Financial Planning | Leadership / Management

Turn bad times into good times for your customers

Service I got a birthday card last week ... from Southwest Airlines.

It doesn't sound like a lot, and I'm sure I'm not the first person to receive the "We Care" treatment from SWA. But as silly as it sounds, I have to admit it made me feel kinda good.

And that's the point, right? Southwest wants to keep me as a customer, so they've figured out how to do the little things that make me want to fly Southwest -- things their competition won't do.

Southwest has found that extra degree.

Then my wife received the March 2, 2009 edition of BusinessWeek in the mail. The cover story? "Extreme customer service: In a tough year, 25 companies that get it right." The article explains how the world's customer service champs keep pleasing their clients, even during a recession. Among their tricks: cross-training employees to create a flex workforce, spoiling staff members who survive the downsizing, and babying their best customers.

"Top performers are treating their best customers better than ever, even if that means doing less to wow new ones," writes author Jena McGregor. "While cutting back-office expenses, they're trying to preserve front-line jobs and investing in cheap technology to improve service."

Sadly, Southwest didn't make BusinessWeek's top 25 this year, which means those that did have some serious customer service chops. The top 10:

  2. USAA
  3. Jaguar
  4. Lexus
  5. The Ritz-Carlton
  6. Publix Super Markets
  8. Hewlett-Packard
  9. T. Rowe Price
  10. Ace Hardware

Check out the complete top 25 list, then tell us: What do you do that makes your organization a customer service champ?


Bill Sheridan