L.L.Bean Named as Customer Service Champ Again

Discussion
Jan 13, 2010
George Anderson

By
George Anderson

L.L.Bean has once again been identified by consumers for excellence in customer
service across all formats. The fifth annual NRF Foundation/American Express
Customers’ Choice survey, conducted by BIGresearch, put the company at the
top of a list filled with merchants that have built their reputations and business
on service. Interestingly, most of the companies in the top 10 are built are
consumer-direct models rather than brick and locations.

The top 10 identified
in the survey included:

1. L.L.Bean
2. Overstock.com
3. Zappos.com
4. Amazon.com
5. QVC
6. Coldwater
Creek
7. HSN
8. Lands’
End
9. JCPenney
10. (tie): Kohl’s
10. (tie): Nordstrom

HSN and Kohl’s made the biggest jumps forward in this
year’s survey with HSN moving up seven spots and Kohl’s eight.

Shane Berry,
senior vice president and general manager, national client group, American
Express Merchant Services, said in a press release, "In any economic environment,
exceeding customer expectations is a critical component of managing a business.
Given the challenges over the last year, these winners should be commended
for continuing to distinguish themselves through ongoing service."

Discussion
Questions: What stands out for you about the companies making this list for
customer service? Considering the considerable differences between the various
companies’ customer bases, business models, etc., do you think there are basics
that every retailer has to master to be identified by shoppers as providing
superior service?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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18 Comments on "L.L.Bean Named as Customer Service Champ Again"


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Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
11 years 3 months ago

I agree, these companies are a mix of different models but they’re smart enough to know that online shoppers choose companies that will give them fewer headaches and make returns (if necessary) easy. Some companies almost accuse the customer of a criminal act to return a product.

The experience and customer support is very, very important and has an impact on the amount of sales acquired. I’m surprised Amazon was ranked as high as they are; they certainly have fallen and have taken their eye off the ball in this area.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 3 months ago

These retailers understand the need to connect to their customer on a deeper level. Customers shop these merchants based on a past positive experience either by themselves or from information passed on to them. There are 2 brands here that I’m surprised to see and the order seems a bit out of order to me as well. But overall, these guys know customer engagement and that value message is presented clearly to the customer. Some of these merchants have a cult following which is something every merchant should strive for.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

The one thing that stands out in this list is that the top 8 places are not held by brick and mortar retailers. The spots are held by unique internet retailers and catalog retailers that of course have become internet retailers.

This list also defines customer service. Customer service is obviously not a salesperson helping with a selection. Customer service is not how well a sales associate fawns over a customer. Customer service is how well the retailer meets the customer’s expectations and needs and these internet retailers are meeting the needs of the customer.

Brick and mortar retailers: pay attention. There is much more information for you to consider than just a Top 10 list. How are you going to meet your customers’ needs and expectations in the face of online retailing?

Dick Seesel
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

This ties back to the ongoing dialog among RetailWire panelists about what constitutes “customer service.” This list points out that the old-school definition of service (meaning “sales staff on the selling floor”) simply doesn’t resonate any more, least of all with the consumer. It’s no accident that traditional department stores are missing from this list, because they have stuck to an outmoded model instead of defining “customer service” as good execution, efficiency, in-stock performance, and value-for-dollar.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

I am really surprised with some of the companies on the list. It looks like customer service has taken on a whole new meaning, or customers are so conditioned to poor service that anything that looks like customer service makes one exceptional.

Just looking at the poll results is suggesting the same thing. When JCPenney’s and Kohl’s make it into the top 10, one has to wonder how the questions were asked and to whom.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

What disturbed me about these awards was that they were not to what I consider as retailers–most were online shopping pages. Though 90% of business is still done in stores, 8 of these awards went to only 9 or 10% of the industry.

And “Customer Service” is very gray term. Was it because you could return things easily? You got great coupons? They had free shipping? Is that “customer service”?

This is a dangerous message to me that it is not about PEOPLE but policies. I would suggest NRF split this award going forward into the top 5 online shopping pages–and the top 5 bricks and mortar stores that may also have a multi-channel approach. Otherwise, it’s just a way of rewarding the programmers, not the people who interface with customers every day.

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

It’s been said that “Perception is Reality.” The consumer understands the “reality” of customer service that they receive. And, they will consistently vote with their feet/fingers, and wallet.

Both brick & mortar and online marketers can gain insight by studying the “Best Practices” of these various leaders in customer service. They do occupy different sectors, but they do represent solid customer service in the minds of consumers.

