Forbes Article: Three Wow Customer Service Stories from Zappos, Southwest Airlines and Nordstrom

By Micah Solomon, contributor


August 1, 2017

I’m going to warm readers’ hearts today (perhaps a risky move, in the midst of a rare heatwave here in Seattle) by recapping three of my favorite wow customer service stories. These examples of extraordinary, over the top customer service take place at three well-known brands: Zappos, Nordstrom, and Southwest Airlines. But any company of any size, in almost any industry, can benefit from delivering extraordinary and memorable feats of service to customers.

That’s because this kind of customer service can make an emotional connection with the customers it directly affects (as Diana Oreck explains in my previous, related article), and the stories that are told and re-told about such acts of wow customer service can connect a brand with future customers as well, for years and years to come, as well as inspiring company employees and making them proud.

1. The Zappos Purse RescueThe first wow customer service story comes, appropriately, from Zappos, where “Deliver WOW Through Service” is the eCommerce company’s Core Value #1. Rob Siefker, senior director of Zappos’ customer loyalty team, shared it with me:

Recently, a newly-married couple were packing up their belongings in preparation for moving. The husband packed his wife’s jewelry inside one of her purses, and packed the purse inside what he thought was a spare Zappos box. The wife, it turns out, was intending to return that purse to Zappos using that very box. Which she then does, having no idea that inside the purse now were several thousand dollars of her jewelry!When the couple arrive at their new home and start to unpack, bedlam breaks out as the wife figures out what has happened and why her jewelry is missing. The rep she reaches at Zappos decides to reroute the box directly to his desk, but once it arrives, the rep fears for the safety of the valuables if he were to ship them, and purchases a plane ticket to hand-deliver the package himself.

When he arrives, the incredibly grateful couple invite him in for dinner. Now they’re customers for life, as you can imagine.

2. Nordstrom Salvages my Wet-Shoe SituationDo you know who’s legally responsible if a common carrier (UPS, FedEx, et. al.) leaves your Nordstrom delivery in the rain and your $200 shoes are ruined? Well, the responsible party might be you or it might be the trucking company, but it’s absolutely not Nordstrom.  Yet, when this happened to me, not for an instant did my salesperson (Joanne Hassis at the King of Prussia, PA Nordstrom, by the way) consider saying “You need to file a claim with the trucking company.”  She instead told me, without hesitation, the following:I’m so incredibly sorry that happened, and I’m bringing over a brand new pair of shoes–will you be home in forty-five minutes?

3. Southwest Airlines Saves the Day (and the Dog) When a Blind Passenger’s Guide Dog is Run Over by a TaxiI love this story from a few years back, of how two Southwest employees worked together to save the life of professional speaker Larry Colbert’s guide dog, Banner, even though those employees had no way to know that Larry was traveling on their airline.

As Larry and his dog Banner arrived at the airport, a taxi ran right over Banner’s leg. Although bleeding profusely, the dog never stopped working to get his master to the plane on time. Colbert was unaware of his dog’s condition until two Southwest employees alerted him that Banner was standing in a pool of blood, a five-inch gash in his leg. One of these Southwest employees, Troy Anderson, got a grip on Banner’s bleeding leg to stop the blood flow, carried the dog to the car, and rode with him to the veterinarian, gripping the wound all the way.

(Ultimately, Banner healed entirely. The great Larry Colbert has since passed away.  Here is a lovely Roadtrip Nation page on Larry which includes with clips of him speaking as well.)

Think about that: Troy was immersed in a culture that supports behavior like his, and Troy could predict that his management and peers would appreciate, and assist with, what he needed to do. He knew there’d be no negative repercussions if he assisted the dog—even though this meant taking work time for a taxi ride to the vet.

That’s a strong customer-centered, employee-backing culture. And ultimately, it worked out in spades for Southwest, although there was no way directly to predict this. Larry Colbert was, indeed, a Southwest patron—in fact, a very frequent Southwest passenger. More than that, his dog Banner was at the time pretty much a mascot for the entire NSA (National Speakers Association), many of whose 2,500 members fly more than they drive. They’re not likely to forget this incident any time soon.

Micah Solomon is an author, consultant, keynote speaker, trainer. Customer service, customer experience, culture, hospitality, leadership., 484-343-5881

As a company that’s passionate about out-of-the-ordinary customer service, we love these stories!

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