A Customer Service Story: L.L. Bean

It really was only a matter of time before I blogged about how much I love L.L. Bean.  And since I just had an amazing experience with them, and am still kind of obsessed with the importance of great customer service, I figured why not tell the tale?  Before I do let me just preface this by saying that I am not an employee of L.L. Bean and they are not compensating me for writing about them (at least not that I know of yet, but hey, a girl can dream).

L.L. Bean is a great company in so many ways, always delivering high-quality products at reasonable prices.  But in my opinion, it’s their outstanding customer service that truly sets them apart. Not only are they friendly and helpful to customers, they go above and beyond to make customers feel how much their business is appreciated.

Okay so on to my story.  The other day I finally decided to get new laces for my L.L. Bean boots, because my dog had chewed the end off of one of them, making it ridiculously short and too difficult to tie.  I went to a sporting goods store, but their boot laces just did not have the same look as the ones that came with the boots.  They were $2.50, so it was tempting just to go for it because of the low price, but I thought I would first try to find out if L.L. Bean sold replacement laces.  The next morning, I went online to L.L. Bean’s website but could not find any.  But then I noticed that there was a “live chat with a customer service representative” option, so I clicked it.

Long story short, I was helped by an extremely friendly person, who chatted with me to try to figure out exactly what I needed and help me find the exact laces that came with my boots in the first place.  It was about a 20 minute conversation.  About boot laces!  I was blown away at this person’s patience with me.  And guess how much they turned out to be?  $3.00!!!  So it’s not like this person was making the company a bunch of money by helping me.  But they were making a lasting impression.

A few minutes later, I called L.L. Bean to order the laces.  And here comes another great customer service interaction.  When I called, THERE WERE NO RINGING TONES!  Someone literally just picked up the phone without it ever ringing, and said “Hello, thank you for calling L.L. Bean, this is so and so, how may I help you?”  That blew me away in and of itself.  Then they proceeded to help me order what I needed, they had my address saved in their system from a previous purchase, as well as my credit card number, and then, this is quite possibly the best part, she said: “All right so with our everyday free shipping, your total comes to 3 dollars and 12 cents.”  Unbelievable.  I knew they had free shipping, but the fact that they were willing to ship something that cost me just a little over $3 was still shocking.

Maybe this all sounds a little bit trivial to you, or maybe you think I’m exaggerating.  Let me break it down for you, and analyze exactly what about this whole interaction was so special in terms of customer service.

  • First of all, the initial person I spoke to was very patient and responsive, not rushed at all.
  • They treated me with respect and made me feel like my issue was an important one.  That’s huge right there.
  • The next thing that’s so amazing to me is that even from the very beginning of the conversation, that person knew that I was not going to be spending a ton of money.  I was asking about boot laces.  But she still took 20 MINUTES to talk to me.  Which says a lot about this company’s customer service policy.  Some places might have a manager saying to this woman, “hurry it up, don’t waste your time on a conversation that’s only going to make us a couple dollars.”  But L.L. Bean seems to understand that it’s not necessarily about that total dollar amount, it’s more about the impression that is made–because then people will tell other people about your business, and will make a point to use you in the future.

Now let’s talk about the phone call.

  • This no ringing tones thing was pretty amazing–it made me feel like they really valued my getting in touch with them.  Customers like to feel appreciated, because in most cases there are multiple businesses that offer that same service or product, but they chose to use this particular business.  So they should feel like that choice is honored and highly regarded.  Some businesses just do not get this, and that is why people do not use them a second or a third time.  If they don’t feel appreciated, they will simply spend their money elsewhere.
  • Maybe some people wouldn’t like the fact that they still had all of my information in their system.  But personally, it actually made me feel comfortable, and added to the personal touch of the whole interaction.  Kind of like when you go into a coffee shop and you can tell the people there remember you.  It just feels nice to be remembered at a very human level.
  • And last but certainly not least, there’s the free shipping.  That, too, sends the message that every purchase that is made with their company, no matter how small, is significant.

Which is a lesson that every business should learn–because at the end of the day, every customer, every conversation, every transaction–is highly valuable.  These impressions are the building blocks to a business’ reputation.  And it’s the businesses that understand this that become highly successful.  L.L. Bean, thank you for showing us how it’s done.