Marketing | Environment | Culture

Tag: Paperwork

Way Beyond – Excellence in Customer Service


So, you want customer loyalty.  You’d like to enjoy the benefits of positive word-of-mouth, the single most powerful form of advertising.  Here’s an idea: strategically organize yourself around customer needs and interests.

Two ways that Bed Bath and Beyond has earned my family’s loyalty:

1) Absolutely no-hassle returns

On two separate occasions, years apart, and in different states, Bed Bath and Beyond has gone WAY beyond.  The most recent experience involved an $80 Cuisinart coffee maker.  We’re not sure when we bought it – maybe four or five years ago … who knows?  Who cares!?  Bed Bath and Beyond sure doesn’t.

One morning, my wife flicked the “brew” switch and was met with no brewing and the smell of burning plastic.  Not wanting to throw it out, she offered it up to Bed Bath and Beyond for return to and refurbishment by Cuisinart.  With no receipt, no evidence that we purchased it at a Bed Bath and Beyond, and no idea when we’d actually purchased it, the customer service person directed her toward the coffee maker section of the store, had her pull a brand-new version of the same model, and exit the store with it.  No paperwork to fill out – just a brand-new coffee maker.

A few years back, we enjoyed an identical experience with a $40 or $50 tea kettle – owned it for several years, traded it in for a brand-new version of the same model when the handle came loose.  No questions asked and no paperwork required.

That’s an experience worth talking about.  Design a policy that provides that experience to lots of people and you’ve created a word-of-mouth machine.  Before writing this, I told the story to at least a dozen people with enthusiasm.  You can’t buy that kind of advertising.  At worst, it cost them $60 (or whatever their purchase price from Cuisinart is).

2) Nearly no-rules coupons

Bed Bath and Beyond issues lots of coupons (typically 20% off) and lets you use them quite liberally.  Just about the only restriction: you can’t combine them for 100% off an item and some brands sold in-store opt out.

Expiration dates?  They don’t matter.

Only got one coupon?  Take 20% off the highest-price item you’re buying, not the lowest.

Multiple coupons in a single transaction?  No problem – it’s encouraged.

When they show up in the mail, hang on to those Bed Bath and Beyond coupons.  Next time you need a new set of towels or you want to give a dozen Snuggies as gifts, bring them all in and enjoy 20% off every item you buy, provided you’ve got that many coupons.

Important to note: the prices are reasonable with or without the 20% discounts.  In contrast, Kohl’s seems to mark up many items in order to have them constantly “on sale.”  Also in contrast, Kohl’s spends a ton of cash on prime-time television.  Bed Bath and Beyond gets by and even thrives on direct mailing of coupons.

Other observations

In general, the store is reasonably well organized.  It’s got enough solid sections (kitchen tools, cookware, appliances, glassware, bedding, towels, carpeting, etc) to bring you in, each with a reasonable range of brands, styles, and price points.  Plus, they’ve got a ton of unexpected items between sections (think: “who-invented-that!?” type gadgets).  It’s often a pleasant, entertaining and productive shopping experience.

I’d never have expected to write this kind of a post, but a store that will have me walk in with a years-old, non-functioning product and walk out with a brand-new one without any questions or any paperwork is serious about their customers … and that’s something I appreciate.

Use Your Authority to Protect Your Brand


Scene: dinner hour, family in kitchen, nice evening, front door open.

The doorbell rings and I feel obligated to answer, since the open door makes clear we’re home.  Two young men – poorly-dressed, tired-looking, apprehension-inspiring – greet me.

“Hi, we’re from ADT.  Do you want to keep your family safe?”  It’s a good angle, but a tactless approach and sketchy presentation.  They proceed to offer a free security system install with a $15/month monitoring subscription.  Despite hearing the strongest brand name in home security and despite being a former ADT customer, I politely refuse the offer and send them off.

Rightfully curious about the odd encounter, my wife implores me to get a better understanding of the situation.

After they leave my neighbor’s porch following another unsuccessful pitch, I get their attention and we chat in the street.

I ask: “Let’s say I change my mind in a couple weeks and want to have that in-home consultation you described – how might I reach you?”  The main guy offers to set that consultation up right now.  I counter: “No, I’d prefer to have a business card or similar so I can contact you at my convenience.”

Important points: there are no ADT ballcaps, no ADT knit shirts, no ADT paperwork, no business cards of any kind!   Just two guys, far from “clean cut,” with a stack of Google maps on which they circle and cross out homes as they visit clipped to a neon green clipboard that opens up and holds a couple dozen pieces of paper.

I get “Derek with ADT” and a phone number scratched out onto a torn-off piece of a Google map print out and return to my home.

Inside, I find the phone number for the local ADT business office to ask whether there’s any scheduled door-to-door sales activity in my area.

The woman who received my call confidently asserts that they “never sell door-to-door.”  I alert her to the fact that they said “ADT” about a dozen times and wrote “Derek from ADT” on the torn-off piece of paper.

“Ooooh, I know,” she says, as a familiar situation becomes more clear to her.  “They’re probably from one of our authorized dealers.  We get complaints about them ALL the time.”  She proceeds to tell me about fly-by-night scenarios in which a dealer installs a faulty system, disappears, and leaves ADT with rightfully angry customers.  “Really frustrating,” she says.  I could not believe what I was hearing.

The point: if you’re maintaining a network of authorized dealers, go ahead and authorize them!

Provide them with logo’d gear, because they’re using your name – and your name only – with your full permission and authorization!  Provide a little training and some basic guidelines.  Your company has plenty to lose by actively permitting nomadic tribes of sketchy sales people to represent you.

Use your authority to protect your brand!

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