For most people, good customer service is an expectation. At the bare minimum, customers expect their questions to be answered and any issues to be resolved quickly. That’s the default.
When you meet these expectations as a business, you’re providing good customer service, sure, but it’s nothing to really write home about. It won’t make you stand out. So how do you stand out?
You turn good customer service into great customer service by adding a human touch and a sprinkle of compassion to all your customer interactions.
Yes, the relationship between a company and a customer is a business exchange at its core. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be more personal. Customers are people first—and treating them that way is a great way to exceed their expectations, leaving them feeling great about their interaction with your company.
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But what does the company get out of it?
For one thing, you’ll feel great to have helped someone! It’s heartwarming, and that’s why people love reading and sharing these remarkable customer service stories. But if those warm and fuzzy feelings of charity aren’t doing it for you, there’s also the other thing.
Your business will look good.
By going above and beyond what customers are just asking for, you’re taking their customer experience up quite a few notches. And whether it’s B2C (business-to-consumer) or B2B (business-to-business) customer service, the better their customer experience is, the more likely they are to share the story with others—both online and through word-of-mouth. Every time the story is shared, it’s free marketing for your brand.
Most of the time, customer service stories (and their cousins, customer success stories) are shared on social media—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. But there are plenty of other places online where people are talking about your brand that you might not come across as easily. Places like Reddit, personal blogs, and Quora, for example. (Phones are still a common channel for customers, but online customer service is quickly catching up.)
We’ve gone through and gathered a few stories of great customer service—and what businesses can learn from them:
- Target employee helps teen tie a tie and prep for a job interview
- Southwest Airlines rescues a forgotten bridesmaid dress
- Gaylord Opryland gives guest a hotel-exclusive clock radio
- Sainsbury’s takes advice from a three-year-old
- H&M employee creates a makeshift prayer room
- Morton’s delivers a surprise steak
Let’s get into what great customer service stories look like.
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1. Target employee helps teen tie a tie and prep for a job interview
We can all remember how nerve-racking our first few job interviews were. One teen in Raleigh, North Carolina1 wanted to make sure he made the best first impression possible.
Before his job interview, he stopped by Target to pick up a clip-on tie. He asked an employee for help, but it turned out that the store only sold regular ties.
Rather than leave it at that, the employee offered to show the young man how to tie a tie. From there, they practiced a few handshakes and went over some mock interview questions.
When the teen went to leave the store, he was met with supportive cheers from other Target employees.
A shopper named Audrey saw their exchange and snapped a quick photo, later posting it on Facebook.
People were touched by the story. A customer who had been in the store at the time commented on the photo, “This picture cannot convey the warmth and kindness in their voices as they worked with him.”
It clearly resonated with a lot of people—the Facebook post has over 54,000 likes and almost 5,000 shares.
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Hire people who have not only good customer service skills, but also the kinds of qualities you’d like to represent your company and your brand. The Target employee could have easily just helped the teen by taking him to the tie section and left it at that. And that would have been perfectly good customer service.
Instead, he took the extra time to go beyond what was being asked of him. Not only did he (and the other supportive employees) make this young man’s day, he made Target look good.
2. Southwest Airlines rescues a forgotten bridesmaid dress
Imagine you just landed in Costa Rica for your sister’s wedding, excited to celebrate the big day as a bridesmaid. But then you realize you forgot your bridesmaid dress back home in Texas!
That’s what happened to Grayleigh Oppermann.2
Understandably, she began to panic and reached out to her friends Rachel and Taylor to see if they could help her ship the dress over in time for the wedding.
First, Rachel went to FedEx but they told her they wouldn’t be able to get the dress to Costa Rica before the wedding due to customs. So, she turned to Facebook. She posted in a local Facebook group to see if anyone was traveling to Costa Rica soon and could take the dress along with them. No luck there either.
As a last resort, Taylor reached out to Southwest Airlines on Twitter after seeing they had a flight to Costa Rica the next morning. She tweeted pleading for help, throwing in #WorthATry for good measure.
And it worked!
The next morning, Taylor met up with a representative from Southwest Airlines for the dress handover. From that point on, the airline kept everyone updated every step of the way:
They even added a dress tracker so that Grayleigh, the bride, and everyone else could follow along:
Southwest even added a special flight tag in their system—#RescueTheDress.
