What’s The Best Company in America?

In terms of customer service, what’s The Best Company in America? Let’s hold a contest and find out.

Submit your company of choice in the comments or on the tipline. Include *why* you’re recommending a specific business. Even better if you have a personal story to tell.

We’ll make a ladder of all the submissions and vote. It will be like our Worst Company in America contest, except nice.

Which companies get it? Which companies make customer service a reality instead of just a buzzword on the employee manual?

In addition to universal acclaim, winners shall receive Science Award certificates. With stakes that high, competition is gonna be fierce.

Comments

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  1. Vinny says:

    I nominate Audible simply because it will always go down as one of the best customer service experiences I’ve ever head.

    Bank of America is quite good too.

  2. SpecialK says:

    USAA. Without a doubt. Any personal story? Not anything in particular. Just that they call back when they say they will. It’s always easy to get a real live person on the phone. You don’t get a hassle when you drop their insurance coverage and it’s easy to start coverage up when you call back seven years later. And, as pointed out before, if you have auto insurance with them, and they collect more than they spend, they give you money back at the end of the year.

    Their bank products are great as well. Actual free checking. Reimbursement of other ATMs fees. A noticeable interest rate on the checking count and, while no AIG, still a better interest on their savings account than banks like Chase.

    I’m sure others will second me in this.

  3. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    It’s trite, but I have to vote for Working Assets. And no, it isn’t because they donate to Save The Whales for you or because their bills are printed on recycled paper (though it was very nifty-looking). It was totally the service.

    I was a long-distance customer for 2 years and then a cell customer for another 2, and they were always fantastic. Yes! Even calling for cell service was fantastic! I never waited very long, always got a friendly rep, and never had to wait terribly long to have a problem resolved. Even when they had to transfer me, the person transferring me would stay on the line and explain to the next person who picked up what my problem was in a conference call before they “left me”. Everybody gave real names, callback numbers worked, and issues were resolved with a minimum of fuss (even once when I couldn’t *prove* they’d mischarged me, they just agreed and reversed the charge on the spot). Cancelling my service took about two minutes, though I almost cried to have to give them up.

    They weren’t the cheapest cell service I’ve ever encountered, but gah, were they worth it. If I ever get out of the poorhouse and have a cell again, I’m running–not walking, running–back.

    -M*

  4. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    SpecialK — Yeah, you’re right; USAA is pretty awesome. I’ve used the “free towing” on my car insurance three times this year, and they haven’t so much as groaned about it! Never used their banking, though. -M.

  5. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    P.S. I would also like to nominate Wide Open West, not for being splashtastically wonderful, but for being so much better than Comcast. Compared to Comcast, WOW’s solidly-decent service is like having your feet licked by angels on your own private beach where the water is LSD and the sand is cocaine. And you’re allowed to sell it. It’s that good.

  6. Ben Popken says:

    Ray writes:

    “Mailordercomics.com.

    I’m a comic book geek; I drop a few benjamins a month on my four-color habit. Mailordercomics is the best company I’ve ever seen at handling comics orders, and, for my money, the most customer-focused company I’ve ever seen.

    The user interface is easy to use. The prices are fantastic. The shipping department is incredibly detailed-oriented; we’ve received newsletters about how proud they are at finding new ways to pack books. Every book I’ve received has been packed perfectly.

    And when I’ve had an issue, I’ve received an email from the owner himself, Michael Robinson. He has bended over backwards to resolve issues for me. And he’s always friendly.

    In a world of Best Buys and Sprints and Cablevisions, it’s nice to know that I don’t have to pull my hair out to find a great comics store.”

  7. Ben Popken says:

    Matt writes:

    “Zippo’s windproof lighter might not actually be windproof, but their lifetime guarantee and willingness to fix any old windproof lighter is awesome. Especially since they have made so many collectible lighters over the years, offering this service for nothing (except shipping) is a godsend.”

  8. Ben Popken says:

    David writes:

    “Apple. Hands down.”

  9. Ben Popken says:

    Nathan writes:

    “Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones), definitely. They’re always a pleasure to deal with on the phone, and they correct their mistakes without question.”

  10. Lars says:

    I would say LL Bean. Although quality has dropped off since the days when they made most of their goods here, they still guarantee everything for life. I’ve brought things back without receipts and received full value for the merchandise. It’s always without a question. And the folks you get on the phone are friendly and always helpful.

    I would also nominate Filson’s in Seattle. They make rugged outdoor clothing in Seattle, and stand by their product for life. Customer testimonials and my own experience indicate that their clothes are practically bullet proof.

