Aligning for Customer Service

Aligning our teams, trades and suppliers for the right customer service outcome is as difficult for two partners as it is for a multi-regional company.

By Dean Horowitz, Publisher | October 31, 2002


Dean Horowitz, Publisher

Aligning our teams, trades and suppliers for the right customer service outcome is as difficult for two partners as it is for a multi-regional company. What you want the experience of buying a new home from you to be requires minute-by-minute activities and unfaltering commitment. I have a great example from a recent shopping trip. I went in search of a pair of new jeans at the local mall and took away more purchases than I had expected and a number of very relevant lessons about running a business.

The mall is full of "catalog retailers." Each is full of personality, and almost all reflect the personalities portrayed in their catalogs. In the entrance of one store was a massive photograph of a shirtless teenager whom I no longer looked anything like. It's fall, and only my wife would find any amusement if I wore only boxers and a Santa hat. Her amusement would lean more to the giggle side than the intended outcome of the photo. It was pretty obvious this store carries nothing for me.

The next store had large, black-and-white images of Europeans, but apparently not from one of the countries I have visited or know about. I know of no place exclusively inhabited by androgynous-looking people who seem very temperamental, if not downright pouty. I decided this probably wasn't my store.

The next store was a recently opened Eddie Bauer. The photos of graying men modeling all the signs of what life does to you as you grow older made me pretty confident it had my size in jeans. It felt good to walk into a store full of images of people who looked like my friends and me. There were other elements that sold me into not only wanting to shop for clothes here but also to have a relationship with the store.

I walked in and was greeted by a salesman. I joked about the other stores' models, and he informed me that would not be the only reason I would want to shop at Eddie Bauer for all my casual clothes. The company has a guarantee: "Every item we sell will give you complete satisfaction or you may return it for a full refund." And a creed: "To give you such outstanding quality, value, service and guarantee that we may be worthy of your high esteem."

This guarantee and creed were tested the next weekend when a shirt I had bought tore down the sleeve soon after I put it on. I took it back, and it was "happily" replaced with a new one. I was told the clothes are guaranteed for my lifetime. Very impressive.

Another impressive element was learning about the Eddie Bauer Global ReLeaf tree project. The project not only reinforces Eddie Bauer's outdoor market position, it also doesn't cost much to execute. Customers are asked to "add a dollar" to each purchase so Eddie Bauer can plant new trees in North America on its customers' behalf. The company claims to have planted more than 4.4 million trees in the United States as a result.

Then there is an Eddie Bauer quote that appears on a recent direct mail piece: "The customer had to be satisfied at any cost because I felt even at a young age that the company could not afford to have a dissatisfied customer." This is powerful.

Eddie Bauer has stores in all 50 states, brand extensions everywhere and a thriving catalog and online business. Its guarantee and creed have enabled it to align its associates so strongly behind its ideals that it has expanded into areas most companies only dream of entering.

Make sure your sales environment reflects who your customers are and what they want out of your homes. And at a time when there continues to be concern about warranty issues, remember the long-term benefits of satisfied customers as the margin shrinks. There might be a move-up home for both of you in the near future.


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