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Top 10 Companies For Customer Service

Fame may be fleeting if you're Katy Perry, but not if you're

For the second year in a row, the online retailer scored the top spot in the MSN Money/Zogby International customer service ranking.

(Oh yeah, there's a corresponding Hall of Shame â€" I'll dissect that next week on this blog. You won't want to miss that train wreck!)

Let's get a little perspective on this year's list, because it only offers a relatively brief snapshot of these companies' customer-service records. All of these businesses have been around considerably longer that a year, and have had plenty of time to screw things up â€" or, in this case, to not screw things up.

And there are a few surprises. But I don't want to get ahead of myself.

Here's the 2011 list:

1. Amazon
2. Trader Joe's
3. Netflix
4. Nordstrom
5. Publix
6. Southwest Airlines
7. Apple
8. Fedex
9. Costco
10. UPS

No big shockers there. All of these companies have well-earned reputations for excellent service.

Here's the 2010 list:

1. Amazon
2. Trader Joe's
3. Netflix
4. Apple
5. FedEx
6. Publix
7. Southwest Airlines
8. UPS
9. Nordstrom
10. Marriott

Same three leaders here, but some changes as you go down the list. Apple slipped from #4 to #7 in 2011. Southwest climbed a notch. Costco came on board. And Marriott was kicked off the list this year.

Alright, here's the 2009 ranking:

2. Trader Joe's
3. Netflix
4. Amazon
5. Nordstrom
6. Publix
7. Whole Foods
8. Apple
9. Costco
10. Southwest Airlines

Whoa, what did USAA do to deserve being banned from the list two years in a row? And look, there's Whole Foods, also absent from the list two years in a row.

Greed is -- bad
Here's an interesting tidbit: the median compensation for CEOs of the public companies in the Hall of Fame was a little over $3 million.

By contrast, the median compensation in the Hall of Shame (we'll get to them soon enough, my friends) was $14.9 million. That's an eye-popping 447 times the median American worker's pay ($33,190).

In other words, greed may be bad, when it comes to executive compensation. At least if you're a customer.

So is there a connection between bad service and CEO greed? I wouldn't doubt it.

Overcompensated CEOs often get that way because they are out of touch with reality, and indeed, with their own customers. When they no longer have to mingle with the everyday consumer, or even their own employees for that matter, then they're bound to preside over a collapse in a company's service culture.

We'll deal with all that next week.

Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate, syndicated columnist and curator of the On Your Side wiki. He also covers customer service for the blog. You can follow Elliott on Twitter, Facebook or his personal blog, or email him directly.

Photo: Robert Scoble/Flickr
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