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What a Pair of L.L. Bean Slippers Taught me About Customer Service

Customer Service

I’m not sure if I’ve ever written a post about great customer service that I have personally experienced. I spend a lot of time writing website and marketing material copy for businesses about putting the customer first. As consumers, we’ve all gotten so used to being promised great customer service and not really receiving it that I think many of us have just come to expect sub-par customer service because it’s easier than getting all riled up over being treated poorly or not really valued. For all of you out there like me who think great customer service is an elusive experience, here’s a real life encounter which I hope will encourage you.

Great Customer Service is Like An Aloof Cat

 

For most of my life, great customer service has been like an aloof cat which comes into the room to let you know it’s there but doesn’t want to be pet, touched or even looked at. I’ve grown used to reading the fine print on every deal and expecting to be taken advantage of or shortchanged. Even when I’ve experienced good customer service on the retail side, such as when we bought our TV a year ago at our local Best Buy, I’ve experienced wretched customer service after the purchase regarding any warranty issues. (I was literally cussed at and hung up on by someone in Best Buy’s back office regarding an issue with my internet TV functionality that I had called their support staff about.) Really bad customer service experiences make us want to turn our backs on guilty offenders forever and give our hard-earned dollars to another company or retailer. Average customer service results in consumers just shopping wherever it’s most convenient or cost-effective; at least that’s true for me.

Really excellent customer service seems to elude us and when we do experience it, we feel like we’ve found a mate we want to be loyal to for life. I have generally felt this way about Apple and have heard many describe Zappos this way. Amazon has also never given me any problems. However, L.L. Bean has just joined that list, because they did one, really important thing.

 

Great Companies Keep Their Promises

 

What L.L. Bean did that was so phenomenal is actually something we expect from our loved ones, neighbors and those we choose to do business with – honesty. L.L. Bean kept its promise. When you purchase something from L.L. Bean it comes with a lifetime guarantee – should you EVER grow dissatisfied with the item you purchased because it doesn’t fit, falls apart or gets stained or whatever, you can return it or exchange it for a new one at no cost. My father in law shops at L.L. Bean and was recounting in passing a story to me of how he returned something he’d bought from L.L. Bean 13 years earlier. “That’s crazy!” I thought. Then, I thought some more about the slippers sitting in my bedroom closet. I loved those slippers. Mr. Frugal Rules bought them for me a few Christmases earlier. They were double-soled leather slippers lined with shearling and I had simply worn them out. I just assumed I’d have to buy a new pair; I mean, who exchanges a pair of slippers worn out from constant use? L.L. Bean does.

Emboldened by my father in law’s experience, I called L.L. Bean and attempted the exchange. It worked! The customer service representative very patiently and cordially helped me find the replacement slippers online, navigated me through the color options and explained to me exactly how the return/exchange process would work. I placed my order and waited. Less than a week later, my new slippers arrived!

As I write, I am enjoying brand new, $90 slippers that I didn’t even have to pay return shipping for! Now, when I want to purchase something that I plan to keep, I will choose L.L. Bean. L.L. Bean also offers a nice credit card offering 3% rewards on all L.L. Bean purchases, 1% rewards on all other purchases and the opportunity to earn free L.L. Bean coupons. My in-laws have had a L.L. Bean card as long as I’ve known them and swear by it. They’ve even bought us and the kids nice gifts off of the rewards earned. They are also always running specials and free shipping deals, and when they’re not, it’s easy to find good online coupons for them. I’ve always thought of L.L. Bean for quality but now I think of them for great customer service as well.

 

How about you? What is your best customer service story? Who stands out in your mind as a retailer or service provider who gave you unforgettable customer service?

 

Photo courtesy of: Roberto Tostes

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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. I'm also a freelance writer, and regularly contribute to U.S. News & World Report, Personal Capital, Daily Finance and more. If you're wanting to learn how to monetize your blog, check out my blog coaching services to see how I can help you take your site to the next level.

70 Comments

  • I like the customer service from Jansport – I remember sending backpacks back to the factory to have their zippers repaired free of charge!

  • I always remember really great and really poor customer service and it can definitely change my shopping habits. If I was a shop owner I would make sure my staff were as courteous as possible!

    • Nicole says:

      I agree Glen. As someone who’s served in customer service positions it’s easy to focus on how you feel you’re being treated but really the heart of your job calls you to focus on how the customer feels. That leads to customer service that customers want to remember! :-)

  • You’re right…so many companies have horrible customer service that I too just shop at places where it is most cost-effective for me. Unless a company really wronged me in a big way, I just shop with the expectation that customer service is going to be bad.

  • I personally enjoy Amazon’s customer service, because they allow you to return things without paying shipping costs (at least when you don’t pay shipping to receive the item). There also is a manager at the local JIffy Lube that I wrote a post about – Andre goes above and beyond!

