What's the ROI on gold-plated customer service?

L.L. Bean boots.  By redjar, April 24, 2006, Flickr Today’s article is a reminder that customer service, when done correctly, isn’t an expense.  It can be your #1 marketing tool and put a wide moat between your business and your competitors.

L.L. Bean is the standard against which your phone support should be measured.

From their website:

Guaranteed.  You Have Our WordTM.

Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way.  Return anything purchased from us at any time if it proves otherwise.  We do not want you to have anything from L.L. Bean that is not completely satisfactory.

Unlike a lot of companies, L.L. Bean really lives by their guarantee.

I was preparing for our annual Outer Banks vacation this year and checking out our Bean Sunbuster shelter.  We’ve had it for four years–it’s a fantastic product for use when spending long days in the North Carolina sun.

However, the last time we used it, one of the large fiberglass poles broke.  When I pulled it out today, I remembered that and decided to call for a replacement in enough time to receive it before we left for Nag’s Head.

I called and immediately got a very courteous phone representative who found the part number in under one minute.  Secondly, he asked for my name.  The instant I gave him my last name, he confirmed my address–he’d apparently pulled my record up via the ANI when I called–and thanked me for giving him the correct pronunciation of my last name.

Before I could even ask the price, he let me know it would arrive at my home via FedEx on Saturday and was there anything else he could do?

The price? Gratis.

I asked about the price, and was more than willing to pay for a new pole.  No dice. L.L. Bean wanted me to be happy and refused to take my money.

In my entire interaction with the company, I didn’t hear a representative worried about talk time, first call resolution rates or any of the nonsense you normally encounter in call center management.  He clearly owned the problem, cared about the problem and was empowered to make me happy.

Will I buy from L.L. Bean again?  Absolutely. (In fact this experience makes me think about why I’m not doing so much more frequently)  Will I tell others?  I just did.

Summary and takeaways

  1. Treat customer service as a marketing investment.  Not an expense.  Give those front-line employees all the tools they need to keep your customers happy and let them have at it.  Treat product replacements as marketing, not a cost to be squeezed out ruthlessly.
  2. Ignore the traditional call center metrics. Stop beating on your employees for talk time “infractions” and other petty nonsense.  Your customer service team is your key to success.  Treat them and pay them well and let them win for you.
  3. Fire a few MBA’s. Get rid of the people who come to you with “metrics” about why you can’t do #1 and #2 here.  Take the money you save and use it to pay more to your customer service team.

3 thoughts on “What's the ROI on gold-plated customer service?

  1. Mark

    Another reason why L.L. Bean is a terrific customer service organization is that they’ve decided to server their ties with Bank of America, the current provider of the L.L. Bean rewards card. Why?

    To improve customer service at the request of customers.

    In plain English, this means that when B of A took over MBNA, they started messing with Bean’s customers.

    A quick article is at: http://www.dmnews.com/LL-Bean-severs-ties-with-credit-card-issuer/article/110524/

    Reply
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