Let’s play a game. Ask someone for an example of a company that understands customer experience (CX).

Odds are you’ll hear “Amazon.” Heck even CX thought leader Paul Greenberg — known in customer relationship management (CRM) circles as the “Godfather of CRM” — says Amazon “does a fantastic job.”

Amazon Meets Its Promises

“I’m a prime member, of course, a very early prime member. And I’ve never regretted a second of having that membership,” he told Arke VP of Strategy Margaret Wise during a recent interview. “When I first got it, it was awesome. And it’s stayed awesome.

Amazon meets its delivery promise and its brand promises … Occasionally, it’s exceptional. But most of the time it’s just about getting me what I want, exactly the way I want it. Amazon understands the keys to customer advocacy and customer loyalty is very simple delivery and logistics. That’s the bulk of it, right?

“It understands if you can create an effective delivery system, things will work out great. And it does. That’s why Amazon is who it is. They’ve understood that from the get-go and they build accordingly, and keep improving the services.”

Beyond Amazon: Dominos, USAA

But the world doesn’t run on Amazon alone — not yet, anyway. So what other companies are offering exceptional CX?

Wise said Domino’s has successfully delivered on a brand promise and adapted to the disruption of digital technologies.

Digital natives, she explained, “love Domino’s, especially the company’s online pizza-tracker that came out in 2008.” The pizza tracker shows you the exact location of your pizza.

“Digital natives love that because they want to know where everything is at all times — from their pizza to their Uber vehicle to the products they ordered from Amazon. With all they do, they want complete transparency. Domino’s understands that. It’s made itself relevant to a whole new generation of pizza lovers by reinventing itself with digital technologies,” she said.

Arke CMTO Chris Spears thinks his insurance company, USAA, provided a “tremendous experience” after a pipe burst, flooding his house.

With one phone call, he said, “The machine (USAA has) from the customer experience perspective went into gear. The insurance company had contractors to my house that night, drying things out, sucking water out of the floors, the whole nine-yards.

“And everything was done on my mobile device. I didn’t have to meet with anyone, and every contact I had — email, phone calls, texts — all showed up in the app.”

The Broader CX Landscape

Anyone in business today knows CX is a business imperative. But for many companies, CX remains elusive — in part because it’s so hard to define.

What does great CX look like? And what do customers want, anyway?

To answer those questions, let’s go back to our game. This time, let’s identify less obvious CX leaders — no “Zappos” or “Nordstrom” responses allowed.

Remember, your customers are no longer comparing you to just direct competition. They compare you to any company that offers great CX.

As Wise explained, every time a consumer has an amazing digital experience, it resets expectations. Unless a company has successfully embraced digital customer experience, then it will likely lose business to competitors.

The Quest for Great Experience

To see what companies stand out, we took an informal, non-scientific study. The question: What company do you personally think offers excellent CX?

As much as I love online shopping for its ease and convenience, two of the best experiences I’ve had in recent months happened at brick-and-mortar stores: Mary Elizabeth’s Bridal in Savannah, Georgia and Sugar Belle in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Both made authentic emotional connections to their customers — something well defined by Simon Glynn, director of Europe and the Middle East at Lippincott, New York City-based creative consultancy.

“Emotion is when customers know what they want, over and above what any objective and analytical scoring system would tell them.

“In a brand context, we see three broad emotional needs that brands help to fulfill: to simplify the frenetic world around us so it is more manageable, to believe in something bigger than what is in front of us, and to belong to a group beyond our family and friends,” he explained.

4 Companies With Notable CX

Here’s what we found.

1. Chewy

Chewy pet productsChewy is a Dania Beach, Florida-based online retailer of pet products. Founded in 2011, it was acquired last year and now operates as an independent subsidiary of PetSmart. While some customers have expressed some dissatisfaction with the new ownership, it still generates overall positive word-of-mouth.

Customers cite its prices and free shipping policy. “But I really like how the people genuinely seem to care about animals. I bought something that just wasn’t right for my dog. When I called to ask about returning it, they told me to donate it to a local animal shelter — and still refunded me in full,” one customer told us.

2. KEH Camera

Keh CameraKEH Camera is a Smyrna, Georgia-based buyer and seller of used photography equipment. Founded in 1979, it markets itself as the “world’s largest provider of high quality, previously used camera and photographic equipment.”

It also boasts about its “easy and hassle free” shopping experience — something one professional photographer eagerly confirmed. “You can depend on all of their stuff like granite. KEH also has a lot of integrity around appraisals of used equipment. They’ll honestly assess what something is worth, at no charge. They don’t even charge you for shipping,” he said.

3. OtterBox

otterbox casesFort Collins, Colorado-based OtterBox produces water resistant, shock resistant, and drop resistant cases for mobile devices. The 20-year-old company counts listening to its consumers as one of his core principles.

OtterBox products come with a one-year warranty: If your case breaks the company will replace it for only the cost of shipping, handling, and taxes. “But listen to this,” one customer told me.

“I recently called OtterBox customer service and admitted dropping my Commuter series case, breaking it. I said I realized I could only exchange my case for the exact type. But I mentioned how much I missed my Defender series case, which I had for my old phone.

“The company rep never missed a beat. ‘Well let’s get you back into the case you like.’ He upgraded me at no charge, extended my warranty, and waited on the phone while I looked over my color choices online. That’s amazing customer experience, and it cemented my brand loyalty.”

4. Sub-Zero, Wolf, Cove

Sub-Zero Freezer Co. is the parent of Sub-Zero refrigerators; Wolf cooking appliances, and Cove dishwashers. The Madison, Wisconsin company was founded in 1945 on three ideas: “quality, making a fair profit, and keeping customers.”

Its customer care page is startling in its simplicity. “You may never have a reason to call us. But if you do, we’ll treat you to customer care as exceptional as our products,” it says.

“So I had to call,” a woman told us. “One of the cooking grates on my new cooktop developed a crack after about 11 months of use. As soon as I explained the issue, the company representative acknowledged they had been having a problem. He not only replaced the defective grate but all five of them on my unit.

“But that’s not the end of the story.

“It happened again about a year later. And boom! No problem at all. The company again replaced all five grates, no questions, no hassle, just excellent service.”

Share Your CX Story

Like love and happiness and a lot of other worthwhile things, impressive experience is subjective.

Do you agree or disagree with our findings? Well, now it’s your turn.

Add your thoughts in the comments below. And feel free to offer your own examples of companies Leading in Experience.

For More Information

If you want more information about creating exceptional brand experiences, email Chris Spears or Margaret Wise.

About Arke

Atlanta-based Arke develops strategies and implements digital technologies for better brand experience for your customers.