    • Nicole says:

      DC – I had a good recent experience with Amazon too. I was able to take care of it all through IM chat too. We ordered a DVD for the kids for Christmas that Amazon never ended up fulfilling. They said it was out of stock but ended up finding another copy and shipping it free of charge. Then, I accidentally ordered two copies of a DVD for Mr. Frugal Rules. When I told them about the error, they refunded the $10 to me and allowed me to return the extra copy free of charge! I was impressed.

  • Wow, now that’s great service!!!! It seems to me that years ago, when I worked in CS, good service was a requirement, not an option. Things seemed to have changed so much now. So many times when we go places, people seem thoroughly annoyed to have to do their jobs. It drives me crazy, as the team I worked with years ago all had the same common goal: happy customer!!!

    • Nicole says:

      I know Lori. Sometimes I think back then companies cared more about their employees which ultimately translates into companies caring more about their customers because happy employees generally make satisfied customers.

  • That’s an amazing warranty. I had no idea lifetime guarantees still existed! I think there is good customer service, but it seems to be a rare thing instead of the norm, which is really sad. My veterinarian has excellent service and will get me in at a moments notice. I called once at literally 3 minutes to five with a limping dog and they said come on and stayed for an extra half hour. That’s why I will always buy my pet meds from them instead of online where it would be cheaper. Great story about the slippers. Good to know there are big corporations who keep their word.

  • One time Macy’s let me return a dress that got ruined when it was dry cleaned. I had already worn it, and I didn’t have the receipt!

  • Wow, that is some amazing customer service! I had no idea lifetime guarantees still existed! Mostly, when you buy electronics you have to pay extra for warranty and when you buy clothes, if you wear it then there is no returning it back. I might have to check into L.L Bean’s website. :)

    • Nicole says:

      I know. I didn’t know they existed. Even the ones that said they did I thought were “guarantees” in name only. L.L. Bean is one of the rare good big companies still out there. You should definitely check them out.

  • I’ve had good experiences with Apple’s customer service. And reasonably good experiences with some landlords. Worst customer service goes to big banks (which I now refuse to deal with) and cable companies.

  • Good customer service is hard to find. One company that I frequent is REI. They stand behind their products and their return policies. I will pay more for good customer service.

    • Nicole says:

      I agree Grayson. Sometimes, cheapest is not always best. If I can afford it, I will pay more for good service. We had REIs in San Diego. I remember shopping numerous times there and always loving the experience.

  • I’ve had great customer service with Oakely with a pari of sunglasses I own. I’ve also had at least a very pleasant conversation with AT&T about lowering my bill. Although they couldn’t because I already had the lowest rate, the lady was super friendly…almost like she was trained a little too much for that, but at least it’s better than the opposite. One of the worst companies I’ve had to deal with is Time Warner Cable.

    • Nicole says:

      Hmmm…Your comment brings up my own good and bad experiences with cable companies. I ultimately left Dish Network and and Tracfone because their service was so awful. Recently, I called Cox (we have them for internet) and the gentleman provided excellent customer service. I too asked for a discount and he found a good deal for me that ended saving us some money.

      • Mackenzie says:

        Time Warner has terrible customer service! We were just on the phone with them the other day and they were awful!

        • Nicole says:

          I’m sorry. I remember when we switched to Verizon from Tracfone listening to a woman next to me complain about their horrible customer service and bemoan the fact that she was being forced to leave Alltell (Verizon bought them out in our market). I don’t know why the huge companies that connect us to each other can’t do a better job of connecting with us.

  • Jake Erickson says:

    Wow, that is fantastic customer service. I agree with you and DC that Amazon’s customer service is fantastic as well. I also can’t argue one bit with Apple’s customer service. They got us all set up with an iMac and iPad in no time and we haven’t had a problem since.

  • Michelle says:

    I always love customer service such as when I’m at REI and other sporting good shops. It seems like good customer service is hard to find!

  • What a great deal !! I love their catalogue but have never ordered anything from them because the last time I looked they didn’t ship to Canada. We have one store in Canada that offers the same deal on their stuff. They too sell all kinds of clothing, shoes, boots, work boots for both men and women and you can “exchange” anything. Many men buy their work boots there, use them and abuse them, then walk in one day and just switch them out for a new pair. They can do that every year if they want to, for life.

    • Nicole says:

      Wow. That’s awesome. I bet those men wouldn’t buy their workboots anywhere else. I mean even if they cost three times as much, I’d buy my shoes there. I wish more companies out there were like that but I am glad that you have a shop in Canada offering that level of service similar to L.L. Bean.

  • That’s unreal. You’d get nothing like that over here in the UK, you even get a few funny looks when you try and return something after just a couple of days. Come to the UK L. L. Bean!

