The Power of Customer Service: Lessons From Victoria’s Secret

Last weekend I went to my local mall. The second I walked through the door of Macy’s, the cashier greeted me with a friendly, “How are you today?” Weird, I thought; that hasn’t happened before. Then she told me to let her know if I needed any help. Umm, okay.

Same thing at the next store I visited. At still another store (I was on a jacket quest), the clerk pulled a jacket out of the back room that wasn’t on display yet, and the store stylist knocked on the dressing room door to see if I needed help or ideas. Store stylist? I’ve been shopping here for 15 years, and they’ve never had a stylist before. I didn’t need her help, but that’s where I bought a jacket.

On to Victoria’s Secret, which handily won the Customer Service Gold Medal. After I’d selected a few items, a sales gal approached and asked if anyone had explained the specials to me. She quickly explained the two-for-one deals going on, and that I would get $5.00 off any purchase just for trying on their new bra—the one Heidi Klum is currently hawking on TV. While I was in the dressing room, she brought me several styles I hadn’t seen, in the colors I was looking for. I also noticed a service bell button in the room, in case I needed immediate assistance.

When I was done, the sales gal took a card off my door and marked for me the styles I had chosen. This card folds and fits in your wallet so you can easily find the styles you like on your next visit. At the register, I used the $10.00 discount card that I get every month for being a VS card holder, plus the $5.00 discount for trying on Heidi’s bra. I went in for one bra and left with three. I spent more than I’d planned, but that’s because I took advantage of some great deals. In my bag, I found another discount card to be redeemed the following month and a six-sample pack of their new hand lotion line.

Attentive, helpful sales staff. Innovative specials and extras. Had I somehow been transported to Stepford? No, I had entered Recession Land. The folks at the mall understand that consumers are less free with whatever discretionary income they may have left, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get it. They are being creative, resourceful and energetic in their efforts to remain employed.

How about you? What is your company doing to retain current clients and woo new ones in light of today’s tight economy?

A good example that comes to mind of working with the recession instead of against it comes from HRmarketer. No, don’t gag; they don’t pay me extra for this. At the beginning of the year, Mark and Kevin launched a reverse layaway plan for new members: sign up to get what you need now and pay for it over time. How’s that for flexibility? Then there’s the car company that promises to cover your payments for three months if you get laid off—and you can return the car after that if you still can’t pay. That’s just plain unheard of.

These efforts suggest that the companies actually care about their customers. People respond well to being cared for and about. Great customer service creates good branding, which leads to customer loyalty, which makes for successful businesses. Sure, companies exist to make a profit, but I’m betting that the companies that come out on top when this recession ends will be the ones that tried harder and did more—for their customers. I’ll be buying my unmentionables from Victoria’s Secret for years to come.

Posted by Heath Havlick (The Grammar Ninja)

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