  11. Ben Popken says:

    Bill writes:

    “Hands down – USAA. They’ve always gone the extra mile when I’ve had insurance claims, they take care of everything. They also have very competitive banking products and their customer service staff is top notch.”

  12. Ben Popken says:

    Rob writes:

    “Southwest Airlines, unquestionably the best customer service of the big airlines (by a LOT). I have a much too long story to tell about the incredible service they gave me once when we were totally screwed by Frontier’s inept customer service and delayed flights. Southwest helped us out immensely at absolutely zero profit to them when they had no obligation to do so, and completely saved a vacation for us. I’ll never fly any other airline again if I can help it.”

  13. Ben Popken says:

    Cherise writes:

    “The moment I call they answer the phone with thank you for calling, Mrs. Thompson. Cabelas provides such great customer service we continue to order again and again. They bend over backwards to make it right, take returns without question and will contact manufacturers if they can’t answer your questions.”

  14. Ben Popken says:

    Andy W. writes:

    “2 nominations:

    Newegg.com — always ship what they say, when they say. I paid for “expedited” service once, they didn’t get half of the order out in time (it shipped the next morning instead of that evening) so they refunded the expediting fee and upgraded it to 2 day shipping without even having to ask.

    Sage.tv — great software, and service. The support forum is excellent, and the customer service on the sales side is excellent. I once ordered the wrong tuner. They allowed me to return it and get the right one, and waived the restocking fee.”

  15. Ben Popken says:

    Art writes:

    “Speakeasy is easily one of the best ISPs in America. Their CSRs are all tech savvy. Even the guy who first picks up the phone knows his stuff. And never a hard sell.”

  16. blakewest says:

    +1 for USAA. I’ve been a customer of theirs for about 10 years. Every time I have called, they have been polite and helpful. They have CSRs available late nites and on weekends. They have improved their website consistently for the last several years.

    The only reason they might not win this contest is the barrier to entry for consumers: military service or immediate family of military. But if it were up to me there would be no contest!

  17. Ben Popken says:

    Michael writes:

    “i’d like to nominate trader joe’s grocery stores as the best company in america.

    why, you ask?

    well, any company that can take a grocery-store-a-phobe and make him volunteer to do the family shopping is doing a lot of things right. then again, maybe it’s the $1.99 charles shaw.

    anyway, they value the consumer experience over all other factors. they hire human beings who seem to enjoy what they do, the have great customer service and the breed satisfied customers who go out and evangelize their brand for them.

    we started shopping there a few years back and saved more than 20% on our shopping bill.”

  18. Ben Popken says:

    Eain writes:

    “I humbly submit http://www.speakeasy.net/.

    As a former IT professional and general internet-savvy type (I know how to read traceroute results), I’ve certainly had my share of dealing with incompetent tech support at bungling ISP. I once had a “Level 1″ tech support drone tell me that Netscape was a frontend for Internet Explorer (after I called to tell her that one of their machines inside their network along my network path went dead during some FTP activity), for example.

    But Speakeasy is different. They have online billing and payment options. They actually sent out notices when they had planned network outages. On the occasion when I /did/ have problems with their DSL, their tech support representative actually listened to my issue, told me /exactly/ what was wrong (a dead router which I had already found), gave me an actual ETA (with a 30-minute window, not just “tomorrow”) for service coming back up, and /then/ they got service going fifteen minutes early! Additionally, the tech was extremely polite, friendly, and gave me very specific information about what was wrong with /their/ system (they actually admitted fault).

    And, to top it all off, when I moved residences, they cancelled /properly/ and /without argument/ when I called to cancel service.

    Speakeasy has my vote, every time.”

  19. something_amazing says:

    I second nomination for speakeasy.

  20. Ben Popken says:

    Eric writes:

    “Even though I once worked there for a whole year – 40% employee discount, man! – I can still without hesitation nominate Restoration Hardware for Best Customer Service Company in America.

    Don’t believe me? Here’s a test anyone can do:

    1. Find a mall with both Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn. There are hundreds.

    2. Time how long till someone greets you. Not a pushy sales greeting like, “Ooh you look good on that sofa how many do you want to take home?” But an actual human greeting like, “Hello.” RH: 60-90 seconds, per employee training. PB: Infinity. (RH trainers sometimes take new recruits into PB to show how it’s NOT done.)

    3. Find the store’s return policy. RH: None posted. Employees are told to accept returns any time, any reason. PB: 30 days on furniture, one year on everything else.

