What You Can Learn from LL Bean's Mistakes

I love Bean's products, and their customer service is excellent. Here are a few things they did wrong, recently, and how you can avoid that when selling your jewelry face-to-face.

I bought a briefcase online with a shirt a few weeks ago. The shirt arrived first (the briefcase was back-ordered) and a $10 coupon was enclosed in the package.

I called and asked if they would apply the $10 as a credit to the back-ordered briefcase. The customer service rep cheerfully took care of it. How cool is that? "We honor any discount we promote," she confidently explained, "even if you've already paid for the item."

(Actually, they never did credit my account, but it's the thought that counts.)

When the bag arrived, it wasn't what I was expecting. The canvas was too thin and the style too casual.

There's an LL Bean store near where I teach, so I stopped by to confirm that the briefcase could be returned at a store, even though I bought it online.

Despite there being only a few customers in the store, the sales reps were all hurrying from one place to another, and although I gave them the "I need help" face and tried to get their attention, they seemed blind to my contortions.

I figured since I was the only customer practically chasing them around the store, someone would get the hint, but they were faster than I (and I used to run track in college).

Finally, I stopped someone running from shoes to men's shirts, and she told me I could return the bag unless it "had obvious signs of use." I started to say I had just received it and their guarantee said nothing about "obvious signs of use," but she ran off to the fishing waders section, and I lost my chance to confirm what she meant.

When I brought the briefcase back the next day (after checking it for obvious signs of use, like grape jelly stains) I walked back to the catalog department (because I had ordered it from a catalog) and there was a salesperson rushing to outerwear.

"Can I return this?" I shouted, running after her.

"Yes, but you have to take it up to the register in the front, that's the only one open," she yelled as she disappeared behind a rack of barn jackets.

Other than me and a customer at the register, there were only two other customers in the store, but the sales reps were all still running around like a bunch of kids playing tag.

I went to the front register and stood in line for 15 minutes. Actually, there wasn't a line, there was just one person in front of me. But she had a lot to say to the customer service rep, who was working alone.

They chatted about the school boards in their towns, laughed knowingly about how tough teenagers can be, and exchanged recipes for baked Alaska before wrapping things up. (Okay, I made that last part up.)

As soon as I stepped up to the register, the customer service rep got on the loud speaker and asked for help. Apparently, another customer had walked close to the counter and, although not there to buy anything, must have looked like he MIGHT want something, so they brought in reinforcements. Who came over? The same person who told me she couldn't handle the return and I should go to the front register.

They did give me my money back, only asking if I had cased the entire store and was certain I didn't want anything else.

"The store has so much to offer," I replied, "but I'm okay for now."

I associate LL Bean with great quality products and outstanding customer service. The overall experience wasn't bad at all, but there's something about sales reps rushing around in an empty store that's always been a turn off to me. Can't they stop for a minute to help someone who is trying to get their attention?

Come to think of it, maybe that's why the store was mostly empty ...

Here's how to handle your own customers when you're selling live at a booth, jewelry home party or trunk show:

1. Take your time. No one likes to be rushed, especially when they're depending on you to help them learn about your jewelry. Slow down your rate of speech and concentrate on the person you're speaking with. Making prospects feel insignificant will guarantee they buy from someone else.

2. Make eye contact early. Body language is far more significant than tone of voice or the words you use. Make direct eye contact with prospective customers, and then look at your jewelry so their eyes will follow yours.

3. Engage everyone. A common problem when selling live is having more than one customer or prospect to serve. The best way to handle this is to look everyone in the eyes when they walk up to the booth, and when answering one person's question, address everyone there, so they feel connected to you and the others.

In good times and bad, it's important to treat people well. You already know it! Hopefully, LL Bean will, too.

Labels: , , ,