The Top 10 Customer Service Stories for 2021
This year’s Top 10 Customer Service Stories for 2021 is kind of special for us, as it represents a rebound from the previous year where positive stories were few and far between.
The Bad News
The bad news is that 2021 picked up where 2020 left off in terms of being a tough year. The impact on customer service levels reflected this.
Labor shortages, supply-chain issues and pandemic measures all wreaked havoc on companies’ abilities to deliver outstanding customer service. Compounding that was the growing negative global impact of emotional exhaustion, leaving customers and employees alike with little patience and even less empathy.
The Good News
The good news is that, despite all of the challenges, there were still a lot of people out there doing some pretty special things. We collected over 80 awesome customer service stories – all of which are great illustrations of the absolute core of customer service – genuinely caring about the people you serve.
As always, narrowing them down to a top-ten list was a challenge, but I think you’ll agree that it represents some pretty special people doing some pretty special things.
About our Top 10 Customer Service Stories list
We’ve been collecting customer service stories for over fifteen years. My company specializes in customer service training, leadership training and customer experience consulting, and these experiences are invaluable in illustrating what outstanding customer service looks like — and what leaders should strive for. Several years ago, we decided to start ranking them, and sharing the top 10 best and worst experiences of the previous year.
In the interests of complete transparency, here is our standard disclaimer:
- The number of customer service interactions around the world number in the billions each week. We probably missed a few.
- The ranking between numbers 1-10 is completely subjective, and a couple of times came down to the flip of a coin. Feel free to disagree! All of the people in these stories are #1 in our books.
I hope you find these examples of great customer service as useful, enlightening and inspiring as we do! Here are the winners, presented in order from number ten to number one.
Customer Service Cures Homesickness
The US Ambassador and his family needed a place to stay for three months as they transitioned to their new home. Transition, and being away from home, is stressful at the best of times — and this was in the middle of the pandemic. To their good fortune, however, the ambassador and his family found themselves spending those three months at an Ottawa Westin hotel.
Westins are known for their outstanding service levels, but the team in this one truly took things to another level. One of the many things they did was to surprise the family with an outdoor steak & burger lunch in the terrace overlooking the Parliament Buildings – catered by their head chef no less.
And it didn’t stop there. While they were enjoying their surprise lunch, the Weston team were in their room creating another surprise. When the family returned, the two children found a teepee set up, and kids bags full of arts and crafts – so they could have some fun during the long weekend.
Any time you can make a difference like that in the lives of the people around you, you’re doing something very right.
Simply Awesome Customer Service Delivery
In December 2021, UPS driver Dallen Harrell made a delivery that Jessica Kitchel will always treasure.
It wasn’t in a box. Rather, it was a personal message delivered via the house’s door camera. Dallen simply leaned into the camera and said: “If this is the ‘it’s a boy house’ who had the (bird) … I hope all is going well with your newborn. I had a child around the same time you guys did and I just hope everything’s going good. God bless, happy holidays.”
The message was beautiful — and the timing was perfect as Jessica was particularly exhausted that day. “I needed it the most in that moment. Just encouragement,” she said.
What goes around comes around
When Jessica posted the door video online, it instantly received more that 60k hits. She also reached out to Dallen to find out if there was a registry for his newborn. There was, and she posted that too. The next thing the kind UPS driver knew, he and his family began receiving everything on the registry — by complete strangers.
20 seconds of kindness goes a long way.
Hey Keiran – Customers Are Talking About You
Customers of the Nottingham Asda superstore rave about 23-year-old Kieran O’Rourke. The stories they share abound. Here’s just one:
Seventy-one-year-old Michael Fuller has been blind since birth. He is a regular customer at Asda, and can’t say enough nice things about Keiran — their recent Customer Service Superstar award winner.
Whenever Mr. Fuller comes to the store, Keiran is there to help. He guides him in his shopping, packs his bags, helps with money things, then takes the time to help his customer back across the busy road to his house.
Why does he do it? Keiran’s answer is, “I think it’s nice to treat someone the way you would like to be treated if you were in a similar situation.” And that’s why
Customer service starts with attitude – and this is one we wish everyone had!
Chick-fil-A Celebrates A Customer’s Life
Chick-fil-A has made this list in other years, but this one is pretty special. It is a great story that shines a light on the kind of positive relationships we should all have with our customers.
For ten years, Dana Krumnow had been a regular at a Chick-fil-A in Valley Mills, Texas, visiting once or twice a day. When she suddenly stopped showing up, the employees noticed. They learned that she had unexpectedly passed away when an employee came across a GoFundMe campaign to help with funeral expenses.
The response from the Chick-fil-A team was beautiful. According to Dana’s son, Hunter, “There were personalized messages from all the workers talking about how they saw my mom or something that happened days they saw her and really just how nice she was.” He went on to say that, of all the things people have said or done since his mother passed, the Chick-fil-A gesture meant the most.
It is a great example of a company that cares more about their customers than they do their wallets.
Internal Customer Service Hero
Number six on our list of best customer service stories is a bit of a twist, but was added here to illustrate that every organization has internal customers as well as external customers – and they are equally important.
Christmas 2021 was just around the corner when Sam Brown’s daughter Lily tested positive for Covid. The five-year-old wasn’t worried about being sick. but she was devastated at the thought that Santa might have to stay away.
Sam works for Airship, and when his CEO, Dan Brookman, learned of Lily’s concern he wanted to help. First, he sent Sam a message (for Lily) as Santa – reassuring her that he would definitely be paying a visit. Then he dressed up as Santa and did just that. Wow.
Oh, yeah – Dan also gave Sam time off so he could be with his family.