    4. When you get back home, call customer service. RH: Human being answers 24 hours a day. PB: Automated sales pitch & phone menu 21 hours a day (PT).”

  21. Ben Popken says:

    Noah writes:

    “I would second the nomination of Newegg.com with a personal story (which incidentally highlights my own stupidity so you can bet it’s true).

    I ordered parts for an entire high-end gaming rig, approximately $1,200 (US) from Newegg.com, paid for expedited service and 2-day shipping.

    Sure as the sunrise Newegg (as always) shipped my goods immediately hitting the 2-day target without issue.

    I then proceeded to either misunderstand or damage said merchandise, surmised (incorrectly) that it was defective, and emailed Newegg for an RMA (return merchandise authorization) number to send the goods back for replacement.

    Less than 2 hours later I had an extremely friendly reply, an RMA number, and instructions on returning the merchandise.

    I, however, decided in the meantime that I would rather just return the whole lot and get my money back. I was bitter. I emailed the same in my reply to Newegg, and less than 30 minutes later I received another extremely friendly email with approval for returning the items, instructions, and a comment that once they received the items and checked that they were all there, they would credit my card for the full amount.

    I boxed up everything and sent it back to them. I assumed 3-4 days and I would hear of the credit or return, or any issues. 2 days later I received ANOTHER extremely nice email stating that they had received the items and credit the full amount to my card. I checked my bank, they had indeed.

    Now, Newegg’s customer service goes above and beyond. I realized several days later I had completely failed to return the Motherboard manual, several cables that came with the motherboard, and a CD that also came with it. They still credited my account, no hassles. That surprised me for sure.

    A couple days later, having realized it was user error no defective hardware that caused the initial problems and subsequent return, I actually re-purchased ALL of the equipment I had previously purchased, started to RMA and finally returned.

    Again, it arrived in 2 days, no hassles, no missing manual or cables (they prob should have left those out! Would serve me right).

    I actually sent Newegg an email telling them how impressed I was with the customer service, and they simply said: “We try our best to make sure you’re happy with your customer experience at Newegg, I hope we have succeeded and thank you.”

    All in all Newegg is a stellar company. I have purchased somewhere on the order of $15,000 worth of computer hardware over the years, and have had ZERO problems – even (as in my story) when I create one myself. Newegg just doesn’t let anything BE a problem.”

  22. Ben Popken says:

    Jeff writes:

    “I’ve always found Zippo to be a class act. Doesn’t seem to matter what happened to the lighter, if you send it back they’ll fix it up for free. They don’t cover the finish, but they have you covered on the mechanicals.

    Just over 10 years ago I had gotten out of the Navy and found that the lighter I had brought in the Ship’s Store (with the ship’s “seal” and motto on it) was broken – the hinge pin snapped. I sent it in to Zippo for repair asking them to let me know the cost, and in a couple of weeks got it back. It had not only been repaired, but they had also replaced the innards with brand new parts.
    The lighter had a slip of paper with it explaining that the repairs to my lighter were at no cost to myself.

    Pretty bizzare in today’s America.

    http://www.zippo.com actually has some more info on that, I just noticed.”

  23. Brian B says:

    You definitely pay a price for it, but Four Seasons hotels may have the most maniacal focus on customer service in America (or the world, for that matter). They strive to PREVENT customer problems, not just placate them after the fact.

    I’ve always had good experiences with them, but a couple of examples from a recent trip to Mexico. My wife was at lunch with my 9-month old daughter at the Four Seasons Punta Mita. The waiter asked if my daughter would like some apple juice. Sure, my wife replied, but she doesn’t really drink from regular cups. They promptly returned with the juice in a sippy cup.

    At the same lunch, my wife was rubbing her arms where she had a little heat rash. Noticing this, and thinking she was cold, the waiter offered a shawl or some kind of wrap to help warm her up…in Mexico…in May.

    Where else do you get genuine effort to please like that?

  24. kostia says:

    Heartfelt agreement on Apple, Bank of America, Newegg, Southwest, Zippo, Trader Joe’s, and Audible. Yay on all those.

    Halfhearted agreement on Speakeasy. They did screw me over when I canceled my DSL years and years ago, but they were the only broadband I could get where I was living, and they worked hard to set it up.

    And I nominate Amazon. I love Amazon. Still, no matter what they do, they’re the first place I go when I want to buy something, pretty much no matter what it is.

  25. Rick Dobbs says:

    Newegg.com
    Nordstrom’s

  26. Gizmodo says:

    I vote for Gawker Media! No actually I guess I’d vote for Bank of America.

