Technology changes, but human nature is perpetual — and there are few things in life and in business that we enjoy more than seeing one person helping another.
Truly remarkable customer service goes beyond fixing bug or handing out discounts. It's about leaving people with a positive memory of your business.
When a flight attendant goes above and beyond for a frightened passenger, or a fry cook helps an elderly man to his car in a rainstorm, you're witnessing something more than “good” customer service—the customer getting what they asked for. You're witnessing someone going out of their way to make a customer's day, week, or month, and that's an important part of customer service that shouldn’t be forgotten.
Read on for thirteen stories of star service reps who went the extra mile for their customers.
1. ATM gifts, not ATM fees
It was the height of summer, and at four TD Bank locations across Canada, a group of customers were being invited in to test out a new model of ATM.
When they used the machines, however, they found that these Automated Teller Machines were actually Automated Thanking Machines. Rather than balance checks or cash, they only spat out gifts.
A mother who never had the chance to take her kids to Disneyland received a family-pack of passes to finally go. Another, with a sick daughter in Trinidad, received a plane ticket. And one lucky Blue Jays fan received an invitation to throw the first pitch at a home game.
They weren't the only ones to get thanked, however. Over 30,000 TD Bank customers received recognition from TD on #TDThanksYou day. Every customer in a branch at 2 p.m. received a $20 bill. Customers logging in through their online banking or over the phone were informed that they would receive a direct deposit of $20.
If you're somehow still feeling cynical, then just check out the YouTube comments on this video. Virtually all of them thank TD Bank, express their amazement at this event, or suggest that they will or have switched to TD Bank after watching it.
Those are the kinds of results you can get when you automate processes in a human way and use them to enrich, not replace, your customers’ experiences.
2. How Bob the waiter got a 200,000% tip
This Redditor's husband, fresh off a root canal operation that left him unable to eat real food for days, was dying for some diner fare. When he finally regained the ability to chew, his wife took him out. She was excited to celebrate his return to the land of real food.
After an unusual wait, the husband and wife were finally seated next to a noisy blender at the end of the bar. Problems with the dinner service cropped up almost immediately.
Their waiter—“Bob”—hurriedly took their drink orders. He didn't ask if they were ready to order food. When they finally did, Bob brought out one of the side dishes before the entrees themselves arrived. And it was the wrong side dish.
After a few apologies and a “divine” burrito, the husband and wife were ready to pay the check and leave. When they got the check, they first thought the $0.01 listed was a mistake.
Discounts are so often used as last-ditch attempts to salvage a terrible experience that we forget how powerful they can be as preventative maintenance.
Restaurateur Danny Meyer, whose restaurants have consistently beat the odds in a very rough industry, talks about hospitality in terms of “good” vs. “great.” With a “good” experience at a store or restaurant, things may go fine. You may get everything you wanted precisely the way you ordered it. But it's rare for an employee to make you feel special, like they're on your side. That's what Bob did here by recognizing something crucial.
Few would expect a discount in this situation. And that's precisely why the discount is so powerful.
In the end, the family left Bob a $20 tip—or 200,000% of .01. Not bad for Bob!
3. Comfort through the turbulence
When Garrick, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, found himself in the position to help a passenger in need, he went above and beyond the call of duty.
Nine-year old Gabby, a type 1 diabetic, was severely anxious about being on an airplane. Garrick, a Southwest crew member, worked throughout the flight to make her more comfortable, bringing her special drinks and trying to make her laugh after he noticed her struggling during takeoff.
When the plane hit a serious patch of turbulence, he let her sit in the empty seat next to him, talked to her about his daughter (the same age as Gabby), about her pets, her school, and even let her grab his arm for comfort.
At the end of the flight, Garrick used the PA to tell the whole plane that his friend — Gabby — had just overcome her fear of flying, and that she deserved a round of applause from the whole plane. “The whole plane clapped for her,” her mother reported afterwards, “It was a wonderful experience on Southwest. We are forever grateful to have met such a beautiful, selfless soul.”
“She is a brave girl and it was a pleasure having you and her both onboard with us,” Southwest wrote back on her Facebook photo. “Rest assured, we will make sure that Garrick gets the recognition he deserves for his kindness.”
4. Under Wendy’s umbrella
This is a short tale that we wish we had more information on.
Posted on Reddit without any additional details or a follow-up, the submitter was at least able to capture a really heartwarming moment: amidst a pretty harsh rainstorm, a Wendy’s employee went outside, removed an umbrella from one of the tables, and walked an elderly man to his car.
Being a good citizen is about more than giving people discounts or refunds when they've had bad experiences. Sometimes, you need to go even further and extend empathy and a helping hand.