George Anderson
Guest
11 years 3 months ago
Two personal stories to explain why L.L.Bean and Amazon are on this list. L.L.Bean – Having purchased a winter coat two years back, I was disappointed that it had worn down (a couple of tears) sooner than I have come to expect from products purchased from L.L.Bean. Feeling a bit sheepish, I called to see if this was considered “normal” in terms of the life of the product and was immediately told by the rep on the phone that I was the customer and it was for me to determine. If I was unhappy, they’d willingly replace it. Having gotten the information, the item was returned, a L.L.Bean credit was sent and I now have a new coat that I’m very happy with. The experience may not have been in a store but it was great service nonetheless. Amazon – A recent issue with a computer and a faulty backup drive led to digital music downloads (around 50) bought from Amazon disappearing into the ether somewhere for a family member. Although it is not policy… Read more »
Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
11 years 3 months ago

What stands out on this list is the fact that there is apparently no shared definition of what constitutes “great customer service.” Shopping at some of the 4-wall retailers listed here (Nordstrom, for example) certainly qualifies, some of the others seem odd choices.

Perhaps the new definition of customer service is how well you live up to the expectations you have developed within your core customer base. If you exceed it, you have great customer service, if you fall short, you have lousy customer service. In any case, customer service is a by-product of whether the company starts with the customer and works backward through the various company processes (Zappos) or starts at the home office and works outward.

Mark Burr
Guest
11 years 3 months ago
The definition of customer service varies, based on the customer’s expectations and experience with each retailer, and by type of retailer. There would be a very wide set of differences between those expectations based on online shopping vs. brick and mortar and by type of retailer. Lands’ End is and has always been exceptional. While they won only a small (very small) amount of our shopping from the holidays, they were flawless according to my set of expectations. Our experience with Zappos left us mystified as to how our order was processed so fast–even over a weekend–and delivered so quickly. On top of that–for ‘free’. While nothing is free, not seeing a line item for shipping makes it feel that way. They were competitive, had a well done site, and prompt delivery was an understatement. The speed seemed almost impossible. The worst performing retailer on the list for me this time around would be Nordstrom. Admittedly, I had a high set of expectations for them, but nothing more than based on my previous experiences. I… Read more »
Ben Ball
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

Many of the comments either cite the fact that 8 of these retailers are online–or they bemoan it. But being an online retailer or not is not the source of great customer service. L.L.Bean has been revered by their customers for years because of one simple fact–they stand behind every single thing they sell, 100%, no questions asked, for life. I hesitate to repeat the paraphrase of L.L.Bean himself here because I have used it so many times. But it goes something like ‘our job is not done until the customer has received the merchandise, used it completely up and repurchased another from us…’. That statement, supposedly uttered by Leon Leonwood Bean is the heart of great customer service.

Sandy Miller
Guest
Sandy Miller
11 years 3 months ago

To answer the question directly: The great asset of retailers is they own the in-store visual communication program. Exceeding customer (actually, shoppers’) expectations means providing store-wide, useful, and interesting reasons to buy. This eliminates clutter because shoppers want more reasons-to-buy ideas.

Lee Peterson
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

What stands out to me here is JC Penney…very impressive. Because make no mistake, scale has a lot to do with the dwindling of CS. It’s very difficult to control with size and growth. Which is another thing; I’m surprised Starbucks is NOT on the list–other than the airports (not their staff), I am consistently impressed with their staff and level of service.

Also, Macy’s, take note: with JCP and Kohl’s on there, you’ve got some work to do!

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
11 years 3 months ago

What stands out instantly for these companies is when they say “How can I help you?” they mean it. They answer the 1-800 phone number promptly and cheerfully, and know what to do to meet shopper expectations. The merchandise is well presented, of good value, easy to locate, and easy to purchase. Staff will do everything they can to help you get what you want, and seem pleased to do so. If there is an issue, it is resolved quickly and thoughtfully, and often includes an incentive to visit again.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

No surprises here. L.L.Bean and Lands’ End will always stand out because they put the shopper in touch with a friendly customer service rep who cares. Now, if we could only persuade some other companies to adopt that model….

Ann Mazure
Guest
Ann Mazure
11 years 3 months ago

L.L.Bean is entirely comprehensible to me. If you’ve ever visited a store, or placed an order by phone–my gosh.

Every time I’ve spoken with an L.L.Bean employee, I’m left feeling, well, joyful. It is an organization that appears to have a knack for hiring to the company’s culture. Plus, I’ve had things from L.L.Bean that lasted for years and years–if fact I think I still have and use all of them. Really great experience.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

I said it last year when the results were reported and unfortunately I have to say it again this year. Bricks and mortar retailers need to be concerned that those at the top of the list are primarily online or internet retailers. Don’t we know how to service customers face-to-face?

Kai Clarke
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

This is an interesting list, since it does not include some other categories, but instead focuses on mostly clothing retailers. Where is one of the best online retailers out there (Newegg) which excels in an area where most others fail (computers and electronics) and customer service is often horrible? What about the iTunes store? This list brings up more questions than answers….

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