Excellent customer service is the way into mom’s wallet. Moms control 80% of household spending, but the way into their wallets isn’t clever marketing campaigns, freebies or coupons-it’s good, old-fashioned, quality customer service.
This weekend I had five experiences that changed the way I think about a brand. Like many other weekends I had things to do, places to go, places I had to spend money; but this weekend was 5 experiences happened that confirmed my belief that good customer service trumps all. Companies need to have wow-worthy customer service, and (as someone who lives in the social media sphere) I will add that it’s also key to have great social media-which can instantaneously give people a better impression of your brand without ever having experienced it.
Hebrew National Picnic
I woke up at 8am Saturday morning, which was super late since I had to be at a location 20 minutes away at 8:30am to hop on a bus and head to the Hebrew National Picnic in New York City. Because I am that special kind of crazy I decided to go ahead and go. I got myself ready in about 5 minutes (I’m a mom of 4, so I generally get about 10 minutes a day to “primp” myself), and my husband groggily got 2 of the kids ready to go. I raced to get to the location, and the bus hadn’t arrived. <phew!>
When the bus finally found us 30 minutes later, we hopped on expecting to get there a bit late. My bad karma from this week must have been following us around though, since the bus broke down about 20 minutes into our ride. A stop at Wawa and 45 minutes later a new bus arrived.
What should have taken about 2 hours took about 4, and we arrived very late to the picnic. I don’t know if it was the fresh air, or the amazing people from ConAgra Foods and Emily from the Motherhood, but the picnic was a blast even if we did miss about half of it.
Here’s the thing, what could have been a complaint worthy trip was made slightly less grueling by the people who hosted the picnic, and the upbeat attitude of our driver. So while I wish we hadn’t spent so many hours driving to and from the picnic, it was made better by the welcome we received once our nauseous selves arrived, and the great day.
Why Hebrew National wins my money:
My 6 year old loves hot dogs. While I prefer to buy nitrate-free hot dogs, the fact that these don’t have fillers and coloring makes them a great occasional summertime treat. After all grilling hot dogs and summertime go hand in hand. For more cities that will be hosting picnics, check out the Motherhood.
Meanwhile, back in Pennsylvania, my husband was in charge of buying bathing suits for our daughters. I sent him very specific directions, since I know what I wanted, and I know their sizing. All went smoothly. The girls had a choice of 2 suits, in 2 colors, and opted to get matching but different style suits. They tried them on, and they fit well, so off to the checkout counter they went.
The sales clerk who was ringing the suits up made small talk with my husband about summertime, and swimming, and the local area pools. Then offhandedly, as if there weren’t too little girls standing in front of him, he mentioned that the public pools might not open since there was a 9 year old who drowned there last summer. He said that right in front of my 8 and 6 year old girls, who are still learning to swim. My husband, slightly stunned, finished quickly and left. When he told me about it, he didn’t know if our girls had overheard.
Later that evening my 8 year old came to me with a very serious look on her face, and said she needed swimming lessons as soon as possible, I knew she had overheard. This was repeated at least 3 times today.
While Sears themselves aren’t responsible for the employee’s small talk, I personally think there should be some sort of training about talking to customers, so I wrote Sears an email. (basically restating the above), and here is how they responded:
Dear Kelly Whalen,
Thank you for your recent correspondence. We are always interested in
hearing from our customers, but we regret it was this type of situation
that prompted you to contact us. We apologize for the inconvenience you
have experienced and understand your frustration with the inappropriate
conversation that you overheard.
We have forwarded your message to the Store Manager to address
internally. By sharing your concerns, you have enabled us to address the
issues and provide feedback to the appropriate person.
Once again, we apologize for the inconvenience you have encountered with
the associate’s inappropriate conversation. We appreciate your business
and value you as a Sears Holdings customer. We certainly hope you will
continue to make Sears Holdings your choice for quality and value.
Retail Customer Care
Sears Holdings Corporation
To me this is a prime example of a canned response. They added some wording, but it sounds very formal. I also gave my phone number, and put my blog on the bottom of my email, as well as tweeting yesterday that I was writing to them to complain.
Why Sears loses my money:
Sears should be on top of their customer service, but they aren’t. Asking me to still shop at Sears in their email? Really? I go to Sears for one brand-Land’s End, which I can and will buy online instead.
