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Customer Service Role Models 17 years Later: May 2003 vs September 2020

In my book Relentless, I talk about what happens if you are not relentless. Relentless has to be a lifetime commitment. A focus on customer service can’t be an add-on. If you’re going to be successful, you’ve got to be “Relentless”, today, tomorrow and for all time.

In May 2003 I invested $1,000 in 9 firms I identified as Service Leaders at that time. I wanted to see what happens financially. In Time Magazine’s cover story on Customer Service when they called me a “Customer Service Guru” I said the only thing CEO”s are driven by is hard numbers. It is also true today except many CEOs and their leadership teams have a very short focus on customer service.

Let me share the numbers as of September 1, 2020, in order of highest value. The $9,000 is now worth $151,996: $111,006: I believe Amazon is the most focused and customer-driven company in the world. They are relentless. Sign up for the financial updates. Benchmark yourself against the most relentless customer-focused firm on earth.

Home Depot $14,196: Home Depot is customer-driven. They have been very good except when Bob Nardelli was CEO from August 2007 to April 2009. He came from GE and did NOT understand the power of superior customer service. I spent a lot of money each year at Home Depot. They understand the customer comes first.

Costco $13,809: The leadership at Costco is consistently customer-focused. They are relentless. They have 782 warehouses. The focus is on price, quality and customer service. The lines are long but they are really fast. Two people working at each check out counter.

TD Bank $4,297: The acquired Commerce Bank which used to outperform Amazon. The focus on customer service disappeared immediately after the acquisition in 2007. Back then Commerce Bank outperformed Amazon. They used to answer the phone in one ring. Today it could take 15 minutes.

Walmart $3,532: Sam Walton built a company around customer service and price. This lasted for 18 years. New management was not “Relentless”. The focus today is only on price. Sales have increased by 700% since May 2003. The value of the stock does not reflect this. When Lee Scott took over as CEO and dropped focus on customer service the stock was worth less after he retired 9 years later. He was not relentless.

Southwest Airlines $2,550: They have continued their focus on customer service but the industry is really in tough shape. They have never wavered on their commitment to relentless service. One of the most customer driven firms in the world. They have made a profit for 46 straight years.

Jetblue $831: They never recovered from their screw up on Valentine’s Day 2007 where passengers were stranded on the plane for 13 hours. The best example of the cost of poor Service Recovery. Today they deliver great service but the screw up in 2007, when they were on a roll, was devastating. Home Depot was able to recover from Nardelli but the public has not forgiven JetBlue.

Dell $488: After Michael Dell retired the first time the company eliminated the focus on customer service which was its strength. Once you lose your focus on Relentless Customer Service it is very hard to recover.

General Electric $375: The late Jack Welch when he started as CEO move the stock from $1.40 a share it $40.50 a share. Under Jeff Immelt is lost its way. The focus was on executive and board compensation and waste. The price of the stock today is $6.30 a share.