Satmetrix’ 2011 Net Promoter Industry Benchmarks study found that bad customer experience forced 22 percent of consumers to stop doing business with a company during the second half of 2010.
Factors that have an immediate impact on the customer’s personal experience with a company were the primary reasons consumers gave for defecting. Interacting with a rude or disinterested employee was cited most frequently (34 percent). When you scratch away beneath the surface of what causes disinterested employees, it is almost always because of how employees are treated that causes disinterest. It is about how they are hired, and about how they are enabled to honor customers by being honored themselves.
L.L. Bean is a company grows because they honor the frontline. In this great example, customer Alma Rettew bought a holiday gift for a friend, and asked L.L. Bean, whom she bought it from, to get it to her friend on a specific date (the company has a service to do this). Unfortunately, there was a glitch in the system, and the gift arrived before the holiday, spoiling Alma’s surprise for her friend. When Alma called in to L.L. Bean to register her complaint, her fear and “dukes up” concern that she might have to fight to get her situation addressed was quickly disarmed by the quick and rapid response she received. Ms. Rettew was offered two options for solving her problem. She could receive a refund, or have a complimentary duplicate of her gift sent to her recipient at the correct time. In addition, she received a sincere apology and a promise that the company would contact her friend and explain what had transpired. The burden would fall on L.L. Bean, not her, to make things right with her friend. After all, it was their mistake, and they were accountable. All corrective actions were successfully completed. And while this solution was probably an unusual experience for Ms. Rettew, it is not an uncommon occurrence at L.L. Bean.
Empower employees to do the right thing
The L.L. Bean guarantee gives customers peace of mind, it frees the company’s front line to do the right thing, and it keeps them close to their small-town company culture. “Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit; treat your customers like human beings and they’ll always come back for more,” Leon Leonwood Bean said in 1912 when he founded the company. It remains true today. Bean also said, “A lot of people have fancy things to say about Customer Service, but it’s just a day-in, day-out, ongoing, never-ending, persevering, compassionate kind of activity.”
This most recent Satmetrix information provides additional proof that Leon Leonwood Bean was correct in asserting that training employees to excel in customer service and selling quality merchandise would create return business. The study cites that the top reason U.S. consumers defect is rude or disinterested employees. And the second reason is poor product or service quality. Mr. Bean knew that hiring and training good people, to do an excellent job at selling his superior products would be the best way to keep customers coming back.
Honor the employees who serve the customers
L.L. Bean has sustained their respect for customers and the front line throughout the entire history of the company. From a one-man operation to its place as a global organization with sales of $1.5 billion today, the company has grown by honoring its customers—and by honoring the employees who serve customers by giving them the trust and the tools to do what’s right. In 2008, L.L. Bean was ranked the number one “Online Leader” by Women’s Wear Daily. BusinessWeek magazine named L.L. Bean as one of its top 25 service “champs” in 2008, 2009, and in 2010, L.L. Bean was named the number one service “champ.” Also, in 2010, L.L. Bean ranks in the top two of clothing catalog companies in the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Index.
Can Our Front Line Rescue Customers?
L.L. Bean’s guarantee puts power in the hands of their front line. It gives them freedom to think on their feet and offer options without putting the customer on hold or checking with a manager.
- When a customer calls who is unhappy, does your front line have “permission” to do the right thing?
- Are there options for them to evaluate and exercise using their own good judgment?
- Do you nurture the ability in the front line to think on its feet?