Top 3 Customer Rock Stars for 2008

I was asked to spend a few minutes recently on the Big Biz Show (a nationally-syndicated radio program) discussing my thoughts about business in 2008 with a look ahead to 2009. I thought I would share some of those insights here at Customers Rock! to inspire you for the upcoming year.

A Rockin’ Year with Some Great Companies

This past year, I highlighted several companies where “Customers Rock!” for them. These companies have great customer focus, operate in a way that is customer-centric, or just did something really, really cool for their customers.  Before I get to the Top 3 Customer Rock Stars, below are some of the runners-up:

  • Urbane Apartments – remarkable customer experience with Urbane Loves Pets and Freedom Lease
  • Ikea – focus on the customer buying experience
  • Comcast – social media listening turns complainers into fans
  • Coldwater Creek – making customers feel like royalty
  • TurboTax – customer engagement via social media
  • Wells Fargo – WOW customer experience and corporate focus
  • Hometown Buffet – personal attention makes the difference
  • Starbucks – customer-focused coffee specials
  • Musician’s Friend – above and beyond customer service

Check out the links above for their stories – all of them inspiring. And now, with no further ado…

Rock Star Number 3: FreshBooks

Freshbooks is an online invoicing and time tracking service.  They are a Customer Rock Star because they do everything with the customer in mind. More importantly, they spend time with their customers – lots of it.  In my post “Freshbooks Rocks: Getting Personal with Customers”, I described how the Freshbooks team, including their CEO, spends time having meals with customers whenever they travel. In fact, last year when they went to SxSW to speak, they rented an RV and had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with customers along the way! The best thing about these customer meals (I would know, they invited me to one, as I am a Freshbooks customer), is they are NOT about Freshbooks pitching their products and what they do. Rather, they are about their customers getting to know each other better, as these people all live and work in the same city.  Along the way, Freshbooks employees get the chance to hear some great customer insights.

Customer listening is a focus for Freshbooks, and it is what gets them into my Top 3 Customer Rock Stars for 2008. Congrats, Mike, Saul, and team. Freshbooks Rocks!

Rock Star Number 2: Zappos.com

If you aren’t familiar with Zappos.com and you buy shoes, you should get to know them. Zappos.com is an online retailer that started by selling shoes over the web; they now also sell many other things such as clothing, accessories, and jewelry. Their main focus, however, is not the products they sell – it is customer service. In fact, their tagline is “Powered by Service”. I met Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, this past February when I spoke at the Customer Service is the New Marketing event. Tony shared with me that they don’t want to be known as a shoe company with great customer service; Zappos.com is a customer service company that happens to sell shoes. I like his focus.

One can find many, many stories on Tony and Zappos.com, as they have become fairly well known for this customer service. I have my own story from Christmas this year. I was looking to find my husband a new pair of Keen sandals, and I couldn’t find his size at Zappos.com. I gave them a call to see if they might be getting some in, and they told me they wouldn’t have any in time for Christmas. However, what happened next really impressed me! The call center rep looked up the sandals on the web and recommended a competitor’s website to me!!  She told me they had the size and color I was seeking, and they also had free shipping both ways (just like Zappos.com does). After thanking her profusely, I asked her why she recommended a competitor to me.  She said, “We want you to be happy, and we want you to come back to Zappos.”  I was, and I will!

Customer service is more than just a focus for Zappos.com; it is their company’s culture and what gets them into my Top 3 Customer Rock Stars for 2008. Congrats, Tony and team! Zappos rocks!!

Rock Star Number 1: Bungie Studios

Who? Bungie. Bungie Studios is the maker of the popular video game series Halo. They are known for treating their customers very well, but the reason they are my number one Customer Rock Star is that they take care of other people’s customers, too!

This past March, a video gamer who is a big fan of Halo had a problem with his gaming console/hardware. It was a special console because he had collected original Halo artwork and autographs on it from the team that developed the game. Unfortunately, when he sent in his console for repair, the artwork and autographs were accidentally erased.  Result: one very sad video gamer.

Bungie Studios heard about this through some blogs and decided that, although it had not been their mistake, they wanted to do something to help make it better. So they gathered up a HUGE amount of Halo-3 goodies and sent them off to this depressed gamer even though they had nothing to do with the problem. As you can imagine, he was thrilled to get this fabulous box of “swag”, as it was completely unexpected. (You can see photos of some of his gifts on my previous post about Bungie.)

In my opinion, what was even more cool was that the blog post describing his “swag bag” received over 600 comments from fans of the Halo video game, all glowing about Bungie Studios. What a great way to touch your customer community!

How did Bungie Studios do it?

– They were listening to their customers, using social media.

– They had previously built up a strong community (see their website for forums, insider information, and an open and honest attitude including Bungie podcasts, photos, and webcams!)

– They decided to “do the right thing”, even though they were not the ones in the wrong

– Bungie has prioritized customers as a critical success factor for their business – and has acted on it.

Clearly, Customers Rock! for Bungie Studios.  Way to go, Bungie Studios, on being the Number One Customer Rock Star for 2008!

Looking Ahead to 2009

This year, a focus on customers will become more important than ever as companies struggle with the economy worldwide while consumers and businesses alike become more conservative with their spending. Customer retention will be critical, as will encouraging customer advocates to share their great experiences with others.  Stay tuned to Customers Rock! for more great ideas and stories of how companies are doing it right, all throughout 2009.

(Photo credit: ussr)

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38 Responses

  1. Oh my goodness, Becky! Thank you so much for your constant, incredible support. I’m going to bookmark this and read it every morning to kick start my day in a good way ; ) You are the ultimate definition of a customer who rocks!

    Rayanne Langdon — Marketing Coordinator, FreshBooks.com

  2. I am glad I found your blog. Love the title and your writing style. I totally believe in the Customers Rock philosphy and am looking forward to reading your new articles as they come up.

    Congrats on 2 years – keep ’em coming!


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  4. Becky Carroll

    Rayanne, I just love being able to make your day! You guys are awesome; keep it up. Your customers will love you for it!

    Rick, thank you for the kind words. As I have said before, I firmly believe that a strong focus on customers will help weather economic storms. Glad you are here, Rick!

    Jessica, it is my goal here on Customers Rock! to provide inspirational stories; glad you like these. Let me know if you have some to share!

    Kathy, I am excited that you found my blog, too! Thanks for leaving a comment, and welcome!!

  5. Hi Becky,

    Thank you so much for all the kind words in this blog post. Honestly I would have commented sooner buy you kind of made me speechless!

    in a good way :)

    Saul Colt
    Head of Magic

  6. Christine Morrison

    Hi Becky,
    Thanks for making us a runner-up! I hope by this time next year we’ll make your top three. (We have some cool stuff coming!)
    Christine Morrison, TurboTax

  7. This is the first time I hear that a game developer really cares about his customers and it is good to read that I was mistaken in thinking this just does not happen. Bungie Studios hmm? Well all the best for them!

  8. Hi Becky, as I read your blog regarding Facebooks, I can’t help but to thank you. Hearing customers’ insight does not only build a good relationship, but it’s actually a way of showing you’re interested to them. This is simply great!

  9. n my opinion, what was even more cool was that the blog post describing his “swag bag” received over 600 comments from fans of the Halo video game, all glowing about Bungie Studios.

  10. Definitely correct about zappos! that is some of the best customer service I’ve experienced shopping online. Its so refreshing to not receive automated replies but actual written responses. It shows the attention to detail is there and present as one of the foundations for their awesome customer service.

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