Customer service is the heartbeat of your company. Your agents are the warriors on the front-lines. They spring into action at the whim of your customers, vying to answer questions, fix issues, and give each person a memorable experience.
You and your agents know that negative customer service experiences are spewed across social media sites and then chatted about at family gatherings, while positive experiences are touted with rave reviews and uplifting stories at company parties. There’s a link between positive customer service experiences and spikes in company revenue, customer loyalty, and upbeat customer sentiment about your brand.
When a company gives customers outstanding experiences at every stage in their journey, that impact reaches beyond those customer interactions. Employees feel the impact and importance of constantly serving up positivity. And, communities rally around companies who boast high-quality customer service. Industry mavens give awards to companies with stellar service. Plus, once a company tops the list, that culture of proactive customer service radiates and continues to shine for years.
Companies who consistently exude positivity and get on the map for award-winning service have a few standard values in common. But, there’s one ever-so-important linking factor between this year’s top companies in customer service. A commitment to building personal and emotional connections.
The Temkin Group released their 2018 experience ratings of companies with the best and worst customer experience in the US. The scores, collected through customer feedback, are driven by the level of service companies offer their customers, their employees, and their communities.
Customers rated more than 300 companies on three factors surrounding their experience:
- Success: How well do experiences meet customers’ needs?
- Effort: How easy is it for customers to do what they want to do?
- Emotion: How do customers feel about the experiences?
In general, supermarkets top the list for experience ratings with nearly excellent experiences across the board, while TV and Internet service providers rank lowest. TV and Internet service providers are known for long (I mean LONG) customer service hold times, and for pushing additional services for sale rather than focusing on the needs of the customer. On the flip side, grocery stores are constantly reworking their customer experiences and service initiatives to keep up with the changing needs of customers, like offering delivery options, curbside pickup for the busy shopper, and even scan-as-you-go checkout options.
Let’s dive in to the top five companies on Temkin’s list. We’re boiling down their strategies to show you how people-centric visions and customer-focused transformations put these brands on top.
Wegmans is a privately-held company with 127 locations and 47,916 employees. They top Temkin’s list with a score of 86 percent.
This supermarket chain creates an emotional connection with customers from their mission statement down to their commitment to social good and employee well-being. Wegman’s exists to help families live healthier, better lives through food. Their mission isn’t about being a leading company in the supermarket space, it’s about serving people.
Wegmans offers employees tuition assistance programs and gives them tons of opportunities to advance their careers. Meanwhile, customers share positive sentiment about their shopping experiences. They even gave special shoutouts to the friendly and helpful employees in the stores.
All those people-centric values also just scored the company another top seat on the newly-minted Societal ROI Index. It’s a way of measuring ROI beyond just standard dollar signs. The Societal ROI Index looks at a company’s performance in three categories: visible values, civic minds, and ethical stewards. Summed up, those values are about a company’s commitment to community and social issues, to taking care of and rewarding employees, and to a leadership team with impeccable ethical standards.
Tied with H-E-B, Publix, and Subway with a rank of 83 percent, Citizens Financial Group took home silver on Temkin’s list. This bank has 1,150 branches in 11 states throughout New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest.
Citizens’ vision is to be a top-performing bank distinguished by its customer-centric culture and a mindset of continuous improvement and excellent capabilities.
They have a clear dedication to expanding services to benefit their customers and the communities where they bank. And they boast a contact center with 24/7 service for their customers, a rarity in the banking industry. The extended service hours Citizens provides shows their commitment to quality, consistent service for their customers, upholding the customer-centric vision they define.
Stepping beyond just the customers who bank with them, Citizens makes strides to connect with their entire community. They allow employees to volunteer during work hours. And, they encourage personal, charitable giving by matching any donations their employees make. Plus, they spread the word about financial literacy and work to educate community members of all income levels about how to become financially independent.
H-E-B is a privately-owned grocery store with over $21 billion in revenue. They have more than 80,000 employees who the company affectionately calls their “partners.”
