We’ve all been in a situation where an employee is forced to find a manager to solve a problem. It’s frustrating for everyone involved—employees and customers alike. Instead of giving managers all the power, the best customer experience companies arm all employees with the tools to fix customer problems and empower them to make decisions. Studies show that empowered employees are more satisfied with their jobs, and it’s one of the biggest factors in creating a great customer experience. Instead of waiting for results, issues can be solved immediately in the way that best meets customers’ needs.
Here are 10 companies that empower their employees to solve customer problems:
Airlines are notorious for requiring customers to go through an arduous process to get some kind of service recovery if there is an issue with their flights. However, American Airlines recently started a new program that allows flight attendants to give customers complimentary miles on the spot. The goal is to avoid customers filing complaints and to make sure everyone gets off the plane feeling good about their experience.
Zappos is a leader in customer experience for good reason. The company operates with a strong customer-first culture that encourages happiness and wants employees to feel free to be themselves. The CEO has given all employees the freedom to do whatever they feel is right to help the customer. Instead of spewing policies, employees are encouraged to do things like offer free exchanges, send gifts to customers, or provide free expedited shipping.
The luxury hotel is the gold standard for customer service because it allows employees to spend up to $2,000 per incident to solve customer problems without having to get approval from a supervisor. There’s no limit to how many customers an employee can use the $2,000 rule on, either, and it applies to things like free stays, upgrades, and gifts. It’s working: employees are happy, and Ritz Carlton customers are extremely loyal to the brand.
The airline is constantly rated as one of passengers’ favorites, and a lot of that has to do with its customer experience. Employees are empowered to solve problems immediately and to make every customer’s journey memorable. Front-line employees have freedom to operate and solve customer problems within a wide outline established by managers.
The bulk warehouse store is famous for its no-risk return policy, which means customers don’t need a receipt to make a return and there isn’t a time limit on when things can be brought back. Instead of having to turn away customers who aren’t satisfied with their purchases, employees have the power to take back items, make exchanges, and ensure issues get resolved.
Disney’s goal is to make sure all employees are “the right person” to talk to when an incident arises. It’s all part of the Disney magic—employees are given the tools to solve issues right away, from comping meals to offering special experiences. Employees are trained on successful service recovery so they know the basic guidelines to provide a consistent experience, no matter what level they are.
Employees at Trader Joe’s are encouraged to quickly serve customers in any way they can. Employees will open packages so customers can try an item before they decide to purchase it and accept returns of items that have been opened and used. The goal is to build a community of food-lovers, and employees know the way to do that is to connect with customers individually.
Pret a Manger
The coffeeshop doesn’t have the typical customer loyalty program. Instead, employees are actually required to give out a certain amount of free food. It’s up to employees to decide who receives the free coffee and meals, which means it can be used to solve issues or just be given to someone waiting in line. Nearly 30% of customers in the UK have gotten free items at some point. The idea is to proactively create a great experience.
The mission of the company is to “Belong Anywhere”, and employees are encouraged to help customers feel like they belong by connecting with them on a personal level. Employees keep tabs on customers’ thoughts on social media and are encouraged to do things to make customers feel special—anything from replacing items that are taken from hosts’ homes to sending luggage to guests.
Aside from its delicious chicken, Chick-Fil-A is also known for its exceptional customer service, and it starts by hiring and training the right people. The restaurant encourages employees to use “Second-Mile Service” and do little things to take the customer experience to the next level. Instead of sticking to a script, employees are welcome to do whatever it takes to ensure customers feel valued.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, author of More Is More, and keynote speaker. Sign up for her weekly newsletter here. Go farther and create knock your socks-off customer experiences in your organization by enrolling in her new Customer Experience School.