    I haven’t read the other replies but I assume at least one Apple fanboy has said Apple :rolleyes:

  27. etinterrapax says:

    I love Audible, too. When I first had the service, I got busy and didn’t use it for several months, so I called to cancel. I expected them to try to retain me, but I was impressed when they offered to credit my account for all of my unused book credits (until recently, theirs was a use-or-lose service) if I’d give them another chance. Since then, I got an iPod and use my two monthly credits every time. I’ve been a happy customer for over three years. And membership is a fantastic deal, financially, over buying individual titles. I just wish they had a bigger catalogue.

    LL Bean has excellent service. They’ve never disappointed me, and they have the same guarantee even on their outlet merchandise. Love. A girlfriend of mine once returned a duffle bag to have a zipper repaired after ten years, and they just replaced the whole bag. They’re so generous with that guarantee that I feel guilty for taking advantage of it. I have a messenger bag that I could return because the hardware is wearing out after nine years of hard use, but I can’t bring myself to do it.

    Costco deserves a nod just for how well they treat their employees. They put other retailers to shame.

  28. ModerateSnark says:

    A lot of companies based here in Minnesota are “pretty good” (our highest compliment):

    You may have heard of some of these: 3M, Ameriprise Financial, Andersen windows, Best Buy (erk!), Cargill, Dairy Queen, Deluxe Corp. (want a check printed, not cheap?), General Mills, H.B. Fuller Co. (would you like to buy a brush, ma’am?), Land O’Lakes, Medtronic (sorry, your heart has been recalled), Northwest Airlines (eep!), St. Paul Travelers (yep, bought that pointy building in SF), Target, Toro, U.S. Bancorp, more.

    I guess I’d nominate 3M and Target. High standards, good corporate citizens, and all that. (Ever had a bad roll of Scotch tape or a bad pad of Post-It notes? I didn’t think so.)

  29. etinterrapax says:

    ModerateSnark reminds me that I’ve only ever had excellent experiences with NWA. When I was flying regularly from Boston to Mpls, they had the only direct flight, but it was usually more expensive. Nevertheless, I took it whenever I could. During the holiday season in 2004, I was booked home on some other airline, probably USAir, and they canceled my flight and rebooked me on Northwest, but told me that I’d never get my luggage back (!) because it was too close to flight time, and to just file a claim when I got to Boston. I admit it, I freaked a little and yelled at the gate agent. My feeling was that if I was there and my bags were there, it was unconscionable that they were irretrievably lost just because I was taking a different flight. When I regained my composure, I went to the NWA gate and begged them to see what they could do, even though it was less than an hour to takeoff. They said they would. My bags were at Logan when I got there.

    Even if this was no big deal for them to do, they were polite and helpful even when I was irritated and exhausted, even when everyone was. That weekend, every place was plagued with weather delays from ice storms in the NC/TN/GA area and the airport was packed. It would have been easy for them to dismiss me.

  30. Ben Popken says:

    Meg writes:

    “Hello,

    I know what the best company is in America, but I am worried about nominating it because it is by no means a national corporation like many of the other nominees. If you feel that a small, yet influential cafe would be worth putting into the hat, then here’s my schpeel:

    The White Dog Cafe (http://whitedog.com/) in Philadelphia is the best company in America. It may not have thousands of employees, but it makes a bigger difference than you would think. The owner, Judy Wicks, has been offered a lot of money to franchise it, but has refused to compromise its integrity. The White Dog offers fresh, local food that is absolutely delicious. The meat is humanely killed, the bread is from local bakeries, the coffee fair trade and the cafe supports sustainable organic agriculture. The energy used is entirely wind power. Surplus food is either donated and the scraps are given to pig farmers.

    The company is based on serving the earth, the customers, the community and the employees. Rather than pay workers minimum wage, they are paid a living wage ($8 to start) and their benefits include employer match 401 K, paid vacation time, health insurance. They run many community events (I can’t even list them all, you can see them here: http://www.whitedog.com/community.html) and contribute 10-20% of their profit to charities every year. If an employee makes a donation to charity, the cafe will match it. Honestly, I can’t do this company justice. There are so many amazing things it manages to do, please look at the website.”

  31. Ben Popken says:

    Sheila writes:

    “Google.

    reasons:

    1) Their corporate mission statement (or one of those things, whatever) is “Don’t be evil.” That seems like a good start, anyway.

    2) They seem to treat the people who work for them pretty well, with the time to work on their own projects and stuff.