    • Nicole says:

      That surprises me about the U.K. I’m sorry it’s like that there. But, you all have improvements on your side that I wish we had here. It reminds me of a Seinfeld episode where Jerry tries to return something and the clerk looks at him funny and demands a reason. Jerry gives his honest reason – spite and is promptly denied his return! :-)

  • Wow, that’s awesome! I will definitely have to look into L.L. Bean! I’ve honestly never considered shopping there but now I will definitely have to look into it! I wish more places provided a lifetime guarantee!

    • Nicole says:

      I’m seriously thankful that my inlaws turned me on to L.L. Bean. I can’t remember the last time I saw one of their brick and mortar shops but they make it very easy to shop online.

  • I’ve had the same experience! L.L. Bean is definitely an all-star when it comes to customer and product satisfaction. Without fail they will go the extra mile to ensure complete and total happiness!

  • It is sad we have come to the point where we expect bad customer service and are shocked when someone has a good customer service experience. And it is a little ironic since virtually every business touts their excellent customer service. :) Definitely agree with many of the commenters that Apple and Amazon have top-notch customer service for large corporations. There are many local business in my community where I think the customer service is also good, but as a small business owner myself – it’s my livelihood, so I pay attention to how my employees treat my clients.

    • Nicole says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Shannon. I wish more corporations would treat their employees and customers as good as they say they do in their vision, mission and values statements. Maybe it’s time that we consumers start showing them what we expect by shopping at places that actually deliver on their customer service promises.

  • Wow, that’s great customer service. I didn’t know that about LL Bean. I always thought they were too expensive, but with that kind of service, it’s worth it.

    • Nicole says:

      Definitely. I’d rather pay twice or even three times as much for a good pair of slippers that I will literally never have to purchase again (as long as Bean doesn’t go out of business) :-)

  • It’s funny that you mentioned Best Buy because your example is the exact reason I won’t purcahse anything over $100 from them. I’ve heard too many horror stories of dealing with them after the purchase. Too many companies offer great customer service only up to purchase and after that you’re no longer a “customer”. Try using the warranty; better bring aspirin with you.

    I had no idea LL Bean was that awesome! I’m definitely going to look into that.

    • Nicole says:

      It always makes me a little leery when I shop somewhere that offers me an expensive insurance policy on anything I purchase there that’s over $20. If your products are high quality, I shouldn’t need it. As for Best Buy, they would have lost our business for good if the personnel at our local store wasn’t so responsive and helpful. I even wrote a letter to Best Buy’s president telling him that (of course, I never heard back) :-)

  • pauline says:

    We are so quick to complain and rarely mention good customer service, that is great you did so. I have had great service with Amazon, a $500 item never arrived, a few days before Christmas, they had not had a signed delivery and refunded within 24 hours, without questions. I feared they would send another one but since I needed the item urgently I had gone and replaced it, they didn’t mind and gave me the money back.

    • Nicole says:

      That’s great about your Amazon experience, Pauline. I am also glad that you were encouraged by the example of someone doing something. While griping is popular, sometimes a post like this that’s positive in nature can be extremely helpful. Glad you enjoyed it.

  • It seems that Nordstrom operates with similar customer service. Very interesting article in the Times about the financial repercussions of this (essentially, that it takes barely any investment for a lot of return).

    • Nicole says:

      Thanks for bringing up Nordstrom. I forgot about them! But you are right, they are known world-over for their customer service, despite having high end prices they do very well.

  • Isn’t there a statue of limitations on returning something to a store?? :) You guys are lucky they took those back, and they are pretty awesome for doing so. I’m glad to see somewhat actually highlight a store doing something right when usually all anyone wants to do is point out when a store does something wrong or gives poor service. Nice work.

    • Nicole says:

      I know. I was surprised that they took the slippers back! I wouldn’t have asked if it hadn’t been for my father in law returning something he’d purchased 13 years earlier! :-)

  • I grew up in the same town as the original retail store in Freeport, Maine so this post just touched my heart! My family has always bought things from there because of that guarantee and we’ve always been treated the same as you. Not to mention that my dad is retired from there, and they treat their employees great! Here’s a fun fact: The original retail store is open 24/7 365 days a year! There are no locks on any of the doors. It’s fun to stop by there at 2 in the morning just to say that you did it, lol. I’m so happy that you had a great experience with them and that you are showing them so much love on this post! I’m glad that others will be inspired to check them out, too. :)

    • Nicole says:

      Wow! Thanks for sharing Sharon! That is such a wonderful story about your father and the character of the original store. Mr. Frugal Rules and I have never been to Maine but would really like to. Now I know one place we will stop by for sure!

