Walk in Your Customers' Shoes
The shoe department at Nordstrom is heaven. I'm sure you've been there, and if you haven't, it's a must—not just because of the vast variety of shoes, but because of its customer service. It's the complete experience that combines quality products delivered with top care.
When I'm in San Francisco, I never miss the opportunity to visit this store. Here's why: It's all about my first visit. I was at the opening bell at 9:30. I looked at everything, consulted with my shopping partner if she liked this pair or that. When I finally decided what I wanted to try on, and let the salesperson know, he brought out—in my size—every pair of shoes that I picked up and showed to my friend. I didn't just buy one pair. I bought three.
The moral of the story: Nordstrom customer service consists of observing and listening to what the customer is saying and then fulfilling that need with graciousness and care—down to the last detail. I tell this story all of the time. I strongly believe that the customer-service experience someone has with your company can make or break the long-term relationship. It mirrors how you run your business.
These are challenging times for customer service. Not just because of the economy, but because the off-line and online worlds have blurred the borders of communication—and communication is the heart of customer service.
For the list business, everything we do is about customer service. We deliver media. We're not selling handbags. We have the unique model of four players who work together, where the two middle players—the list broker and manager—essentially represent different interests: the mailer for the list broker and the list owner for the manager.
To further complicate things, the commissions for the broker and manager are paid by the list owner. Whew. Explain that at a cocktail party. This makes for customer service issues on all sides. But somehow it's worked for many years.
Why? Because we all walk in one another's shoes. The way our business works gives us perspective on all sides. But the economy, e-mail, anthrax and the revolution in the direct response industry have all tested our perspective. So let's go back to the basics.