There are two reasons these companies are so top of mind.
The first is that they have made tremendous investments in ensuring that their processes, people, practices and policies are absolutely customer-focused. Customer service isn’t just part of their operating philosophy, it is their operating philosophy.
The second reason they come to be such well-known customer service icons is the marketing they do. Think of any of these brands, and the stories that come to mind – The Nordstrom tire story, the Ritz-Carleton giraffe story, Zappo’s longest call story, etc.
But there are other companies who are equally as good – possibly even better – that we rarely hear about. One that continues to come to mind is Canada’s Home Hardware. This chain of over 1,000 locationscompetes in one of the toughest industry segments in the country, against real heavyweights like Home Depot, Lowes, Canadian Tire and Rona. Home Hardware stores have a considerably smaller footprint and less inventory selection, and yet continue to compete. How? They provide a consistently superior and memorable level of customer service.
I have been to dozens of Home Hardware stores across the country, and have never failed to walk away genuinely delighted with their service levels. Where you can shoot a cannon off in most of the big box stores without danger of hitting an employee, it’s almost impossible to be in a Home Hardware without at least one or two people offering to help. And it almost alwaysgoes beyond just the basic “can I help you?” They ask the right questions to learn about your needs, and will make recommendations to make sure you are buying the right thing.
I can’t count how many times a Home Hardware employee has recommended something different than what I thought I was looking for because it would do a better job, or make my lifeeasier. When they aren’t familiar with something, they don’t try to wing it or just read off of a package, they find someone else in the store who does know (and there always seems to be at least one person who will know).
If Home Hardware has a single transcendent moment like the high profile companies have to boast about in their marketing and social media campaigns, I don’t know it. But they are truly deserving to be in the same category. They are indeed an icon in the world of customer service.