Good, old-fashioned customer service over the phone isn’t dead.

Sure, we live in a world where it seems folks can just pull out their smartphones to find answers to every question imaginable, but now more than ever, there are critical times when a real, breathing human on the other end of the line is everything.

It’s easy to get anxiety scanning over predictions about the future of the customer service industry with pundits touting bots and artificial intelligence as the answer, but let’s stay realistic. It will be decades before robots will be able to fully replace the human customer service experience – if it’s ever possible. That’s why these renowned service leaders are placing major emphasis on handling phone calls the right way.


Insurance is never fun. It’s one of those things you need, but it’s never something you look forward to talking about. For better or worse, though, the average American will be in touch with their carrier at least once a year.

The insurance industry as a whole probably won’t earn a spot on the Mount Rushmore of customer service, but USAA (which caters to veterans and their families), is doing it right.

Here’s a segment from a blog piece on that’s jam-packed with awesome facts and figures about USAA’s detailed approach to deliver superior customer service:

“Not surprisingly, USAA’s call center is a model of its kind. The company avoids recruiting agents with previous call center experience, so as to keep bad habits out. It uses no pre-scripted conversations, and it empowers the phone staff to use their judgment on all issues, including authorizing payments on the spot. It also spends twice the industry average on training—and it trains every employee every year, not just new hires. The retired military officer in charge of phone operations at USAA—almost all the executives are retired officers—explains that the military studied the link between team size, effectiveness, and loyalty for many years.”


While every company could aim for military discipline in their phone operations (we can dream, right?), that’s just not possible. Be sure to at least train your staff on the proper way to deliver over-the-phone customer service and equip them with CTI technology to make the process smoother.

Southwest Airlines

There are only so many flights from Washington D.C. to Houston with a connection in Charlotte so you can catch up with your old college buddy for a couple hours in the airport bar. That means airlines, in general, have a captive audience, regardless of the service experience. Southwest is different – in large part because of the quality of their phone team.

Here are three random reviews from Southwest customers taken from Keep in mind, most folks only take to the internet when stuff goes wrong, so a quick scan resulting in an overwhelming amount of great reviews was telling.

  • Southwest Airlines is a good reliable company. Customer oriented, friendly, and trustworthy. I am satisfied with them and wish they had more nonstop flights from Cleveland
  • There are plenty of airline choices out there, but the past few times we have chosen Southwest because of the hospitality, great rates, and fabulous customer service
  • Always a good experience. Good prices, but the seating is always an obstacle. I always call 24 hours before flight & am always at the back of the plane. Service is always very good.

It might be expected that customers rave about the flight attendants, pilots and other staff they meet in person, but notice the last write-up? Actively calling out the call center team is a massive compliment – one every company should strive for.

Best Buy

If you aren’t a tech wizard, navigating through the flashing lights, gleaming screens and endless aisles of gadgets can be overwhelming. But Best Buy has held a long-standing high note when it comes to its customer service, particularly when a customer is completely clueless but knows they need an upgrade or new purchase.

Let’s dive into this story from, which reminds us once again just how critical the omnichannel customer service experience (outlined in our last blog) can be.

The customer needed a new TV, so he headed to the local Best Buy and was immediately greeted warmly as the representative, Larry, began to form that oh-so critical personal connection. The Best Buy expert quickly identified the best option for the customer and astutely realized he had mentioned an upgraded universal remote earlier, so he grabbed one that would work.

Instead of looking out for himself with the Best Buy upgrade where an in-house team comes an installs the new TV, Larry suggested the customer hire an electrician to save cost (Best Buy might not love this, but hey, hats off to Larry). There was a long line up front, so to close out the transaction Larry brought the customer to a hidden register in the back.

The customer actually decided to go with Best Buy to deliver and install the TV, and everything was great for the first 40 days or so. At that point, the customer started having issues with the circuit breaker connected to the TV. After three failed visits from the maintenance team at his apartment complex, he decided to call the general Best Buy customer service line, not the store he purchased it from.

Without hesitation, the representative told the customer, “We will bring you a new TV tomorrow,” and arranged to do just that.

That’s how it’s done folks. So simple, yet so many companies are still missing the mark.

The Takeaway

Yes, it’s 2018, but the call center is still a critical piece of the omnichannel service mix – and will remain so well into the future. Keep your agents well-trained, give them the technology they need and focus on solving customer issues quickly and you might make this list next year.