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Lesson #2: Care for Your Customers and They Will Keep Coming Back for More
“Above all, we wish to avoid having a dissatisfied customer,” said Bean. “We consider our customers a part of our organization, and we want them to feel free to make any criticism they see fit in regard to our merchandise or service.” It was to that end that Bean implemented a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee on all of his products, a guarantee that continues to this day. No matter how long ago you bought the product, or even what you did not like about it, L.L. Bean will refund you all of your money. Bean also instituted a postage-paid policy to avoid making the customer pay any extra costs.
And Bean was not just speaking empty words. Indeed, his promise was one he honoured even in his early startup days when 90 percent of his products were returned. He gave each and every one of his customers their full money back, even though it meant he then had to go into debt to start all over again. Often times, Bean would even take to encouraging his customers to return their Maine Hunting Boots for replacements – something the company still does to this day. After all, “No sale is really complete until the product is worn out, and the customer is satisfied,” said Bean. And, when someone advised him to begin selling expensive eiderdown coats, Bean replied that doing so would waste his customers’ money.
Bean’s commitment to his customers did not just come in the form of a money-back guarantee. Knowing that many of his customers were hunters and fishermen who would often need equipment or licenses in the middle of the night, Bean pledged to keep his flagship store in Freeport open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. “We have thrown away the keys to this place,” he said. Customers who arrived at night would see a bell and a sign that read: “Push once a minute until clerk appears.” Indeed, to this day, there remain no locks on doors of that store, and it has only been closed down twice in its entire history.
Today, a dedicated staff of 3,600 telephone representatives also continue Bean’s tradition of maintaining superior customer service. They receive more than 180,000 calls a day on their customer switchboards and promise to answer them all on the first or second ring. No customer is turned away.
Bean once said, “A customer is the most important person ever in this office – in person or by mail.” And that is why, whether in person or by mail, customers kept coming back for more.
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