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Creating Value and Confidence Leads to Customer Amazement

How do you stand behind the products you sell, and how far are you willing to go to make a customer happy?  What’s your guarantee?  What’s your refund policy?

Nordstrom’s is known for their legendary customer service, both on the front end of the sale as a customer shops the store, as well as the back end, after the sale.  They stand behind the merchandise they sell and have an excellent return policy.  Not long ago I bought some fairly expensive blue jeans.  Unfortunately, they ripped.  I took them back and told the salesperson, “I bought these about six months ago.  I wouldn’t normally bring these back, but my wife insisted that I should at least show you what happened.”  The salesperson immediately replaced them, no questions asked, and no hassle.  I was impressed.

I have no idea what Nordstrom’s does with returned or damaged goods.  There’s probably some arrangement they have to accept returned merchandise.  Or maybe they just “eat the product” and attribute the cost to marketing and customer retention?  To most people, it doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that the customers know that Nordstrom’s will stand behind their merchandise.

As a result of that confidence, the customer is willing to spend a little more.  Nordstrom’s is not known for low prices.  At the same time, they aren’t the highest price retailer either, even though their merchandise may be higher end than the average department store.  They are reasonably competitive in their pricing and are known for delivering value with the merchandise the sell and the service they deliver.

Zappos.com is similar to Nordstrom’s in that they don’t have a reputation for having low prices.  They are actually more like Nordstrom’s, in that they create great value and confidence, thereby making price less relevant.  They have amazing customer service, a liberal return policy and a few other great customer focused strategies that earn them a large group of loyal customers and a stellar reputation. This leads us to a company that I wrote about in a past newsletter: Simplicity Sofas.  Here’s another example – and lesson – from this amazing customer amazement role model.

In case you didn’t read the recent article I wrote about Simplicity Sofas, they are a furniture manufacturer that sells directly to consumers through its website.  Their owner, Jeff Frank, is a perfect example of what it takes to become a customer service legend.  They have a good product, and while not the most expensive, it’s not cheap either.  It’s made with quality materials and Jeff is willing to stand behind their product.  Read the following story of how they handled over 100 customers whose orders were delayed.

After two years in business Simplicity Sofa’s had a problem. Sales doubled almost overnight and continued to increase.  This sounds great, but their factory was not able to keep up with the orders. They had to move to a larger manufacturing facility to fill the orders.

The transition to the new factory took more than three months, and as a result, more than 100 customers’ orders were delayed between six to twelve weeks.  They were failing on their customer promise to deliver custom-built furniture within 30 days.

As a side note, one of Simplicity Sofa’s proudest achievements is that after more than 2,500 customers and $3 million in sales, there has never been a negative review.  It seemed that due to all of the delayed orders, this amazing achievement might be in jeopardy.  In spite of this delay, Simplicity Sofas did not have a single customer cancelation or a single negative review.  As Jeff Frank puts it, “On the contrary, many of the company’s strongest customer relationships were established during this time period.”

How did they do it?  They did two things.  First, they kept their customers updated on the progress of the factory and their orders.  They didn’t just write one letter or email.  It was frequent, regular contact that kept the customers confident their orders would eventually be fulfilled.  In addition, the company offered partial refunds and other incentives as gesture of appreciation for their customers’ patience and understanding.

The big learning “take-away” from Simplicity Sofas’ dilemma is to communicate any bad news you might have with your customers immediately.  Stay in contact with them to relay updates and progress reports.  Knowledge is comforting.

Frank has implemented some other customer service and experience confidence builders that any business, not just a furniture company, can adapt and use.

Simplicity Sofas has a warranty designed to protect the consumer and not the company.  “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.”

Within one business day after each customer has received their furniture order they are contacted 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?

And Simplicity Sofas has created the ultimate example of customer evangelism.  Their customers not only provide word of mouth advertising, but many of them volunteer to show the furniture in their homes and talk about their experiences with the company to potential customers.  According to Frank, more than 50% of customers who first see Simplicity Sofas in another customer’s home eventually make a purchase.

Simplicity Sofas has a great product. They deliver amazing service.  They stand behind what they sell.  They have an excellent reputation.  Overall, they are an excellent example of customer amazement in action.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert,  professional  speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or http://www.hyken.com/. For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to http://www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)

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6 Responses to Creating Value and Confidence Leads to Customer Amazement

  1. “As a result of that confidence, the customer is willing to spend a little more”

    There are no shortage of studies that show customers are willing to pay a little more for great customer service. It’s really amazing how much the customer experience impacts your brand and bottom line. Your front-facing employees can make or break your company’s reputation!

  2. Hi Shep,

    Great thoughts. The customer service environment is changing – today’s customers are more informed and more demanding. Customer service is no longer an afterthought – it’s a competitive tool that’s intimately connected with marketing and sales teams. Customers are forward thinking – they take service into account when making big purchases, and they will choose the product backed up by better service when they can. They are willing to spend a bit more with a company they can trust.

    Businesses need to invest the time, energy and effort required to bring in the right people and the right organizational tools to get customer service right. They need to listen on all fronts, respond to customers, and reach out frequently. Customer service is just as important as sales or marketing. In fact, great service can turn your customers into salespeople.

    John Paul Narowski, Founder – karmaCRM

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