Monday, October 10, 2016

The Way Customer Service Should Be

Disclaimer: I do not now work nor have I ever worked for or been paid or compensated in any way by L.L. Bean. 

I live in Maine, and the state has a marketing tagline: The Way Life Should Be. Granted, that's a bit oversimplified, but there are certainly things about Maine that make it a wonderful place to live and work. There are several companies that are famous for their Maine roots, probably none more than L.L. Bean. The stories you hear are true: People wear the iconic "Bean Boot" everywhere. I've seen lawyers--men and women--walking into the local courthouse in suits and Bean Boots in wet or snowy weather. Mainers tend toward the practical.

Yesterday morning, I was set to check out of the hotel where I was staying along the route home from a brief vacation trip. I walked out of my room and started towing my usual suitcase--a roll aboard carry-on bag. Suddenly, the suitcase--one of a set--was on the floor and the handle was still in my hand. Just the handle. It had broken. And I'm headed on a business trip next week. The suitcase was an L.L. Bean. 

The route home took me and my longtime friend right through Freeport, Maine, and as it turned out, my buddy wanted to pick up something there anyway. So off to the main store we went. I quickly emptied my suitcase (I use packing cubes) and carried it into the store, with the broken handle in my pocket. 

Sunday afternoon at the height of foliage ("leaf-peeping") season in Maine is busy in Freeport. Add to that Bean's weekend 20 percent off sale, and a rainy day. It was crowded, to say the least.

1) They had enough staff to handle the traffic
The line in the customer service area was long, but kept moving because they had adequate staff. Every station was open (about a dozen, though I did not count). No one looked angry or impatient in the line, because we could all see the progress of the line and the business-like demeanor of the representatives. 

2) The system works
I got up to the counter and put the suitcase and the handle in front of the rep. He didn't have to ask to see some ID--I already had my license out, being a veteran customer. "Broke this morning," I said, pointing to the handle. He opened the suitcase and looked inside for the label. He entered some information into the computer in front of him and said:

  • You bought this at our outlet store at a discount [Correct]
  • You paid $xx [Correct]
  • I will either give you a gift card for that amount, or refund it to the credit card ending in xxxx --the one you paid with at the time of purchase [Correct]
This is CRM (Customer Relationship Management) at its best. 

3) No fuss
This is what the L.L. Bean guarantee is all about. I wasn't asked any questions about the article, or if I did something wrong. I wasn't told I didn't have a receipt or given some lame excuse why they couldn't help me. I just was refunded the entire purchase price.

4) Problem solved for everyone, not just me
I walked over to the luggage department and found the current equivalent bag in the same color, so it would match my other bags. I examined the handle, and it has been updated and strengthened since I bought mine. 

They gave me the 20 percent weekend discount and I paid the difference between the full retail and what I had paid at the outlet store using my gift card and some additional dollars. Done.

My friends and colleagues know that I wear and use L.L. Bean clothing and accessories all the time. In fact (with no idea I was heading to their store at the time) I had on Bean shoes, jeans, sweatshirt, and jacket yesterday. Things fit. Things work. Things last--or if they don't, they are replaced.

Every business can learn something from the way L.L. Bean does customer service. OK, maybe you don't have 104 years of reputation and customers. Maybe you can't afford to replace anything and everything you sell. But you can make it painless for your customers to receive the best service you can give them.

Leon Leonwood Bean made a promise to his first customers, and his brand holds true to it today.

No comments:

Post a Comment