A pair of shoes I bought my mother for Christmas were too small. Exchanging them was completely painless. And I realized after making the phone call to execute the exchange that I had been holding my breath.
That is a negative commentary on the way many retailers handle returns or exchanges. They make the experience unpleasant for their customer.
My shoe exchange occurred with L. L. Bean, which had enclosed a postage-paid return label with the shoes. All I had to do was make a brief phone call to a dedicated express exchange number. That special number meant that the operator who answered the call was there for one reason only — to implement easy exchanges. During the phone call, she punched the necessary buttons on her computer with surprising speed. Done. Five minutes had not transpired.
For this reason and many, many others, I was not surprised to learn that a survey of nearly 9,000 consumers found that L. L. Bean delivers the best customer service in every retail format. Anyone who has ever shopped at Bean would surely agree.
And, any retailer who wants to improve customer service could do no better than to shop — and learn — at L. L. Bean. Having shopped there in person at the Freeport, Maine, store, online and through the catalog, I cannot think of a single shopping experience that wasn’t efficient and pleasant.
Retailers that fell in line behind Bean in the annual National Retail Federation/American Express Customer Service survey included No. 2 zappos.com; No. 3 amazon.com; No. 4 overstock.com; and No. 5 Blair.
For the full list, click here.
Right after I made the efficient shoe exchange at Bean, my niece and I pulled out of my mother’s driveway en route to a UPS pickup point in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., when what to our wondering eyes did appear but a UPS truck on Mother’s street. We pull up alongside, where the driver was just exiting. My niece rolled down her window, handed him the box of shoes we were returning — with that handy-dandy label in place — and away we went. Two seconds from start to finish.
Will I shop at Bean again? You bet I will.