Welcome back. I do hope you all had a good summer and if you took some time off that it was relaxing and enjoyable. We all know the importance and benefits of having a great customer experience, and the negative impacts of delivering a bad one. We all know how excellent service creates a good platform from which to sell, and how difficult it becomes when service is poor.

So why is it so difficult to find examples of excellent service in the business to business sector when the retail sector appears to have lots of them. Perhaps they understand their customers better, maybe they value them more, it might be that their recruitment and training is more attuned to customers or is it a combination of these things?

I have long supported a US company that started operating in the UK in 1991. That company is Lands’ End and I am sure there are many of our readers who buy their products. They provide casual clothing through their customer service line and e-commerce site and have lots and lots of competitors. These include Crew, Joules, Cotton Traders, Gant and John Lewis to mention just a few. They are renowned for fantastic service and here are a few examples of that and the fundamental principles that underpin it

 – They have a fantastic guarantee for their products. It reads “If you’re not satisfied with any item, simply return it to us at any time for an exchange or refund of its purchase price.” We mean every word of it. Whatever. Whenever. Always. But to make sure this is perfectly clear, we’ve decided to simplify it further: Guaranteed. Period. They exemplify it as follows; “In 1984, the wife of an avid car collector purchased a $19,000 vintage taxi featured on our holiday catalogue cover. In 2005, they returned it. For a full refund”. Does anyone know of a B2B company that gives anywhere near this level of guarantee?

– They have a service called the Lost Mitten (Glove) Club. If you lose a glove and they have the product in stock they will replace it for half the price of the pair and not charge delivery. Gimmicky it is, but it demonstrates great customer commitment. Marks and Spencer and John Lewis don’t offer this type of thing. Can you see a software company replacing a piece of licenced software that you accidentally uninstalled for half price? I don’t think so.

What is it that underpins their ability to sell products and to support what are effectively life time guarantees?
– Gary Comer, the founder of Lands’ End obsessed about customers as this quote testifies. “Worry about being better; bigger will take care of itself. Think one customer at a time and take care of each one the best way you can”. In this day and age where technology and self-service rule, it is interesting to note that that Lands’ End recognize that some customers still prefer to deal with people
– There is nothing radical in their quality policy but it clearly works or they would not offer such a great guarantee. The key message here is that if you have a quality policy, don’t pay lip service to it, just implement it to the letter.
– Lands’ End has great people skills and employee wellbeing facilities and policies. The business is more like a community, or a self-supporting eco system than a company. This fosters engagement and as this quote from the founder shows employees are empowered and trusted. “I will never be critical of any action you take on behalf of a customer”
– Their call centre representatives are well trained receiving a minimum of two weeks training and know their products and services inside out. As a result they are highly motivated and loyal. In the UK call centre reps last five years, in the USA it is three years, at Lands’ End it is over ten years.  
The three characteristics for delivering outstanding customer experience at Lands’ End are:
 – Motivated people
 – A drive for getting better 
 – An obsession with customers. 
In reality all the firms that are highly rated for customer service have these qualities. If you look back at some of our earlier case studies of the Orchid Hotel and the Taj Hotel (SalesPulse issues 105 and 110 respectively) they both have these characteristics.