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Jan 23

Secrets of a Customer Service Champion

Last month, Forbes named Wegmans a “customer service champion.” Forbes writer Carmine Gallo praised Wegmans, alongside Apple and Ritz-Carlton, as companies that know the secret to great customer service. And what’s that secret? Empowerment.

To provide excellent customer service, all three companies put the power in the hands of their employees. Sure there are rules and policies dictating employee behavior and decisions, but when it comes down to a customer with a problem, employees get the flexibility and the resources to go above and beyond for their customers.

The resources employees are given can be great. According to Forbes, Ritz-Carlton staff members are given $2,000 every day to serve their customers, whether that means offering free drinks to an unhappy customer or providing a room upgrade at no cost. This may not be exactly what Wegmans is doing – I don’t remember the last time a cashier handed me a flute of bubbly while I waited in an exceptionally long checkout line – but the premise is the same: train your employees well, show them how to treat customers, and then give them freedom to be the best possible customer service providers.

As a customer, this probably seems like a no-brainer. But if you’ve ever worked in the service industry, you know differently. Empowering employees to make decisions and spend company resources – even to break explicit policies – is a huge risk for employers. Employees could easily take advantage – exploiting company resources, ignoring proper procedures and ultimately disenchanting customers.

The key here, Gallo explains, is human resources, and he points to Apple as the leader in hiring and training employees for superior service. Gallo says that in Apple’s magical mix of technical expertise and enchanting customer service, “The secret sauce is the people … how they are hired, trained, motivated and taught to communicate to us, the customer. Nothing is taken for granted. And it starts with the hiring process.”

Gallo explains more in the video below. What other companies should join Wegmans, Apple and the Ritz as customer service champions?