#1 Posted: 12 Jul 2012 11:58
Do you truly believe in the product or service that you offer? Do you offer a money-back guarantee? To what lengths will you go to ensure your customer walks away satisfied?
If you are looking for a truly great example of customer service, look no further than Nordstrom's. The retailer is known for its outstanding service – not only on the front end of the sale, when the purchase is made, but after the sale as well. Nordstrom's stands behind its products and has a generous return policy, which I have experienced first-hand. About six months after I purchased some fairly expensive blue jeans, they ripped. Although I wouldn't normally have returned them at that point, my wife encouraged me to do so, to at least make the store aware of the issue. How do you think the salesperson I spoke to handled the problem? You probably won't be surprised to find out that the jeans were replaced, no questions asked.
With such an open return policy, Nordstrom's must acquire a great number of returned goods. Most likely it has arrangements in place to deal with the returned merchandise, quite possibly absorbing the cost and chalking it up to marketing and customer relations. Most people, however, don't even think about that – what is important to them is the guarantee of quality.
And Nordstrom's customers are willing to pay a little more for that guarantee. The retailer is not a low-price department store. It carries higher-end merchandise and that, coupled with its policies, creates customer confidence. It is not the highest priced department store – it is competitive in its market – but the level of customer service adds additional value for its shoppers.
Other retailers follow a similar model. Zappos.com is not known for low prices, but its value also lies in its service and customer-friendly policies. Customers are willing to pay a bit more because the products are backed by outstanding customer service and a free return policy. It has an outstanding reputation and thousands of loyal customers. Another company that I have written about offers many lessons in amazing customer service. Simplicity Sofas is, quite simply, a role model of customer amazement.
The article I wrote about Simplicity Sofas highlighted why the company, and its owner, Jeff Frank, have become the stuff of customer service legend. Selling furniture directly to the consumer through its website, the company sells a quality product made with quality materials, and it stands behind the furniture it sells. It is able to turn challenging situations into opportunities to display its dedication. Recently, it faced a problem when 100 customers' orders were delayed.
The delay was actually caused by the company's great success – sales had doubled, and continued to grow. In order to keep up with the demand, Simplicity Sofas had to move to a larger manufacturing facility, and some orders fell behind.
One of Simplicity Sofas' promises to its customers is custom-built furniture delivered within 30 days. The transition to the new factory was a lengthy process, more than three months, and it delayed 100 orders anywhere from six to 12 weeks.
The company, which boasted 100 percent positive reviews from more than 2,500 customers while racking up $3 million in sales, could have worried that its amazing reputation was in jeopardy. Could it overcome the delays without negative feedback or orders being canceled? It could, and it did. Owner Jeff Frank says, "On the contrary, many of the company's strongest customer relationships were established during this time period."
Simplicity Sofas faced its challenge head-on and kept customers happy by doing two things. First, communication – customers received frequent, regular updates on the status of their orders. They were not left to wonder if they were forgotten or their orders were unimportant. They were "in the loop," and could be confident that they would receive their furniture. Secondly, the company offered incentives, such as partial refunds, to show its appreciation for the customers' patience and understanding.
There is an easy lesson to learn from Simplicity Sofas' handling of this dilemma. Don't try to be evasive when there is a hiccup in your business plans. When you face a setback, be open with your customers, reassure them and keep them updated. They will respect you more for it.
Other customer service policies that Frank has implemented can be adapted to any business. They will serve to build consumer confidence:
Their warranty states, "If you are not happy with our furniture for any reason whatsoever, you may return it for a full refund including all shipping charges for a period of one year after purchase." It doesn't get much better than that!
Customers are contacted within one business day after receiving their furniture and asked three questions:
1. How do you like the furniture?
2. What do you think of our customer service?
3. Are there any problems that need to be take care of immediately?
Simplicity Sofas' customers are more than loyal – they have crossed over into customer evangelism. They provide word-of-mouth advertising, they willingly show their furniture to potential customers, and they share their experiences with others. Frank notes that more than 50 percent of customers who see their product in another customer's home eventually place an order.
Simply put, you couldn't ask for a better example of customer amazement in action. Simplicity Sofas combines a great product with a full warranty and incredible service, and they have the reputation to show for it.