5. The Pom-Pom Pearl fan club
Who would’ve thought that you’d be seeing two tales of exceptional service from fast food companies?
While a boisterous personality isn’t for everyone, it’s hard to resist “Pom-Pom” Pearl Weaver’s charm and enthusiasm. The 89-year-old Arby’s employee draws fans from all around, the local press even giving some well-deserved attention to a woman who was truly passionate about making people’s day:
"Whenever anyone—young and old alike—steps up to the counter, Weaver waves a blue-and-white pompom and chirps "Hi everybody, welcome to Arby's!" writes Lara Brenckle. "She's fantastic," said the store's general manager Christian Stakes. "I don't want to diminish what she does, but she's the mascot. If she's off for a week, people ask about her."
Weaver herself attributes her attitude to her upbringing. “As one of 11 children,” she says, “there was always plenty to do.” In a service business, it's crucial to have people on your team that do more than represent your current culture—you need to have people who push the culture you have forward. Find people who represent your brand well and keep them around.
6. A Netflix live chat treasure
Taking the customer service tone to the front lines, this next example from a Netflix employee is best if you read the full thing for yourself below.
Here’s the entire screenshot of a Netflix customer who contacted support via their live chat. He definitely walked away with a great story to tell:
Kudos to Michael for trying something a little different and for rolling with whatever came next thanks to an equally hilarious customer.
7. Praise be to Gaben
Valve Software and its lovable leader Gabe Newell have definitely been a recent topic of discussion in our team chat room.
Gabe (often affectionately referred to in the PC gaming community as “Gaben”) has to be one of the most responsive CEOs when it comes to talking with his fans. He always seems to have time for his customers, no matter how big Valve gets.
This next story comes from a longtime fan of Valve and their highly popular games. Here’s what happened according to the customer:
"Last year, it was almost my birthday. I sent Gabe Newell an e-mail saying that I loved all of his games and that it would make my year if he would autograph a piece of paper and send it to me. A week or so later I got an e-mail from the manager of merchandise. He had said that they were sending something my way.
I used the tracking number he provided and found that the package weighed close to 4 pounds. I was so excited. Finally, it’s two days before my birthday. The package has come in the mail. I open up to find not only a Portal mouse pad signed by the Gaben himself, but a copy of the book The Sacrifice with a ton of signatures from Valve employees. Needless to say it made my life.”
Valve certainly attracts some passionate fans, but Gabe always finds a way to be a man of the people, and he is without a doubt one of the best sources of inspiration for CEOs everywhere.
8. J. Crew's coupon conundrum
Despite my fondness for the occasional debonair pink tie, my closet is pretty standard. Still, I find myself constantly browsing Reddit’s Male Fashion Advice for the candid tales of great service in the ecommerce space.
One of my favorites actually comes from a larger company, J. Crew. Told in this thread by an appreciative customer, here’s the long and short of what happened:
J. Crew has a Factory page where new arrivals are sold in very limited amounts. During a particular sale there, a customer used a “one-time” coupon during checkout, but he accidentally canceled the order after placing it.
With the coupon now wasted, the customer decided to email support. J. Crew told the customer that they would gladly hold the order with the coupon applied; the customer would just have to call to confirm the order (due to the limited supply).
The customer wasn’t able to call until the next day, and by that time, the original items ordered were sold out. To his surprise, the customer was contacted by a support rep, who stayed on the line with him to pick out similar items from the regular J. Crew site, and at checkout, the support rep applied the closest Factory prices and the original coupon for the customer.
Needless to say, the customer was ecstatic:
"I am blown away by the lengths they made to make me happy when I wasn't upset in the first place, and even considered the mistake was on my end. I highly recommend J. Crew now just because of their customer service. They could not have been more kind and accommodating."
One of the best takeaways from the thread comes from a comment made by a former employee: "As a (former) employee they gave us a lot of leeway to keep the customer happy…"
9. Jack Threads & Jill
A customer service rep named Jill—fitting since she worked at JackThreads—has managed to win me over despite the fact that I’ve only ever seen her words on a screen. See for yourself; I wish I had a larger image, but below is a conversation Jill had with a customer dealing with a defective product:
Look closely at the language she uses and how the conversation gets personal, but not intrusive.
10. The aloha bear
It’s always nice to see outstanding service recognized by a happy customer. In a heartwarming story shared on Reddit, a service rep tells the tale of an older customer who called in because her netbook wasn’t working. Having recently suffered two strokes, she explained that she was struggling with writing, and she was forced to call in due to her malfunctioning netbook.
The service rep initially explained that the traditional thing to do was to mail it in for repairs. The women grew teary over the news, explaining that this was fine, but that she was dependent on the netbook to communicate with her daughter stationed in Hawaii and her deployed son-in-law.
