Smoothies, Skirts, and Customer Service

I don’t usually buy designer clothing.  Owning something so expensive that could be ripped or tarnished easily is quite scary for me.  You’ll understand why I feel that way after reading today’s post.

However, designer clothing is not the main focus of my point.  It is actually CUSTOMER SERVICE. 

Understanding customer service is vital in any business or organization.  It surprises me that so many business owners DON’T understand the importance of good customer service.

Today I will share two stories.  The first one is an example of bad customer service.  The second story will be the contrasting example of what I believe is excellent customer service.  I invite you to share your own experiences at the end of my post.
Customer Service Disconnect

My favorite smoothie is called The Blueberry Blast.  I was hurrying to a meeting one afternoon, when the craving for a Blueberry Blast hit me.  Oh, the joy when I realized Emerald City Smoothie was on my way. (No relation to my business, Emerald City Consulting, by the way)

Rushing into the store with only minutes to spare, I was happy to discover that I could approach the order counter immediately.  In the 60 seconds it took me to place my order and pay for my smoothie, another customer had come in – a woman on her cell phone.  

I stepped aside to the counter reserved for order pick up.  I anxiously awaited the blast of blueberries that would soon be on my tongue. 

Now, here’s the thing – I’m sure it’s more time efficient for the young lady making the smoothies to prepare a few smoothies at a time.  A little strawberry in this one, some mango here, then add the protein powder, turn on both blenders, voila!  Two smoothies done in the time it takes to make one.  

I’m all about using time efficiently – which is why I was so proud of myself for finding the time to stop by and grab a smoothie on my way to my intended meeting venue.  But I was about to enter the twilight zone of bad customer service……

The bright young girl behind the smoothie counter had indeed been taught the time-efficient-smoothie-making-protocol because she turned to the lady behind me to take her order before beginning to prepare my blueberry blast.  Did I mention this lady was ON her cellphone?  

Do you want a banana in it?” she was saying to the person on the other end of the call.  “Yes, they can add that if you want it………I didn’t know you were allergic to that.  What happens?……..seriously?”  [laughter]

Now. I’m watching this young lady – the one who has my smoothie future in her hands – and she’s obviously confused about what to do.  She can see that banana lady is otherwise engaged, but when she starts to head toward me with what I think may be her intention to make my smoothie, the phone lady asks her a question.

Do you have soy milk?  Can I have a smoothie with soy milk?”  She only allows time for the order-taker to nod her head, then she asks the person on the other end of the call, “What size do you want?

As the banana lady begins to list for the caller the smoothie sizes available, the young lady and I make eye contact.  I say, “Can you please just get mine made?

As the smoothie girl begins to walk toward me the banana lady says, “Okay, I’m ready to place my order for two smoothies.”  Smoothie girls turns back to the order counter, while giving me a look that says, “I’m afraid of banana lady“.

Banana lady now becomes high-maintenance lady as she lists the ingredients she wants, as well as the ones she can’t have, in the two smoothies. Then she takes out her wallet and begins to count bills and change in order to pay the exact amount.

I am watching the time tick away, and begin to realize that I needed to be on the road with my smoothie about 3 minutes prior in order to be punctual to my meeting.  High-maintenance lady has taken at least 5 minutes of my allotted time, and my smoothie hasn’t even been started yet.  If I had not already paid for my smoothie, I would have left.  (And honestly, I considered leaving anyway)

I was ready to take this girl aside and give her a lesson on customer service, but banana-high-maintenance-lady seemed just unstable enough that I thought better of it.  I was little afraid of her too, but mostly I was ANGRY!

For the next minute or two, banana lady continued her call, talking loudly about Aunt Catherine and how her arthritis is getting the best of her.  When my blueberry blast was finally handed to me, I said to the smoothie girl, “you could use some training on customer service.”  

What do you think smoothie girl should have done to provide better service?
Well-Made and Well-Served
Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas: a wonderland of high-end shopping opportunities.  For the rich, it’s a walk in the park; for the not-so-rich, it’s a walk in the marque.  Designer shops, designer labels, opulence and wealth – all of it can make the simple man or woman a little queasy.  I am there with my daughter, her husband, and my husband.  We are “window shopping”

Nanette Lepore, the sign says.  The dress in the window is fabulous.  My daughter and I walk in to the store.  The prices are as expected in Caesar’s Palace, but there is a clearance rack.  I LOVE clearance racks!

I see this skirt…….
Beautiful, isn’t it?  So unique.  So well made.  So expensive.  It’s on the clearance rack for $200.  I feel a little queasy.  I’m simple, you see.  Designer clothing is not important to me.

