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

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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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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.