    3) They put out (or buy, and provide) cool things for us to use, for free!! Google Earth, Sketchup, the list goes on.”

  32. Ben Popken says:

    Adam writes:

    “Hey there Consumerist,

    I don’t know if this technically qualifies as a company, but my credit union totally gets my vote for best company in America. I use Boeing Employees Credit Union (http://www.becu.org) and I have never been dissatisfied with them. They give excellent rates on all of their products, and their customer service is top notch. I have needed to call for various reasons several different times (address change, car loan approvals, etc), and I have never once gotten a CSR who wasn’t courteous, quick, and friendly. And nearly all of them were completely competent, too. There have been a couple that needed to transfer my call to someone who knew more about a certain area, but that is the exception rather than the rule.

    All in all, I have always been very pleased with BECU and think it would be a great vote for Best Company in America. I just don’t know if enough other people know of it in order for it to win.”

  33. Ben Popken says:

    David writes

    “I’d have to say whole-heartedly that Google wins best company in my book. Granted: nearly all of their products are free, and there’s not much customer service action going on; however, Google consistently puts out great programs like Picasa, Desktop, and Browsersync that, more often than not, work like a charm. It’s always on the cutting-edge as far as creativity, ingenuity, and functionality are concerned. As a consumer, I think the quality of product a company produces has to count for something. “

  34. Ben Popken says:

    Brigid writes:

    “I’d like to nominate REI. I’ve only recently started buying things there, but the few things I’ve returned have been taken back and replaced, refunded, or exchanged without a single question. The staff is friendly and generally competent. Also, I’ve heard from camping buddies that years down the road, even after extensive use, if anything that they’ve sold gets broken or worn they will repair or replace it for a reasonable amount of money or, at times, for free. Even their online customer service chat is fast and reliable.”

  35. Jorge M says:

    Cant’ believe no one has said Crutchfield! The people on the phone are friendly and knowledgeable, and never pushy. When you order a car stereo they ask your car’s make and model. Then they send you customized instructions on how to take apart your dashboard and a custom wiring harness so you don’t have to splice any wires.

    The only downside is that their prices are usually not the lowest, but I’d rather sponsor good business practices than save a few bucks (same reason I never buy at Wal-Mart).

  36. Jesse in Japan says:

    Nintendo of America. When I bought a Nintendo DS, it had a dead pixel. I got somebody from customer service right away and, though she did ask me, twice, if I was really sure it bothered me, they sent me out a new DS which arrived very quickly with a box to send the old one back to them. The second one also had a dead pixel. Now, these kinds of manufacturing errors happen and quality control would certainly be appreciated, but when I got through to customer service, they apologized profusely, promised to send a replacement in time for Christmas (this was around December 20) after having it undergo a more exacting inspection process. I got it on the 23rd, no dead pixels.

  37. Ben Popken says:

    Marie writes:

    “If you’re still taking nominations, I’d like to add Whole Foods to the list. Not because of the lobster silliness, but because I know of no other chain that trains its employees better. They simply can’t do enough for their customers, they know the stores like the backs of their hands, and they patiently answer questions that would probably provoke normal people to do unforgiveable things. And the cashiers scare me a little because they seem to know the codes for every kind of obscure produce with barely a glance (and they’re right!). The other day I couldn’t find artichoke hearts, so I asked a clerk who turned out to be from the dairy department. She tracked down a grocery department clerk who led me straight to them–with the dairy clerk right behind us “so now I’ll know where they are, too.” I suppose one could argue that this is the least we should expect of grocery-store employees, but seriously, how does the staff at your regular grocery store behave?”

  38. Ben Popken says:

    Matthew writes:

    “Okay, whether or not Paul Frank is the best company in America is surely debatable but I did want to nominate them based on an exceptional customer service incident I had with them last year.

    I had purchased a pair of their pants that were nothing but trouble. The zipper would fall down on its own free will and, after just a week of wear, a giant hole opened up in the crotch. I liked the pants so it wasn’t a big deal to take them into a tailor and have them fixed but some friends encouraged me to write to them and so I did. I intended it to be a bit of a larf and didn’t expect a reply but slyly included my sizing in the email just in case they felt like making things square.”

  39. Malachi says:

    Bed Bath & Beyond. My wife and I registered there for our wedding. Besides the fact that it took 3 days to get around that gigantic store, they have great customer service, when staffed enough. I bought a couple mirrors and I was a dumb-ass and didn’t fasten them enough. They fell and broke so I took them back to BB&B and they took ‘em back – no questions asked.