How Sears could do better:
Their team should be watching twitter and have immediately DM or @’ed me. Just because your job is 9-5 doesn’t mean people aren’t talking about your brand on the weekend. The store manager could have called, or maybe even if they had sent a more personal email I wouldn’t feel the so disappointed.
If none of those options worked the least the could do is send a response that was automated, such as, “We received your email and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.” Then they could have had time to figure out what is the best way to reach out, and find a solution to the problem.
Saturday evening I needed to go shopping for shorts for my son who has outgrown everything (again). I went into the Gap to buy shorts and some shirts for my oldest, and maybe a few things for the other kids. There was a sale going on: buy one shirt, get one for $5, so I ended up purchasing a good amount of stuff. The employees that were working there were extremely nice, even noticing that I was waiting and sending me to another register so I could be rung up immediately.
When I arrived home I found a 25% off coupon I had completely forgotten to bring along, and right there on the card it says- Must use at time of purchase. No Price adjustments. (or something similar) Being the frugal mom I am, I called the store, and the manager said they would be happy to do it, despite the label, but that it wouldn’t apply to the BOGO for $5 on shirts.
I went in this morning and the manager took at least 5 minutes to make sure I was getting the best possible deal with the BOGO for $5 deal. She tried it without the deal to see if it was cheaper (it wasn’t). She could have just rung up the difference and been done with it, but every step of the way both managers went out of their way to be helpful.
Why Gap gets my money:
They hire people who are personable, and friendly, and train them well. Will it make me shop there again? It will. I prefer to go to stores with the staff is courteous, helpful, and most importantly when I made a mistake, they were willing to correct it.
6pm.com is a sister site to Zappos (which has awesome customer service). A snafu with their ordering system this morning between 12pm and 6am PST caused all prices to be $49.95 or lower. That meant that thousands of orders were placed at price points that aren’t profitable for 6pm.com totaling a loss of $1.6 million.
Instead of sending emails to customers saying that the orders couldn’t be fulfilled at that price, 6pm.com is eating the loss. They want their customers to be happy, and because the snafu was on their end, they are being responsible, a nice change from the usual customer service run around.
Why 6pm.com might get my money:
I have never shopped at 6pm.com but this has me thinking I will definitely choose 6pm.com in the future. It’s refreshing to see a company take a stand like this. The message they are sending is; “We screwed up, but you don’t deserve to be disappointed.” My only concern, I wonder if there is a programmer somewhere who will be fired for making the mistake.
For the full text, see the Zappos blog.
In an effort to tire my kids out completely on a rainy day before the Lost finale, I took them to Jumpers, an indoor bounce place that always amazes me. It’s not local to us, but it’s always worth the 25 minute drive. It’s clean, family-run, and the kids always have a great time.
On the way in the building my 6 year old was going too fast up the concrete steps and skinned her leg. We went inside, and immediately a man, one of the owners I think, came over with a damp cloth, first aid cream and band aids. He immediately got down on her level and helped patch her up.
Then when she was all settled, I went over to pay for their admission. Unfortunately, all I had was a Discover card which they don’t accept. I typically carry more than one way to pay, but had emptied out my wallet a bit before heading to New York earlier this week.
I was mentally preparing to have to take the kids out of the building, kicking and screaming, but the he said, “We’ll get you next time.” Of course I will swing by later this week when I’m in the area and pay them, but that will definitely get my business over and over again.
Why Jumpers gets my money:
What could have been tough for me and awful for the kids, the real customers, turned into great service. That wasn’t the only thing that wowed me. The place was clean, as usual, they were even carpet sweeping and vacuuming while we were there. They have a new bounce thing every time we come and the staff are always so sweet to the kids.
Give good service, get returning customers
Good customer service is always the way into my wallet, and I know I’m not alone. With 80% of household spending coming from women, anyplace that is accommodating to kids or welcoming is automatically going to get more of mom’s money.
While good customer service can be easy when things run smoothly, it’s when a problem arises that really shows you the cream of the crop. Having a problem whether it’s on the scale of $1.6 million dollars or $30 is an opportunity to show your customers how much you value them. If you don’t know that or worse, you don’t care, it’s likely people will take their business elsewhere.
Do you pay more for good customer service? What are some places you’ve had amazing service?
On a slightly relevant note, I appeared on NBC in Philadelphia this week as part of a piece on online shopping.