  • Disney is the best customer service company I have come across. We did a Disney World/Disney Cruise package for our honeymoon and the service was phenomenal everywhere we went. It started off poorly because they sent our luggage onto the boat when we were going to Disney World first. They sent us on a shopping spree (complete with private driver) to get new clothes for our stay and even offered to send a helicopter out to the boat to get our luggage.

    • Nicole says:

      Wow. Great addition Nick. I also forgot to mention Disney. They are known for their customer service as well. Your story is rare in the cruise industry. I know from personal experience of close family members who lost their luggage and had to cancel their cruise. They didn’t ever get any of their money back and were out a number of thousand of dollars. Needless to say it wasn’t on Disney and now, that is the only cruise line they will cruise on anymore.

  • I am always thrilled when I get great customer service especially my wife as she is such a people person. I wrote about the great customer service we received from Sears Canada a couple weeks back with our water softener. The cashier was uplifting to be around, talked positive about the organization and really championed why he liked working for Sears. It’s those types of experiences we soak up as we just don’t get them every day. Cheers

  • Alexa says:

    I am having a very hard time thinking of a store with good customer service. That’s not good….. I have never had a problem with Amazon, but ofcourse not having to deal with anyone in person makes getting good customer service a bit easier.

    It’s kind of sad, but I am stumped. I cannot think of a place where I have had excellent customer service.

    • Nicole says:

      Hmmmm. That is sad, Alexa. It means no one has provided memorable service for you, although I’m certain you’ve shopped at companies that say they do.

  • Jim says:

    Mrs Frugal Rules, that is a great story about LL Bean, I have always heard good things about them, I like their stuff, so this makes me more inclined to shop there. Thanks for sharing!!

  • Justin says:

    As someone who has worked in customer service based industry for a decade, I can tell you it’s so important and yet companies fail to realize the power of customer service. While a product or commercial might get you a customer. Great customer service can keep someone forever. It’s the main reason I’ll never go back to Comcast. Worst customer service ever and I had to wait in an hour and half line. No thanks.

    • Nicole says:

      You’re totally right Justin. I think working in the customer service industry made Mr. Frugal Rules and I more sensitive to the level of service we receive. It also made us more compassionate for service people since we understand what they have to deal with on a daily basis :-)

  • I love L.L. Bean. Being from Maine I grew up with L.L. Bean boots, backpacks and clothing. They are one of the few companies that really “gets” customer service. I’ve had nothing but excellent experiences shopping with them. The cashiers (all adults) are all happy (or to appear to be) and nobody is sitting around texting or acting like it’s a hassle to help you. My sister returned a backpack once (that she’d been using for years). The replaced it no problem when the zipper jammed.

  • Companies with warranties like that are banking on most people being too lazy to do anything about it.I probably fall into that category myself. Besides, even if I could afford to buy their shoes, I would feel bad about taking advantage of their warranty. I wear my work boots HARD. The fact that I got a year out of my $30 Walmart boots leaves me ecstatic, because even if I had paid 4 times that much, I would have never gotten more than 2 full years of usage.

    • Nicole says:

      Hey Edward! You do have a point in that I bet there are many customers who don’t pay attention to the “lifetime guarantee” when a company offers it either out of apathy or skepticism. However, I have to disagree with you in that I think if a company is willing to offer a legitimate guarantee on their products, it may have more to do with what they believe about the quality of what they produce versus banking on their customers not taking them up on their offer. Since they’re offering a warranty, you’re not taking advantage of them.

  • I’ve always been impressed by LL Beans’ customer service too. It’s like they really care a lot.

    • Nicole says:

      Glad you’ve had the same experience as I have, KC. In a way, I think it helps to validate it when I see others commenting that they experienced the same thing.

  • It’s a mystery why companies don’t do a better job of training their employees in customer service. I’ve bought several things from LL Bean and have always been impressed with the quality and customer service.

    • Nicole says:

      I think sometimes companies either just a) don’t care or b) get too big for their own good and forget what got them successful in the first place.

  • Kay Lynn says:

    Another company with great customer service is Lands End. Years ago I ordered a pair of hiking boots for a trip to Alaska. They came shortly before we left and one shoe was the wrong size. I dealt with the mistake after vacation.

    Not only did I get free return shipping but since I no longer would need them they gave me a full refund and a $20 gift card for my trouble. This was over a decade ago so that amount meant more!

  • Steve says:

    The last time I returned something to LL Bean, the customer service rep I happened to talk to reminded me that the return policy is only if we are unhappy with the item. Now if you expected an item to last your lifetime, and it doesn’t, you could say you are unhappy. In my case it was a backpack where one part wore out sooner than the rest of it. They did end up replacing it, though, so in the end it worked out. But it wasn’t as smooth and hassle-free as you might have thought.

    I think if I had $90 slippers, I would expect them to last forever!

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