The definition of service is “work done for others as an occupation or business.” We would agree with this basic tenet, but the idea of service goes much, much deeper than this simple concept. Service is really the foundation for business growth, competitive differentiation, success and prosperity. It’s really about going that extra distance – whether expected to or not – to please customers and clients.
Of course, there are different degrees of service. Some companies claim that they focus on stellar service, but never really deliver. While other organizations both talk the talk and walk the walk.
Following are companies that we believe are true pioneers in service.
- Nordstrom: Since 1901, national clothing and show retailer Nordstrom has stuck by the unchanged philosophy that the key to success is to offer the customer the best possible service, selection, quality and value. Nordstrom is so renowned for its customer service that it actually had a book written about it called “The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence: A Handbook For Implementing Great Service in Your Organization.”
- Marriott International: The Fortune 500 global pioneer in lodging has a long history for providing top-notch service. The company trains its administrative assistants to step in as banquet servers, and one time a Marriott associate literally gave the pants off his legs to a customer. On a personal note, I checked into a Marriott hotel for a three-day business trip that was ultimately cancelled three hours after I arrived. Rather than being charged for one night (when I was only in the room for three hours), they did not charge me anything upon check out.
- Southwest Airlines: From devising a foolproof system for easily and quickly boarding passengers to training all of their flight attendants to add a bit of fun during flights, Southwest is rightly known for providing excellent service. For example, the airline once offered two free roundtrip vouchers to passengers who were stuck during a 5-hour de-icing delay. Most airlines leave passengers hanging whenever there is a weather issue – not Southwest.
- L.L. Bean: According to a Bloomberg/Business Week Survey, catalog/Internet retailer L.L. Bean was ranked number one in customer service because of its lenient returns policy, inexpensive outdoor gear and clothing, and the fast responses from its Maine call centers. Bean also offers free shipping to its credit-card holders, including free returns. When the company closed a call center, it offered the displaced employees the opportunity to work from home.
From giving a hotel guest a pair of pants for an important business meeting to giving away free flight vouchers, all of these companies stand out for one simple reason: they go above and beyond to meet and exceed customers’ needs.
In addition, many of these companies use the web to differentiate their businesses, as well as offer information and tools to better serve their customers. As information technology serves as a major enabler for allowing firms to gain competitive advantages with their business processes, it ultimately also allows them to offer top-notch customer service.
These iconic companies are breaking new boundaries in terms of service. At NetLink Resource Group, we strive to be as service-oriented as these companies.
Posted by: Diann Turner, Director, Business Development, NetLink Resource Group