that the clerk even comped the man’s order, too. While Trader Joe’s is already well-known for its fast checkout lines and private label goods, the company prides itself on providing cheerful, thoughtful service to boot. According to Mark Gardiner, author of “Build a Brand Like Trader Joe’s,” store managers hire for attitude, not aptitude. Rather than stocking shelves late at night, they send employees onto the floor at peak times. Why? Because that fosters positive interactions with customers. Lesson: The primary goals of customer-service interactions are not simply resolution and speed. Connection is also primary.


The life of a soldier is very different from that of a civilian—and the people who run USAA never forget that when interacting with the 12 million servicemen and women who make up their customer base. Call center reps greet bank members by military rank, using the phonetic alphabet—Alpha, Bravo, Charlie—to communicate clearly. More to the point, USAA understands that ATMs are not a viable option when you’re deployed in Iraq. And so it foregoes local branches in favor of mobile technology to grant 24/7 access to its services. Need to deposit a check from overseas? Simply scan it with an app on your phone. Lesson: The prime directive of technological change should be customer service, not company savings.

Dollar Shave Club

Low-cost razor blades are great, but it’s the spirited, humorous customer service that truly endears this monthly subscription service to its 3.2 million members. Dollar Shave Club’s agents cheerfully engage with the public any time, anywhere—answering phones, responding to emails, conducting online chats, and replying to social media inquiries, even taking up Rubik’s Cube challenges tossed out by playful fans. They’ve been known to make sweet gestures, too. When one woman complained she couldn’t see her toes because she was pregnant with twins, she received baby books and a pedicure set in the mail. Lesson: The best customer-service reps are empowered customer service reps.


“Everyone is family.” That’s the perspective the retailer instills in its employees. If there’s a way to make life better for shoppers, give it a try. On one level, that means hiring resourceful people and empowering them to solve issues—no questions asked. On another, it involves investment in technology that enhances the shopping experience. With that aim, Nordstrom’s has embraced digital customer service tools that let people pay without standing in line, easily purchase items featured on Instagram, and scan their own feet for shoe-sizing. If you and your pals warm to a product on the company’s Pinterest page, it’s likely to be displayed prominently in the store the next time you visit. Lesson: Customer service must be organic, and thus evolve over time with customer expectations and needs.