My daughter says, “Mom, you should try that on“.

I think, “why?”

My daughter is holding an article of clothing in her hand, and she says, “I’m going to try this on. That skirt is really cute.  C’mon“.  

We head to the dressing rooms and I try on this gorgeous skirt.  It fits beautifully.  I mean, it is very complimentary to my frame, and it fits my style.  It is so unique.  So well made.  So expensive.  My thoughts begin to repeat themselves.  The queasiness is still there.
I walk out with the skirt in hand.  My daughter decides not to get what she tried on, but my husband asks me, “How did it look?”  

I say, “It fits perfectly.  So unique.  So well made.”

How much is it?” he asks.

It’s on clearance for $200.” I answer while hanging it back on the rack.

My husband then surprises me, “You should get it.  We’re in Las Vegas.  If you really like it, you should get it.”
My first experience buying designer clothing in the actual designer’s store.  Wow!  I had never spent so much on one article of clothing before.  I felt the queasiness increase.  

The nice lady in the Nanette Lepore store wrapped the skirt in beautiful pink tissue paper, placed it in a Nanette Lepore bag, and we were on our way.  We window shopped a little longer, then got in line for the Cirque’ du Soleil show we had tickets to see.  

The O show is a water show, and the theater has seats in the round that are tiered upward from the big pool in the middle of the stage.  We made sure we were out of the splash zone because I still had the skirt with me, having not had time to return to our temporary home that evening.  My husband took charge of the bag containing the skirt and placed it under his seat for safe keeping.
The show, O was fabulous.  As the finale winded down, and the lights came on, the four of us began to gather our belongings.  My husband reached under his seat to retrieve the Nanette Lepore bag containing my expensive Las Vegas Souvenir.  I noticed that the bottom of the bag was wet.  Soaking wet.

As much as we had been mindful of guarding the skirt from the splashing water in the O show, we had been less mindful of the little girl drinking a big gulp seated just behind my husband in the tiered row above us. 

I pulled the skirt out of the bag.  It was dripping with soda.  Worse yet, the pink tissue paper meant to protect the expensive skirt had now bled onto the unique, well-made cream colored material.  It was ruined.  Queasy galore!
I could only think to wash the skirt as quickly as possible.  Cold water?  Hot water?  It was 11:00 pm, and we were still in the theater.  I made my way to the restroom to try and wash it.  Then I realized that I had the business card from the shop in Caesar’s Palace.  Hoping beyond hope, I called.

Hello.  Nanette Lepore, Las Vegas“. 

I quickly explained what had happened, then asked the question most on my mind, “Should I wash it in cold water or hot water? What do I do?”

Then I entered the twilight zone of excellent customer service.  “We’ll exchange it for you,” the woman at the shop said.
You’ll do what?  You would really do that?” I said in complete shock.  The queasiness was decreasing a little.

Of course, Ma’am.  Bring it in.  We’ll be here until 1:00.”  That was 1:00 AM!  I was definitely in a twilight zone.

By midnight, we’d made our way back to the Nanette Lepore store.  As nice as the people in that shop were, they could not exchange the skirt because there was not another one there in my size. However, they explained that there were Nanette Lepore stores throughout the country – Chicago, New York, San Francisco, etc. They vowed to find the skirt in my size at one of them.

However, all the other stores were closed at that point.  They would have to wait until morning to begin the search.  This posed a problem: we were boarding a plane in the morning to go home.  The lady at the shop took my phone number and the skirt, and told me she would call me in the morning with the result of her search.
Don’t worry.  We’ll make this right for you.”  Excellent customer service.  It was not their fault that my skirt had gotten wet, or that the tissue paper bled onto the fabric, but they were going to make it right.

And they did.  While at the airport gate the next morning, the lady from Nanette Lepore called. She had found the skirt in my size at their San Francisco store.  They would be mailing it to my home address directly.  

What will the shipping charges be?” I asked.

Oh, you don’t need to worry about that.  You won’t be charged for shipping“, she said.

Two days later, the unique, well-made, expensive skirt was delivered to my door inside a box, and wrapped in pink tissue paper.  
My story has come full circle.  You might theorize that because I paid a higher price for the skirt than I did for the smoothie that I should expect better customer service.  You may be right. 

However, it is my theory, that excellent customer service means giving customers the unexpected. Whether your product costs one dollar or a thousand dollars, your customers should always be happily surprised by the experience you provide.  

What do you think about the way the Nanette Lepore shop handled my crisis?

How can YOU deliver greater service to your customers?

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