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 chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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