What company first comes to mind when you think about outstanding customer service? Most of us would single out Nordstrom or Ritz-Carlton or one of the other luxury companies so often showcased in articles on the subject. In fact, it’s easy to conclude from the literature and the lore that top-notch service is the exclusive province of a select few and that any retailer outside that rarefied atmosphere is condemned to offer mediocre service at best.

But even companies that position themselves for the mass market can provide outstanding customer–employee interactions and profit from them. Their secret? They consider employees their living brand and devote a great deal of time and energy to training and developing them so that they reflect the brand’s core values. In fact, these companies make as much effort to groom employees as they do to develop pithy messages about what the brand is and does.