You know how a bad customer service experience can put you in a really bad mood? Well, I recently had two really pleasant experiences while shopping that got me thinking…
I had to return two items, one to Saks Fifth Avenue and one to Neiman Marcus—stores at which I rarely shop (seriously). I had purchased one item at Saks a little over a month earlier and I remembered at the time of the sale the cashier telling me they had a 30-day return policy. On the evening of what happened to be the 32nd day later, I decided I wanted to return the item; but then thinking the store’s policy would be strict, I decided to not even bother trying to make the return. A friend of mine in apparel retail told me that these days stores are much more flexible in their policies (online competition, etc.). She said I should at least try.
I walked into Saks with the item, telling myself “Okay, you’re not going to get heated about this if they say, ‘No, we can’t take it back.’ You’re just going to say, ‘Thank you very much’ and walk out.” Braced for a “no go,” I walked in, showed the salesperson the item, said it had been a little over 30 days and handed her the receipt. She didn’t even look at it; rather, she just took the item back and credited my card. She was very pleasant and I was out of there in about 10 minutes.
From there, I went to Neiman’s to return the other item. I had ordered a couple of things online and I wanted to keep one and return one. I walked over to a salesperson and explained what I wanted, thinking I’d be sent to the bowels of the store, but she took the item and receipt; she scanned whatever she had to scan, processed the refund and again, I was out of the store in 10 minutes.
I have to say that I was floored by both experiences, and how the world has changed. Even boutiques near me that for years allowed no returns or exchanges have been forced to do so. What also got me thinking was how competition raises the bar. What if one of the stores I went to had taken their item back but the other wouldn’t? How would I have felt? I would have been a lot less inclined to purchase from that store again.
It also got me thinking about the whole issue of customer service as it applies to our business and that of our clients. Today, you have to hustle just to stay even and devote even more energy if you want to differentiate your business. You certainly don’t want to be the one that elicits a response of, “I’m never working with them again!”
Fortunately for Saks and Neiman Marcus, I’m still a customer—and a happy one at that.