When the flight landed, Grayleigh was finally reunited with her dress:
What a relief! Southwest really did save the day.
The best customer service teamwork happens across departments and works even if you have a remote support team—and this story is a great example of that. To save the day, multiple teams at Southwest Airlines had to be able to communicate effectively and efficiently, including the social media team, the customer service managers, the cabin crew, and the flight operators. They put communication channels and processes in place (and it helps too to have good customer service apps) to keep everyone connected, so that when something does suddenly happen, everyone is ready to go.
A collaboration-focused communication tool like RingCentral can come in handy here to help your team communicate with each other in real time. You can be on a call while messaging another team member and file sharing, all in one place:
3. Gaylord Opryland gives guest a hotel-exclusive clock radio
Christina McMenemy had stayed at the Gaylord Opryland resort three years in a row3 for the annual BlissDom conference.
On her first visit, she noticed lovely, relaxing music playing in her hotel room when she first walked in. It sounded like something you’d hear in a high-end spa. She realized it was coming from the clock radio that doubled as a sound machine.
Throughout the weekend, Christina noticed how relaxed she felt when the music was playing. It was the best sleep she’d had in ages!
She loved that clock radio. So before she checked out, she asked the hotel where she could buy one for herself.
Unfortunately the hotel didn’t sell them, but they gave her the model number and said she could find one in any store. She took that model number from store to store for two years but could never find one that had the spa sounds. It was looking like the clock radio she wanted was a hotel-exclusive.
During her third stay at the resort, Christina had just about given up hope but decided to try her luck on Twitter. Here’s how it went:
So that was that. Christina had officially given up.
She spent the evening at the conference closing party and came back to her room for the night. To her surprise, she found a second clock radio sitting on the dresser and an envelope with her name on it:
“Christina, Thank you for following us on Twitter. We hope you enjoy these spa sounds at home. If you need anything, please let us know. Sincerely, Elizabeth, Nick & Tori.”
Needless to say, Christina was very excited and appreciated the resort’s kind gesture. “You reaffirmed that there are still companies out there focused on great service, and you’ve made a lifelong fan out of me. And you’re now helping me get some of the best sleep possible, year-round, which any mother will tell you is a feat worthy of high praise.”
Going “above and beyond” for your customers is a commonly discussed customer service best practice—and a great way to increase your customer retention. Why is that important? Because improving your customer retention can directly impact your bottom line in a very positive way. One study showed that just a 5% improvement in customer retention can actually bump profits up by a whopping 25%.4
And if you’re serious about customer retention, you’ll want to keep track of your customer’s relationship with your business. This means having all their relevant details in one place that anyone on your customer service team can access.
For example, RingCentral’s identity merge tool gives you a complete picture of your customer based on their previous interactions with your team. That way, whoever is helping out the customer at any given moment can pull up the customer’s full history and provide a more personalized experience:
Gaylord Opryland recognized a valuable opportunity to turn a longtime customer into a customer for life. And they looked great in the process.
4. Sainsbury’s takes advice from a three-year-old
Sainsbury’s is the go-to supermarket for many families in the United Kingdom. Little Lily Robinson is a part of one of those families, and one day, she had a suggestion to share.5
The three-year-old (well, three and a half to be exact) wrote a letter to the supermarket chain asking them why their patterned loaf is called tiger bread when it should be called giraffe bread.
Sainsbury’s customer manager, Chris King, loved Lily’s idea and wrote back. “Renaming tiger bread giraffe bread is a brilliant idea—it looks much more like the blotches of a giraffe than the stripes on a tiger, doesn’t it?”
He went on to explain how the loaf got its name, saying “It is called tiger bread because the first baker who made it a looong time ago thought it looked stripey like a tiger. Maybe they were a bit silly.”
He included a £3 gift card and signed the letter “Chris King (age 27 & ⅓).”
The heartwarming exchange began trending on Twitter. People were talking about it, but like most of these stories, it eventually died down.
About seven months later, the story re-emerged after it was shared on Facebook, Twitter, and multiple blogs. It was then that Sainbury’s was bombarded with messages from people telling them how much they liked Lily’s idea. And Sainsbury’s listened.
“In response to overwhelming customer feedback that our tiger bread has more resemblance to a giraffe, from today we will be changing our tiger bread to giraffe bread and seeing how that goes,” the supermarket said:
Now that’s a great example of customer collaboration.
