The Top 10 Customer Service Leaders

The Mount Rushmore of Customer Service Leaders

customer service leadersWho are the greatest Customer Service Leaders of all time? The following is a list of the 10 greatest Customer Service Revolutionaries who had the most influence and dramatically changed businesses in all industries. These changes are still being felt decades later.


Father of Customer Experience Walt Disney1.Walt Disney

The Father of Experience. Arguably no single figure has had more of an influence on Customer Experience. The rest of the world is still trying to catch up to Walt’s concepts fifty years later. He was the first person ever to charge admission to a park before. Disney’s impact on Customer service is impossible to quantify. It would be hard to open a business book or Customer service book today that doesn’t talk about Disney’s incredible attention to detail and philosophies.

Recommended Book:
Inside the Magic Kingdom: Seven Keys to Disney’s Success

“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

-Walt Disney



Father of Customer Hospitality - Horst Schulze2. Horst Schulze

The Father of Hospitality. Schulze defined the luxury hotel experience as the co-founder of The Ritz Carlton Hotels, whose reputation for Customer service is known as the gold standard worldwide. He started as a busboy at a very young age, moved up and was later promoted to management levels in some of the finest hotels in Europe. He created a system of excellence at such high levels that he calls the “Continuous Process Improvement,” which has been copied by many companies around the country.

Recommended Book:
Excellence Wins: A No-Nonsense Guide to Becoming the Best in a World of Compromise

“We are superior to the competition because we hire employees who work in an environment of belonging and purpose. We foster a climate where the employee can deliver what the customer wants. You cannot deliver what the customer wants by controlling the employee.”

-Horst Schulze



Father of online customer satisfaction Jeff Bezos3. Jeff Bezos

The Father of E-tail. Bezos is the Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of Amazon. The company began as an online bookstore and has expanded to a variety of products and services. It is currently the world’s largest online sales company. Since founding Amazon in 1994, Bezos has had one vision, “To be the most obsessed Customer centric company in the world.” As a result, Amazon is regarded as the easiest company to do business with in the world.

Recommended Book:
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

“When given the choice of obsessing over competitors or obsessing over customers, we always obsess over customers.”

-Jeff Bezos



Father of Employee Culture Tony Hsieh4. Tony Hsieh

Father of Employee Culture. As CEO, Hsieh took from sales of almost $0 to over $1 billion, while simultaneously making Fortune magazines annual Best Companies to Work For list. Zappos offers their new employees a $3,000 quitting bonus within their first month of employment to see if they are really committed to their company. In 2009, acquired, Inc. in a deal valued at $1.2 billion on the day of closing. Barbara Walters dubbed the Zappos culture as, “The wackiest workplace in America.”

Recommended Book:
Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

“We take most of the money that we could have spent on paid advertising and instead put it back into the customer experience. Then we let the customers be our marketing”

-Tony Hsieh



Father of online customer satisfaction Jeff Bezos5. Steve Jobs

After dropping out of college, Jobs started a company in his garage, which today is one of the biggest and most successful organizations in the world. His complete disregard for conventional business has impacted the way every business works today. He had a fierce fanatical attention to every minute detail the Customer experienced. Jobs had an incredible, some say unrealistic vision, for the way the world could be and his greatest gift was how he got others around him to believe and achieve that vision.

Recommended Book:
Steve Jobs

“Don’t ask the customer what they want, give them something they can’t live without”

-Steve Jobs


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Customer engagement Howard Schultz6. Howard Schultz

After a childhood in the projects of Brooklyn NY, Schultz built Starbucks into one of the most recognizable brands in the world. By creating an exceptional café unlike anything seen before, Schultz and Starbucks turned a 50-cent cup of coffee into a $5.00 experience that people can’t live without.

Recommended Book:
Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul

“We are at our best when creating enduring relationships and personal connections. When we are fully engaged, we connect with, laugh with, and uplift the lives of our customers—even if it is just for a few moments. It’s really about human connection”

-Howard Schultz



world class customer service Herb Kelleher7. Herb Kelleher

Cofounder of Southwest Airlines. Kelleher did the impossible; he built a world-class Customer service airline. He also proved that a company did not have to be a high end, high priced business to offer exceptional service. As a result of how well they treated both their employees and Customers, Southwest Airlines typically earned more profit than all the other US airlines combined. During his tenure, Herb Kelleher produced the highest return to shareholders of any company in the S&P 500.

Recommended Book:
Nuts! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success

“If you create an environment where the people truly participate, you don’t need control. They know what needs to be done and they do it. And the more that people will devote themselves to your cause on a voluntary basis, a willing basis, the fewer hierarchies and control mechanisms you need.”

-Herb Kelleher



Truett Cathy8. Truett Cathy

Founder of Chick-fil-A restaurants. Chick-fil-A is The Ritz-Carlton of fast food. The chain consistently ranks first in restaurant Customer service surveys. In recent years, Chick-fil-A generated more revenue per restaurant than any other fast-food chain in the US. The chain’s average sales per restaurant reached nearly $4 million, compared to the average KFC, which sold $1 million. Customer service is the key to Chick-fil-A’s success. Superior Customer service drives higher sales per unit, contributing to the chain’s ability to generate higher annual sales than KFC, Pizza Hut, and Domino’s, even though each has more than twice as many US locations.

Recommended Book:
How Did You Do It, Truett? A Recipe for Success

“My business grew on my understanding that customers are always looking for somebody who is dependable and polite and will take care of them”

-Truett Cathy



customer engagement Nordstrom9. Everett, Elmer, and Lloyd Nordstrom

John Nordstrom was the one of the original co-founders of Nordstrom, but it wasn’t until his three sons took over the company that it turned into the top luxury department store chain. Today Nordstrom stores are synonymous for outstanding customer service. The company does not bog down its associates with a lot of rules and policies; instead they give them complete autonomy when dealing with Customers.

Recommended Book:
The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence: The Handbook For Becoming the “Nordstrom” of Your Industry

“Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1:
Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.”

-Nordstrom Employee Handbook



customer service Richard Branson10. Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson, an English business magnate, founded the Virgin Group, which controls more than 400 companies. Branson’s most notable businesses are Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic Airlines and Virgin Hotels, which are all known for providing an incredible high level of Customer service. Branson’s guide to Customer service: putting your employees first.

Recommended Book:
Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way

“I’ve had great fun turning quite a lot of different industries on their head and making sure those industries will never be the same again, because Virgin went in and took them on.”

-Richard Branson



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About The Author

John DiJulius

John R. DiJulius is a best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker and President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices.