Learning Customer Service from the Best

Think about the best customer service you ever received. Perhaps it was from an attentive auto parts salesperson that helped you navigate your way to the correct replacement headlights. Or maybe it came from a seamstress who spent her off day (and night) fine-tuning bridesmaid dresses for your wedding.

However it occurred, it made a lasting impression – the kind every small business wants to make with its customers. While there’s no one secret to excellent customer service, there are several things we can learn from some of the top-ranked service providers.

Here are just a few examples your small business can learn from:


They’ve been at or near the top of the customer service satisfaction category for years. For Nordstrom, good customer service boils down to two critical factors:

  • Hiring employees who are smart, likeable and confident (without being cocky)
  • Empowering them with the background and training required to make key decisions

When you think about it, most great customer service experiences occur in the gray area, where judgment calls can make or break a lifelong customer. Here’s just one example of how a Nordstrom’s employee sealed the deal:

A customer had ordered a pair of $200 shoes from Nordstrom. The shoes were delivered to the customer’s doorstep, and an ensuing rainstorm left them ruined. The customer contacted Nordstrom, and although blameless (the delivery service was responsible), the retailer replaced the shoes immediately.

Needless to say, they earned a customer for life that day. And your business can earn lifelong customers by hiring good employees, training them well and empowering them.


The only restaurant named by USA Today in the 2014 Customer Service Hall of Fame, this fast food restaurant has thrived despite controversy surrounding its conservative views on social issues. Having since modified its stance on a variety of issues, Chick-fil-A now focuses on the little things that add up to fantastic customer experiences more often than not:

  • Positivity – employees are trained to respond to customer requests with the enthusiastic phrase “my pleasure.”
  • Transparency – in an effort to show that their meals were being prepared to the highest freshness and safety standards, Chick-fil-A recently began offering customers tours of its kitchens.

It takes conviction to consistently engage patrons positively and confidence to share what goes on behind the ‘employees only’ door. But the results – satisfied customers – more than justify these actions.


Named the top customer service provider in USA Today’s 2014 poll, this online retailer proves that you can still rank high even if you can’t seal the deal with a smile and a handshake. It’s secret? Technology.

Amazon.com makes shopping online ultra-convenient by storing and using key customer data. Repeat visitors to the site might be nudged with a purchase suggestion based on previous visits, similar to what they might experience from a familiar salesperson at a conventional store.

While your business may not have the resources of the leading online retailer, it can excel on the technology front by:

  • Creating a website that’s useful and user friendly – it must be simple, easy to navigate and built to collect important information about the customer’s buying preferences.
  • Using data to enhance the experience – if your online shoppers are buying scarfs and mittens, prompt them before checkout for their interest in stocking caps. If your site isn’t capable, follow up with a personalized email.

Whether you’re selling from an online site or a brick-and-mortar shop, the concept of delivering excellent customer service is the same: Make customers feel welcome, attended to, and, most of all, make the buying experience effortless.

In a marketplace that thrives on competition, customer service is one way to differentiate your business from the field and come out on top.

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