Knowing that red tape shouldn’t stop her from taking care of a customer in need, the support rep quickly exchanged the netbook for her (sending her a new one), and even spent the extra time helping her set up the old passwords and account names, in addition to re-downloading Skype so she could talk with her family.
What really makes this a great story, however, is the follow-up. Out of the blue a few months later, our heroic service rep gets called down to the office. To her surprise, waiting there was the woman on the phone, holding a card and a teddy bear with a hula skirt:
"She says that what I did meant so much to her and her family that she called our corporate office and told them what I did, and that her daughter sent up the card and bear as a thank you."
11. No shoes, great service
Zappos customer service is the stuff of legends. Here’s an example that has some interesting lessons to teach about the dangers of red tape.
A customer was shopping for shoes for her elderly mother. Due to a medical condition, her mother had very sensitive feet and was often in pain when wearing hard-soled shoes. The customer bought six pairs of shoes from Zappos, and her mother tried them on and found two that she could bear to wear for long periods of time.
When it was time for her mother to return the other four pairs, she called Zappos, and in talking with the employee, this woman discovered that the person on the other end of the line could relate to her plight; the employee’s father had suffered from similar foot problems due to diabetes.
The employee ended the conversation by saying that she would pray for the woman to feel better, but the story doesn’t end there:
"My mom called me to relay the news, and I could hear the smile on her face from 600 miles away. She said that the lovely Zappos person had sent her an enormous bouquet of lilies and roses to let her know she was thinking of her. My sister emailed the company to thank Zappos for taking such good care of my Mom.
Two days later, my mom, sister, and I were contacted and told we are now “Zappos VIP Members,” which entitles us to free expedited shipping on all our orders. My sister vows to buy every pair of shoes, from now on, from Zappos.”
Is somebody cutting onions in here? I swear, I just have something in my eye!
Truly a sweet story, and all thanks to Zappos’ willingness to trust the people they hire.
12. When milk & eggs fly
If there was ever a customer service hall of fame, Ritz-Carlton would be one of the first inductees. They base so much of their business on doing things for their customers that most others wouldn’t.
While their most famous story may be Joshie the Giraffe and his extended stay, that’s not the only great report from Ritz-Carlton. Perhaps my second favorite story comes from this Businessweek article detailing the lengths the company will go to satisfy its customers:
One family staying at the Ritz-Carlton, Bali, had carried specialized eggs and milk for their son who suffered from food allergies. Upon arrival, they saw that the eggs had broken and the milk had soured. The Ritz-Carlton manager and dining staff searched the town but could not find the appropriate items.
But the executive chef at this particular resort remembered a store in Singapore that sold them. He contacted his mother-in-law, and asked that she buy the products and fly to Bali to deliver them, which she agreed to do. Of course the family was delighted. After an experience like that, do you think this particular family would even consider staying somewhere else?
Who would? No wonder so many of their customers stay for life.
13. Trader Joe's Dance Off
Nothing disappointed me more in my search for tales of great service than coming across this story and not having a picture to share with you.
Coming from the blog Life with the Kid, written by a mother about life with her son who has high-functioning autism, this next tale drives home a point we’ve made before: Trader Joe’s knows a thing or two about caring for customers.
It’s best told from the mother’s perspective, which I’m happy to share with you below:
"This evening I took the kid to Trader Joe’s to pick up some groceries. He was bouncing off the walls, unable to reign-in and control himself… But if there’s anything I’ve learned, real life has to happen. Groceries aren’t going to buy themselves. He almost ran into an Employee—again. The employee rolled with it, pivoting easily to change his direction. I spoke with the kid, 'Please pay attention. You almost ran into that guy.'
‘That guy’ told me not to worry about it: ‘It’s part of the job. We’re always dodging around customers.’
‘So, it’s like a constant dance party?’ I asked.
And that was it — DANCE PARTY, indeed. That guy called out another employee who was stocking the frozen food and next thing I knew… they were literally jammin’ out, bringin’ down the house in the middle of the frozen food isle. And then, invited my kid to dance along. At first, he was too shy. But after about 30 seconds of watching these two grown, awesome people rock-it-out, he started bustin’ a move. And they cheered him on. And my heart was glad: Glad to be at Trader Joe’s; Glad that these employees were awesome people; Glad that my kid was getting his antsy-ness out in a fun way with positive reinforcement from these adults who will never know how thankful I am for their ability to turn a stressful moment into a fun memory. My kid will always remember Trader Joe’s as the place he danced.”
What a great memory and great service to their customers, and all thanks to a pair of employees who know how to have a little fun.