That’s how you build a positive organizational culture.
I think, at least once in our lives, we have all made it all the way to the store cash only to realize that we’ve forgotten to bring a wallet with us. It’s just one of those embarrassing inevitabilities of life.
For a foster mother and nurse in Sydney, Australia, this embarrassing situation ended up in a truly beautiful experience.
When she got to the cash the employee patiently tried a number of different routes to help the customer complete the checkout but, sadly, none of them worked. Eventually, the customer decided to leave her items, telling the employee that she would come back after picking her kids up from school.
When she eventually returned with her wallet, though, she didn’t just get her bag of items. She also got a note saying, “Please accept this as a blessing from me to your family.” The cashier had learned in their earlier conversation that the customer was a healthcare worker and also a foster caregiver to three children – so she decided to pay for the items herself.
Needless to say, the customer was both surprised and overwhelmed, saying, “Upon returning to my car I wiped away the tears that welled and truly felt blessed by the lovely gesture of this staff member. I really wished she was still at work so I could have thanked her personally.”
The world needs a lot more people like that K-Mart employee.
A Free Side-Order of Feel-Good
Number four on the 2022 top-ten customer service list isn’t a brave deed or an above-and-beyond experience. It is, instead, a fantastic example of the very core of outstanding customer service — caring about your customers. It is also the second time McDonalds appears in this list.
In Belford, Texas, there is a McDonalds that many loyal customers go to for one reason – drive-thru employee Dawn Crager. As one of her fans tell it, “She is a ray of sunshine. She is just a blessing to a lot of us.”
Dawn makes a point to connect with every customer beginning with her trademark feel-good greetings like “Hey, sweetie,” then spends the rest of each brief interaction making customers feel terrific. Exactly how good is she? Well, last November, unbeknownst to Dawn, she started trending on Facebook. She only learned of it when customer after customer started coming to her window with cards and gifts and beautiful comments.
Dawn is absolute proof of the power of customer service in creating customer loyalty, as well as the power of simple human kindness.
Customer Service To Infinity And Beyond
Southwest is known for its customer service, but this story is out of this world.
Ashley Davis’s two-year-old son has a favourite toy – Buzz Lightyear (Isn’t that every 2-year-old boy’s favourite toy?). But they thought they’d lost Buzz forever when accidently leaving him on a Southwest Airlines flight to Little Rock, Arkansas.
Little did they expect, however, that an enterprising ramp agent named Jason would find Buzz, figure out who the owner was, and make sure Buzz made it home safe and sound. Buzz showed up a week later. Talk about a happy little boy.
Jason added a few personal touches as well. He enclosed a letter in the box, signed by Buzz. He also decorated the box in colorful drawings and, of course, the bold proclamation, “To Infinity & Beyond!”
Squishmallow Customer Service
If you have kids, (or grandkids, or friends with kids, or…) then you likely know what a Squishmallow is – the squishy, soft, huggable friends that have taken the toy world by storm.
Cat Stephenson’s daughter, Alison, was excited. She had been saving up her allowance to buy a very specific Squishmallow – a rabbit. But when she and her mom got to the York Water Lane Aldo store, they discovered that the store was completely sold out (As they were in many places around the world). Needless to say, the young girl was crushed.
When the store manager, Jamie, heard about it, he decided to do something about it. He asked Cat if she would come by the store the next week. It turned out that he had a brand new rabbit Squishmallow at home which he had bought for his own child, and he would let them have it. He explained his child was just a baby, who wouldn’t really miss it.
Cat and Alison returned to the store as requested. To their surprise, not only did the manager have the Squishmallow ready, but refused to accept any money for it. It was, he told them, a gift. Alison was absolutely thrilled. She wrote Jamie a beautiful letter, and named the Squishmallow after him.
The Ultimate Drive-Thru Customer Service
Working a drive-thru is hard work. Particularly when it is at a busy restaurant like McDonalds. Even moreso when you’re the tender age of 15. But none of that kept Minnesota’s Sydney Raley from winning this year’s top spot for customer service.
Sydney was on shift in an Eden Prairie McDonalds when she noticed a customer in distress – and the face of the customer’s terrified daughter. She realized instantly that the customer was choking, and, without hesitating, literally jumped through the drive-thru window to help – at the same time instructing the daughter to call 911.
Sydney, with the help of a nearby bystander she recruited, did more that create a satisfied customer — she saved a life.
The essence of outstanding customer service is about always looking for ways to make a positive difference in the lives of others. I can’t think of a more powerful example than this one.
We decided to include a couple of honorable mentions in this year’s list. They are great stories, but didn’t really qualify because they were a bit of a role-reversal – with customers doing wonderful things for employees.
Honorable Mention #1: Driving Outstanding Customer Service
Driving a city bus can be a pretty thankless job, and we would be remiss if this list didn’t highlight an individual who truly deserves the recognition.
When customers talk about Jacqueline Levy, an Isle of Wight bus driver, they talk about things like making sure customers with dementia get off at the right stop – and even helping to bring parcels into their house; or inviting customers to her own home when she hears they will be spending Christmas day alone.
Is it any wonder that Southern Vectis, the company that owns the bus line made her employee of the year?
Honorable Mention #2: Princeton Postal Person's Extra Mile
Sometimes it feels like most peoples’ response, when witnessing a potential tragedy, is to just pull out their phones and record it. Not Princeton’s Brandon Neber. When walking his route on a particularly hot day, he noticed a customer lying in his yard. Not only did he help the customer get inside his home and call for help, he came back later to check and make sure his customer was okay.
That’s going above and beyond after already going above and beyond.