It is summer, open your windows, get some fresh air in the office. Sometimes a blast of fresh air is needed to rejuvenate the old skeletons.

Business leaders who love slogans such as “Screw it, Let’s do it”, who implement motivational working environments, word-of-mouth marketing and Net Promoter Score® strategies all receive regular praise for their creativity and good leadership – and of course their amazing approaches to customer service.

Today’s list highlights some of those inspiring leaders – and I’m convinced we can all learn a tip or two from them. The list is written in random order – we don’t want anyone feeling disappointed that they are not at the top of the list.

1. Why not break the rules once in a while?
Dan Bane, CEO of Trader Joe’s, is known for his amazing customer service and employees who know that it is okay to break the rules sometimes. One story in particular has been shared a lot on social media platforms:
The event took place during a terrible snowstorm in USA. An 89-year-old man is snowbound in his home in Pennsylvania during the Christmas holiday. His daughter is worried that he does not have enough food. She starts calling different supermarkets to order a delivery for him – to no avail. No one is able to make a delivery, not even Traders Joe’s. However, an employee at Traders Joe’s is ready to change that. She asks what the dad needs, even suggesting other products that would be good for his health. She ends the conversation by saying that the daughter does not have to worry about the payment – it is on the house. Thirty minutes later the food is delivered, free of charge!

2. Who is your Net Promoter Score® hero?
Virgin CEO Richard Branson has been hugely successful with no less than 400 companies, from cosmetics and airlines to mobile telephony. At Virgin there is an enormous focus on the corporate culture and customer service. It is okay to make mistakes and all employees are given stickers that say, “Screw it, Let’s do it” and other motivational quips. Employees who have provided extraordinary customer service are nominated “NPS heroes”. Richard Branson certainly knows how to motivate his employees!

3. There is no shame about sitting in the call centre – even the CEO does it!
It is no secret that the CEO of LEGO, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, has been highly successful, but LEGO has not always experienced the level of success they are enjoying today. Indeed, they got hit by the financial crisis and had to rethink their customer service philosophy. They work with Net Promoter Score® on a daily basis, and the CEO swaps his top-office seat from time to time for one in the call centre. It is no surprise that the CEO gains a much better insight into customers’ thoughts when he speaks with them directly like this. Oddly enough, not many companies of a similar size to LEGO have their CEOs working in the call centre.

4. Wouldn’t you like to be contacted?
Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh is going “all in” with amazing customer experience. The company’s philosophy is that, instead of spending a lot of money on marketing, they would rather spend it on optimising customer experience and their customer service. “Word of mouth” is an amazing weapon in an ocean of advertisements. People listen more to a recommendation by a friend or colleague. Tony Hsieh explained at a lecture how he has seen a lot of companies that actually seem to hide their contact details. He went on to say that it’s always difficult to find contact details, and when you finally find them, it’s often just a contact mail and nothing else. That is weird when you think about it; good customer service is all about having dialogues with your customers – even when it doesn’t culminate in a sale. Because of that, Zappos has their phone number written at the top of every section of their website.

5. The empty chair and two pizzas…
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, never compromises on customer service. Despite pressure from competitors, the customer will always be their main focus. Even at internal meetings, the customer is a natural part of the conversation, and Jeff Bezos even has an empty chair sitting next to his at every meeting. The chair symbolises an important customer who was unable to attend the meeting. Small teams are the key to effective workdays and good customer service at Amazon. Jeff Bezos is convinced that small teams in general are more effective than big teams. They follow the rule that “If they need to order more than two pizzas, the team is too big”. Amazon and Jeff deserve high praise for their Net Promoter Score® of 69%!

6. The Apple army
Last, but not least, Tim Cook from Apple. With an Net Promoter Score® of 76%, they are difficult to catch up with. Tim Cook wants customer feedback sent directly to his e-mail – with the result that some days he gets up to 1000 e-mails from customers providing feedback on the products. He answers some of them, but of course not all! All feedback is, however, taken into consideration in future deliberations and developments.
Another thing that I personally have only experienced in Apple is their army of employees who are waiting to help you as soon as you walk through the doors of an Apple store. According to Carmine Gallo, author of The Apple Experience, Apple’s employees work in accordance with the following five-step plan that should ultimately lead to a sale – or, even better, a lifetime customer:

A = Approach customers with a personalised, warm welcome
P = Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs
P = Present a solution for the customer to take home today
L = Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns
E = End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return

…What can we learn from these successful leaders?

The answer to this is: A great deal! But, in particular, we learn how important it is to always keep the focus on the customer. One unsatisfied customer could easily create a social media nightmare.

Think out of the box and be creative; inspire and motivate your employees every day to increase their customer service skills.

A recommendation from a friend, family member or colleague means a lot more than a tsunami of adverts.

It is okay to break the rules once in a while – especially if you do so in order to provide amazing customer service that goes viral on social media.

As a CEO, it is also important to be in ongoing dialogue with your customers. If you do not talk with your customers, how will you know what could be optimised?

This article was written by Freja Theilgaard.