As one of the four companies tied for second place, H-E-B also scored an 83 percent on Temkin’s list.
No surprise, H-E-B puts their people at the heart of everything they do. And their tagline represents this all too well: “We’re in the people business. We just happen to sell groceries.” Their core values are: service, heart, drive, innovation, commitment, and community. They’re constantly thinking up new ways to serve their customers. Like scan-as-you-go stations in their stores where customers can skip checkout lines.
And, they’re wild about the employees who make up the company. Scour their website, and you’ll find dozens of stories about employees and why they love their jobs. Tiny nuances on their website, like filtering and searching for jobs by viewing people and their real, career stories, show that H-E-B values their employees’ experiences. They share real-life employee stories instead of neatly-crafted, stock job descriptions to lure in a new crop of workers.
Along with their customer innovation and employee focus, H-E-B has a serious commitment to their community, too. In fact, this year they’re nominated for a Shorty Social Good Award in the category of Best Real Time Response, commending their response and disaster relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Employees took point on leading these initiatives. They went above and beyond to stock Disaster Relief Units and reach customers and community members through any available channel they could find.
Also tied for second with Citizens Financial, H-E-B, and Subway, Publix Super Markets Inc., has 1,170 locations and $3.4 billion in revenue and is headquartered in Lakeland, Fla. This grocer is the nation’s largest employee-owned company.
They keenly focus on human satisfaction, from their customers to their employees.
“Our mission at Publix is to be the premier quality food retailer in the world. To that end, we commit to being passionately focused on customer value, intolerant of waste, dedicated to the dignity, value and employment security of our associates, devoted to the highest standards of stewardship for our stockholders, involved as responsible citizens in our communities.”
Their commitment to employee well-being is what consistently adds them to the country’s lists of best places to work, too. Publix grabbed the number two spot in Fortune’s 2018 Best Workplaces in Retail list. Employees mention the care and support they get as human beings, not just as human resources.
“They actually care about your life outside of work- your short- and long-term goals, beliefs, your family, your struggles and successes. We aren’t treated like work robots with one sole purpose, we are treated with great respect and appreciation.”
That dedication to their employees has permeated through their stores and into the service the customers receive. It’s no surprise, the company has also snagged dozens of customer service accolades while they work to find ways to delight their shoppers.
Subway is a privately-held fast-food franchise with more than 42,000 franchise locations worldwide, and they’re the fourth and final company tied for silver on Temkin’s list.
Through the last few years, Subway has put intention into transforming the way they do business and to meet customers where they are.
Fast-casual restaurant sales are trending down and more Americans are opting to eat at home. Because of this, Subway shifted their customer mentality to fit these changing needs. Their key focus now is adapting to put their customers’ needs and interests back at the heart of the business. On their 53rd anniversary back in September, the company announced a revamp of 9,000 franchise locations. Their new aim is to better suit today’s current customers. And, they’re also partnering with delivery services, like UberEats and Grubhub, to give customers delivery options, too.
Committing to a renovation of thousands of locations shows an above-and-beyond customer-centric focus. Not to mention their added effort to create more emotional connections with people in their community. Their blog now delivers articles on reducing food waste and the best food banks to drop off donations. Plus, Subway is stepping in and contributing to hurricane relief efforts, too. In 2017 alone, they donated 100,000+ sandwiches to disaster relief efforts.
Building personal connections drives positive experiences.
If you’re looking for ways to up your customer experience and dive into the hearts of today’s consumers, follow the example these companies mapped out. Take inventory of areas where you can shift your focus away from profits and more on people. Because with positive experiences for people – your employees, your customers, and your community – come the rewards of a booming business.
There’s no secret behind these companies’ success. They succeed because they center their business around people. And because of that, their employees feel respected. They put their customers on a well-deserved pedestal. And, they create a true, emotional connection with the people in the communities where they live.