It’s hard not to love this story. Why?
Chris King really connected with the customer—in this case, little Lily. Their exchange of letters was more than a service interaction between a company and its customer. It was two people sharing a human moment where they discussed animal prints on a loaf of bread.
This is a perfect example of why customer service is so important—and what people mean when they say “treat your customers like people first.”
We’d venture to say that you should give your employees the freedom to be people first, too.
As a byproduct, Chris helped Sainsbury’s, a massive supermarket chain, look friendly and approachable. And they built upon that even further when they actually changed the name of the bread. They proved that they actually do listen to their customers.
It might seem trivial because it was just the name of a bread loaf, but little things like that can make a major impact when it comes to how people perceive your brand and what they associate you with.
5. H&M employee creates a makeshift prayer room
In a customer service appreciation post on Reddit6, one user shared a touching story about a time when they were shopping with a Muslim friend at H&M in Indiana:
They end the story appreciating the inclusive and positive nature of the team at H&M.
Hire a diverse staff. It’s clear from this story that these customers felt comfortable in their local H&M because of the body-positive and diverse staff.
A diverse staff is also more likely to understand customer needs. Whether that’s finding the right pair of jeans for a short but curvy body or setting up a makeshift prayer room as a kind gesture. It makes for a better customer experience overall.
At the same time, hiring a diverse staff shows your company’s commitment to inclusivity. Even though appearances shouldn’t be the main reason to do it, the reality is that it does make companies look better.
But most importantly of all, you’ll be giving opportunities to marginalized people, and that’s always an all-around great thing.
6. Morton’s delivers a surprise steak
As Peter Shankman7 waited for his flight, he started to get hungrier and hungrier. He realized that if he didn’t eat soon, he’d be stuck hungry for the entire plane ride home.
Not one for fast food, he tweeted to one of his favorite restaurants asking for a delivery as a joke. It was Morton’s, his go-to steak spot:
Peter was a longtime customer of Morton’s and knew they didn’t offer delivery. He really had no expectations when he sent the tweet—it was just a bit of fun.
A few hours later, he was stunned to see a man in a tuxedo walk up to him in the terminal holding a Morton’s bag. Inside the bag was a 24 oz. Porterhouse steak, one order of Colossal Shrimp, a side of potatoes, Morton’s signature bread, two napkins, and silverware.
Once the shock wore off, Peter realized how much had gone into this delivery.
“Morton’s Hackensack is 23.5 miles away from EWR, according to Google Maps. That meant that in just under three hours, someone at Morton’s Corporate had to see my tweet, get authorization to do this stunt, get in touch with Morton’s Hackensack, and place the order. Then Morton’s Hackensack had to cook the order, get it boxed up, and get a server to get in his car, and drive to Newark Airport (never an easy task, no matter where you’re coming from) then, (and this is the part the continues to blow me away,) while all this was happening, track down my flight, where I was landing, and be there when I walked out of security!”
We’re willing to bet it was the tastiest steak Peter had ever had.
You might not be able to go above and beyond for every customer request your company receives, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it at all. Even though Morton’s doesn’t offer delivery, they saw a valuable opportunity to make an impact.
Morton’s strengthened their relationship with an existing customer, went way beyond their customer’s expectations, making it more likely that he’d continue to order from them. In the same move, they made a positive splash as word of the story spread. People who had never heard of Morton’s before knew about it. And we’d bet some of them probably stopped by for a steak of their own.
It’s easy to miss tweets, posts, comments, and messages that come through online when your company has multiple public-facing communication channels. It can definitely get a bit messy. That’s why it’s best to have all your customer communications in one organized place. Something like RingCentral Engage Digital™ can be a game-changer when it comes to connecting quickly and easily with customers across all your digital channels.
Want great customer service stories for your business? Treat your customers like people
In each of these stories, companies and employees took a good customer service experience and turned it into a great one.
All they had to do was remember that ultimately they are people helping out other people. You don’t need a huge budget or a big team either. Many of these customer service stories weren’t that expensive—it just involved a bit of thoughtfulness, a certain degree of autonomy granted to an employee, and sometimes a postage stamp.
What kind of great customer service stories do you want your business to be known for?
Originally published Apr 16, 2020, updated Jul 01, 2022