Who's on the 2015 Customer Experience 'Naughty or Nice' List?

As we near the end of 2015, it's time to look back at the year's customer experience successes and failures in the hope that these companies' leaders don't disregard them and that true learning develops from these mistakes.
Customer Strategy

As we near the end of 2015, it's time to look back at the year's customer experience successes and failures in the hope that companies don't disregard them and that true learning develops from these mistakes.

Comcast, for instance, tried to improve. Comcast consistently has the worst customer service reviews and ranks at the bottom of many industry customer service lists year after year, including the 2015 Temkin Customer Service rankings. This year management decided to take a real stand against its miserable ranking and persistent perception and announced it would hire more than 5,000 new service employees. It also developed a 10-point action plan. In his blog, Bruce Temkin said the plan is flawed because the 10 items read like a laundry list of things, instead of a coherent approach and commitment to change the overall culture of the company.

Speaking of company culture, we saw employees experience the pain of stressful and strange cultures. It was revealed that Wal-Mart actively encourages store managers to spy on and report subordinate associates who discuss unionization efforts. Managers are also encouraged to watch out for employees who complain about low wages or bad working conditions. The government is said to have launched an informal investigation into these employment practices which could trump civil rights.

And while Amazon is considered to be the top customer experience company, new reports earlier this year of its "weird" stressed-out work culture shed a different light on the retail behemoth. Personal accounts of a culture that appears to throw people under the bus to advance in the organizational hierarchy are just a few of the strange experiences employees at Amazon reported this year.

Lies and cover ups also gained prominence in 2015. Volkswagen's sprawling diesel emission scandal garnered the top spot in the media since the news broke out in the fall. At a press conference last week, Volkswagen blamed the scandal on three main factors: individual misconduct, flawed internal policies, and a "mindset" in some parts of the company that tolerated cheating. Executives admitted that systemic flaws allowed the cheating to persist.

Being Nice Has its Rewards

While 2015 saw its share of business bloopers and blunders, it also had many successful strategies, thoughtful decision-making, and saw CSAT scores on the rise. This year saw a shift in companies focusing on their employees, with many offering generous maternity and paternity packages. From Netflix to Mark Zuckerberg, executives at many well-known brands took a stance against stingy leave policies.

Companies like AirBnB and Uber stirred others to innovate and evolve their own practices to compete in the sharing economy. We're seeing delivery concepts in every industry from dry cleaning to even Starbucks which, for a small fortune, will deliver customers a cup of their favorite joe directly to their desks.

For so many years, companies viewed the social realm as the enemy, but 2015 saw organizations embracing social channels and leveraging their power. Republic Wireless, for example, is using crowdsourcing to offload inquires to its contact center by empowering customers in a community to answer other customers' questions.

Finally, companies becoming data-focused and data-driven was a big trend this year. Companies like Verizon, which analyzes every aspect of the customer experience to eliminate nonsensical processes and inefficiencies, to The Wall Street Journal, which is emulating Amazon's data-driven culture by creating a data analytics board at the center of the newsroom, are emerging as data leaders.

What do you think was the most memorable blunder or noteworthy business advancement this year?