How to find a company that exceeds your wildest expectations

I know you’re silently laughing at that headline. Stop it, already. There are still a few good companies left that care more about their customers than themselves.

Nancy Beja just found out when her Chase credit card fell into the wrong hands and she had to cancel her account.

“Several days later I received an email from Chase with a list of the companies that automatically charged my card monthly — and their phone numbers so I could notify them about the new card number,” she says. “That’s what I would call excellent service.”

It is. Chase could have simply switched her to a new card number and forgotten about it. It wasn’t required to help her, but it exceeded standards.

Examples like hers may seem few and far between. There’s a reason why. American greed is back, thanks to a laissez-faire administration and Congress.

But a few companies are zigging when everyone else zags. You already have a pretty good idea of who these companies are, but let me make it a little easier for you. Yes, there’s a way to find a company that doesn’t just meet standards but goes above and beyond, and it’s not that hard.

So what’s the secret? Simply put, it’s a combination of customer trust and a reliable product backed by the best service. Where you see that, you’ll also see standards that are being exceeded, just like they were with Beja.

How do you measure trust? Talk to someone like Barbara Brooks Kimmel, the CEO and co-founder of Trust Across America, a company dedicated to helping organizations build trust. For the last eight years, she’s been measuring the trustworthiness or integrity of the largest U.S.-based public companies.

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“And that enables us to identify those that exceed standards,” she says.

Here’s the latest list of the most trustworthy companies.

Here are the top five spots:

1. Southwest Airlines (77)
2. Target (75)
2. Marathon Petroleum (75)
2. HCP (75)
3. Adobe (73)
3. PG&E (73)
4. Express Scripts (72)
5. Reynolds American (71)

The Trust Across America premise is pretty straightforward: Companies earn trust by doing right by their customers. That means not just providing an adequate product that meets standards. They exceed the standards, sometimes dramatically.

Take Southwest Airlines, for example. Admittedly, airline industry standards are pretty low. Airlines charge their customers for checked luggage, and they hit them with pretty outrageous change fees. To stand out — to exceed the standard — all the airline must do is go the other way. No luggage fees, no change fees. And with one or two exceptions, that’s exactly what Southwest does.

No doubt, exceeding standards has other benefits, like happier customers and higher profits. But it has to start somewhere, and that somewhere is often the moment when a company says: We can do better.

But is there a way to tell if a company has made that decision? Kind of. There are organizations such as Fellowship of Companies for Christ International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to equipping and encouraging Christian business leaders to operate their businesses and conduct their personal lives in accordance with biblical principles. Membership or participation in such a group may be a sign that the business is answering to a higher calling.

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“As a faith-based nonprofit serving business leaders of faith, they hold their member businesses to a higher standard as far as valuing people over profits and going above and beyond to do business the right way,” says Melany Ethridge, a spokeswoman for the organization.

Finding one of these organizations can still be a challenge. Do you look for the fish symbol on the door? What if they don’t show up in the Trust rankings? These strategies can lead you to a company that exceeds your expectations, but there are other ways to find that information.

And that’s where a little old-fashioned sleuthing comes in handy. You need to find out what others think of the business.

“One of the easiest ways to see if a business or brand is simply meeting or exceeding expectations is to crowdsource the information via online reviews,” says Don Ross, president of the Americas at Trustpilot, one of the largest online review communities in the world.

I’ll tell you exactly how to do that next week.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at

  • Noah Kimmel

    It also means “voting with your wallet”. Too often on this site, we hear from people who take up offers that seem too good to be true (timeshares, AirBnB), deal with companies (spirit and allegiant) who are known as deep discounters vs. value or customer intimate companies (Southwest and JetBlue), or do business in ways that don’t promote mutual loyalty – i.e. booking a car rental through “name your own price” then surprised when limited grace period.

    Part of finding a good company to do business with is being a good customer. If you seek references for a contractor, and then were happy with the job, offer to be one. If someone goes out of there way to make a policy exception, write a thank you note. If Chris and his team help you, donate. Pay it forward.

  • Kairho

    I have problems with the verbiage used here, as it morphed from one thing to another and then to another. Originally the article was about [wildly] exceeding “expectations” and morphed into exceeding “standards.” Two different things. Standards are one thing and expectations are another. I expect my favorite companies to exceed standards (eg Southwest and Delta) but then those excesses become expectations. It’s hard to then exceed what is already above standard.

    Then the metric turned to “trustworthiness” which is a completely different measure. I fully expect every business I deal with to be trustworthy, even though they may only barely meet (industry) standards. My bank, for instance, is an average performer but they have a local branch and I can speak with someone without an inordinate wait. But they have been in business for many years and haven’t had any fiscal crises. They are quite “trustworthy” without exceeding standards, let alone exceeding my expectations of them.

    Nonetheless,a nice treatment of the three separate and different metric, even though they all lie on the continuums of products and customer service.

  • Steve Rabin

    Interesting a tobacco company ended up on the list (Reynolds American). You normally don’t think of them as “doing right by customers”. I don’t consider deadly addiction as doing right.

  • Stephen0118

    It could be because that, even though they’re a tobacco company, they do their best to educate the consumer on the harm that tobacco does and have suggestions on quitting or giving pointers on what to do if you can’t quit.

  • Stephen0118

    Discover did the same as Chase when they gave me a new card with the chip. They notified all of the companies I pay automatically about the change in number and the CVV if necessary.


    Express Scripts is on this list? Our experience has been dismal and we have found it almost impossible to get problems solved. My elderly mom (over age 90) is required to get most of her prescriptions from them. Refills are usually late, an essential medication was on back-order for over a month so we had to pay market rate at our local pharmacy for it (they said there was no supply issue with that drug) and customer service is hit and miss. One package had been opened and then resealed with packing tape rendering the medicine unusable as they could not verify that the medication had not been tampered with. My mother had to wait another 2 weeks to get the medicine replaced. We have requested a waiver to use a local pharmacy and have documented all the problems but her particular insurance (Tri-Care for Life) will not budge and insist the recurring problems we have are not the norm. Not impressed with Express Scripts at all.


    USAA did the same for me.

  • Travelnut

    There are other ratings of customer service. The Temkin Group publishes several ratings on customer service, trustworthiness, and online experience, among others. I’m not supposed to mention my employer directly, but we show up prominently on most of the top 15 lists.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Given the bias exhibited by some (certainly not all) in some religious communities, I would be very hesitant to rely on such an organization as Fellowship of Companies for Christ International for business excellence. (And I’m not pointing out any issues with inconsistencies in other positions these organizations take).

  • michael anthony

    For me, it’s the depth of infraction, and how they deal with it. Every company makes mistakes. If they take care of the issue, quickly and efficiently, I consider them still great to work with. If they are a persistent problem, I will leave as soon as I can. And if it’s beyond the pale, I’ll never do business with them again and i sever the relationship immediately.

  • joycexyz

    Agreed. I’ve seen far too many people who think spending an hour or two in church Sunday morning makes them “good Christians.” Not too mention the atrocities committed in the name of religion (the Crusades, the Inquisition, fatwas, denying services to LGBT, etc.). Furthermore, faith-based organizations seem to exist only to convince people not to use businesses owned by people of other faiths.

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