Swing for the Fences: Five Customer Service Tips

Andrew Stanten


What’s the most overlooked but critical marketing tool at your disposal? Happy customers.

We have a mantra at Altitude that a company can move from middle-of-the-pack to market leader by turning customers into brand loyalists and brand loyalists into evangelists. You can get to first base with the best product, service or technology out there, but if you’ll never run all the bases if you strike out with customer service. A bad reputation can easily get you benched.

Make no doubt, delighted customers can be the most powerful tool in your marketing arsenal like a left-handed pitcher can be the most powerful player on a team.

So why is it that most businesses spend the majority of marketing resources trying to generate new customers? Far too few invest the resources into making sure customers keep coming back and become evangelists. There needs to be balance between scouting for new business and treating existing clients like they’re the MVP.

One company I think does this well is L.L. Bean.

L.L. Bean has an unconditional money back guarantee. “Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way. Return anything purchased from us at any time if it proves otherwise.”

That’s a pretty bold statement. So I put it to the test.

Armed with a pair of L.L. Bean ski gloves that just finished their second season, I approached the store counter with trepidation.

Sue, the friendly L.L. Bean clerk, greeted me with a smile. I explained I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the way the gloves had worn, but was “about 90% satisfied.” I asked what she could do about it.

“No problem,” she said. She, obviously very proud of the 100% satisfaction pledge, was genuinely interested in making sure I was satisfied. She looked up my name, purchase history and told me the gloves were discontinued but there was a similar pair she could get me. She confirmed the size and asked, “Do you want to pick that up in-store or just have it shipped to your home?”

Three days later a brand new pair of gloves arrived at my house. Home run for the L.L. Bean team!

Why would I buy anything that L.L. Bean sells from anyone else? Ever?! The company has a bold promise – which is a deliberate marketing decision. They budget against it, train people to embody it and have measures to ensure it’s fulfilled.

They delivered such amazing peace of mind – even with just a silly pair of gloves – that as long as they’ve got what I want, they’ve got my loyalty.

I tweeted praise. Shared my story. And possibly drove a few more people through their doors.

It’s clear to see how marketing isn’t just advertising, point-of-purchase, public relations or SEO. It’s everything you communicate to prospects and customers.

So how do you begin?

1. Plan. Do you have a customer service strategy? If not, just remember conventional wisdom states that it costs five times as much to get a new customer as it does to retain one. Define, at a minimum, how far you will bend to keep a customer happy.

2. Budget. What’s it going to take to make delighting your customers SOP? You may need to invest in training, budget for a higher than traditional return rate or provide a larger degree of scope creep forgiveness. What’s it going to take to deliver quicker response time?

3. Ask. One way to solicit feedback is a basic customer service satisfaction survey. Try SurveyMonkey or Google Customer Survey to ask for candid reviews on your products, service and competitiveness. Ask what you can do to better. And don’t make it a once-and-done thing. Survey your customers regularly.

4. Monitor. There’s a lot of chatter going on in social media. From review sites and forums to LinkedIn groups and Twitter, customers have a louder voice than ever. So tune in. Engage. Be responsive and empower employees to act.

5. Follow through. It’s one thing to put together a plan, budget against it, listen and monitor. But if you don’t follow through its all for naught.

Andrew Stanten

Andrew Stanten co-founded Altitude Marketing in 2004. As CEO, he ensures the right people are on board, delivering world-class marketing services to Altitude’s global client base, and staying true to Altitude’s mission, vision and values.
Andrew possesses an innate ability to process, organize and summarize massive volumes of client and market information and turn it into actionable, strategic thinking. This enables Team Altitude to get smart about a company quickly—and develop winning, integrated approaches that vault clients into a position of prominence and strength.
Andrew graduated from Syracuse University and earned his MBA from Lehigh University.