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Your Call is Very Important to Us!

by Jim Taggart September 19, 2012

LL Bean IncHow many times have you heard this statement on the phone: “Your Call is Very Important to Us!”

Or how about the new cop-out phrase that every company seems to be using now: “We are experiencing very heavy call volumes. We appreciate your business. Please hold for the next attendant.”

What we’re seeing is the dumbing down of customer service, from the retail clerks who ignore customers, preferring to read their iPhones, to those who work in corporate call centers.

It seems that almost all companies, including once proud customer-focused ones, have fallen into the downward customer service spiral. But there’s one notable exception.

The company that provides the benchmark for superb customer service, including its telephone ordering service, is L.L. Bean, based in Freeport, Maine.

My wife, Sue, and I are long-time loyal customers of L.L. Bean. When we travel through Maine and New Hampshire, we always make a point of stopping at their outlet stores and the mother ship in Freeport, the store that never closes, even on Christmas day. And as Canadians, when we get frustrated with the lack of selection at our stores or fed up with crappy customer service, we’ll phone L.L. Bean to place an order.

What’s always amazed me is that despite the continued deterioration in telephone customer service in the retail and service sectors, Bean’s service remains as strong as ever. Their phones are answered on the first ring. In rare situations where the customer is placed in a brief queue, there’s a message saying that you will hear silence during your wait.

Why can’t other retail and service providers do the same? I immensely dislike being forced to listen to obnoxious music being played while I wait on the phone, or having to listen to advertisements about the company’s products or services. I just want silence until my call is answered.

L.L. Bean has it right. If you have to wait, first it will be for only a minute; second, your ears are not subjected to what I just described.

When you speak to a L.L. Bean call center rep, you get the feeling after a moment that you know this person. All their employees are relaxed and easy-going, but they possess excellent product knowledge. Their patience is noteworthy, and they’ll go to extraordinary lengths to help you find what you’re seeking, including making helpful suggestions.

I love the L.L. Bean experience.

Why can’t other companies that purport to be “customer-focused” follow the L.L. Bean approach. It’s not rocket science, nor a costly method of serving customers. Indeed, Bean’s customer service philosophy builds loyalty and spreading the word.

If you’re involved in customer service, and specifically telephone customer service, think about how your company can make it a humanizing experience that will over time boost sales and profits.

Celebrate what you want to see more of.
Tom Peters

Photo by Sue Butler (Jim at L.L. Bean’s flagship store in Freeport, Maine)