The end of one year and start of the next is often heralded by “best of” lists. These roundups perform quality checks that can be ever-so-useful timesavers. What book should you read next? Well, just check the handy dandy list of the “Best Books of 2011” and start there.

These lists can also sponsor avoidance. ABC News’ “Top Ten Business Blunders from 2011” is certainly not where you want to see your company’s name. Given the scale of these gaffes, this quality check may not even be needed. Most people could pull from memory the companies with “worst of” moments last year.

Here’s hoping those companies use this opportunity to take stock, rebrand if necessary and turn 2012 into their best year yet. But it wasn’t all bad; look no further than Morton’s Steakhouse and Amazon, two companies that made headlines for superior customer service in 2011.

Lessons from Netflix and GoDaddy

It’s a brand new year, so let’s view this glass as half-full. Two of the companies that suffered the biggest blunders of 2012 have provided valuable teaching moments for customer service professionals.

The Netflix story.


The company’s most popular combo plan—one DVD at a time by mail plus online streaming—cost $10 per month. To offset its own rising costs, Netflix increased the price of this plan to $16. Customers rebelled (loudly) against the 60% increase. Netflix lost a million more customers than anticipated, and its stock plummeted.

The Lessons. Forbes published an article in December 2011 on lessons learned from Netflix. Their top lessons:

The GoDaddy story.


The web hosting company threw its support behind the divisive Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), prompting thousands of customers (including Help Scout) to abort ship and join a competitor. GoDaddy has since reversed its position on SOPA, but customers remain incensed, even participating in a “Dump GoDaddy Day” on Dec. 29, 2011.

The Lessons. A Harvard Business Review blog by Scott Kominers and Paul Kominers captured the teachables from GoDaddy in the recent article “Lessons from the GoDaddy Customer Revolt.” Their top lessons include:

There are clear parallels between the lessons from Netflix and GoDaddy, so take heed of this short but critical list of what not to do in 2012. Where to start? Know your customers. This is the overarching lesson that could have prevented, or at least greatly lessened, the fallout from both companies’ mistakes.

Shine on, Morton’s and Amazon

The Morton’s Story.

Morton's Steakhouse

This story set the bar for a “wow” moment for customer service in 2011. Peter Shankman retells his experience in “The Greatest Customer Service Story Ever Told, Starring Morton’s Steakhouse.”

Last August, Shankman faced an extra-long day of business travel (roundtrip from Newark to Miami). He is a self-described “steak lover” and a regular at Morton’s. So as he awaited the final leg of his journey, hungry and dreaming of a steak dinner, he jokingly tweeted:

“Hey @Mortons - can you meet me at newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks. :).”

Oh yes, they did: Shankman was greeted at Newark airport by a tuxedo-clad Morton’s employee carrying a bag that contained a 24 oz. Porterhouse steak, one order of Colossal Shrimp, a side of potatoes, Morton's signature bread, two napkins, and silverware—all free of charge. Shankman’s next tweet:

“Oh. My. God. I don't believe it. @mortons showed up at EWR WITH A PORTERHOUSE! #OMFG!”

The Lessons.

The Amazon Story.


Amazon had a standout moment in 2011, too, as recounted in this Consumerist article. It didn’t gain the publicity the Morton’s event did, but that could be because its just one of hundreds of stories that pop up about Amazon’s amazing feats in customer service.

Time and again, Amazon makes “top 10” rankings for customer service. The company just took the top spot for the second year running in the annual Temkin Loyalty Ratings report on customer satisfaction, and also made it in MSN Money’s 2011 Customer Hall of Fame.

The real story here is the company’s consistently great customer service record. If strong and steady wins the race, then put your money on Amazon.

The Lessons. Amazon keeps teaching us the same lessons year after year, because they WORK. Here are a few of the company’s best practices:

Who’d we miss? Chime in with your favorite companies and customer stories of 2011!

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Gregory Ciotti

About the author: Gregory Ciotti is Help Scout's resident content marketer. He also gets nerdy about behavioral psychology at Sparring Mind.