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Top "Customer Service Champions" of 2012 Revealed; Travel Sector Leads the Way

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Brian Cantor

JD Power & Associates named its 2012 "Customer Service Champions" last week, and the travel sector claimed dominance on the list.

Responsible for ten of the fifty esteemed "champion" organizations, the travel sector features a contingent of hotel chains, airlines and rental car brands that understands how to consistently wow customers in an era of escalating service expectations and greater access to viral customer complaints.

A short perusal of the entire list—not simply those locked into the travel segment—reveals a clear connection between companies praised for workplace experience and service reputation. Brands like Wegman’s, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Enterprise and Amazon are renowned for their organizational cultures, and sure enough, customers experienced the beneficial shockwaves of their workplace positivity.

Sure enough, "focus on your people" represents one of the key best practices highlighted in JD Power’s annual report. Others include "understand and act on customer differences" and "assure consistency across service channels."

The list of customer service champions, broken down by industry:


ACE Rent-a-Car (rental car)
Drury Hotels (hotel)
Enterprise (rental car)
Four Seasons (hotel)
Hampton (hotel)
Hotel Indigo (hotel)
JetBlue (airline)
Southwest Airlines (airline)
Ritz-Carlton (hotel)
Virgin Mobile (airline)
Observation: For rental car and airline organizations, iconic customer service "culture" seems like the pathway to success. The other organizations also benefit from a clear commitment to brand management--they stand behind their customer interactions.

Barnes & Noble
LL Bean
Saks Fifth Avenue
Observation: Amazon represents the only clear online retailer to excel in this category.

Cadillac (auto)
David Weekley Homes (home-builder)
Jaguar (auto)
Lexus (auto)
Mini (auto)
Shea Homes (home-builder)
Observation: Where are the discount/mass-produced carmakers (Nissan, Hyundai, Ford, etc.)?

Financial Services
First Federal
Hancock Bank
ING Direct
Quicken Loans
Observation: Massive banking organizations like Bank of America, Citi and JP Morgan Chase were unable to rise above the list of smaller (and some online) banking organizations.

Clark Public Utilities
Jackson EMC
Salt River Project
Sawnee EMC
South Maryland Electric Cooperative
Observation: Regional, but that would be expected of the utilities category.

Good Neighbor Pharmacy
Health Mart Pharmacy
Publix Pharmacy
US Department of Veterans Affairs Pharmacy Services
Wegman’s Pharmacy
Observatoin: Organizations like Wegman's, which have elite, across-the-board customer service reputations, bring that customer-centricity into their pharmacy environment.

Auto Owner’s Insurance
Erie Insurance
New Jersey Manufacturer’s Insurance
Observation: As with banks, the reaction to some of the "major," industry-leading institutions is largely underwhelming.

Boost Mobile
Straight Talk
US Cellular
Virgin Mobile
Observation: There seems to be a clear bias towards pay-as-you-go or non-contract wireless providers. Dominant contract networks like Sprint, AT&T and Verizon are absent.

For the full report, click here.