From its beginning as a sailboat equipment company to its success in capturing the admiration and loyalty of legions of landlubbers, Lands’ End has stayed true to its famous mantra, “Guaranteed.Period.®” In addition to the company’s focus on quality, they have kept their eyes on their customer. In 2008 they were named to the NRFF-AMEX Top Ten for consistent excellence in customer service and retained that standing in 2009. To find out how this predominately catalog and Internet retailer continues to win accolades from consumers the world over, we caught up with Nick Coe, President of Lands’ End. You’ll find “quality” resonates through the answers of this top exec, who fell in love with retailing when he was intrigued by quality in “great tailoring or a perfect pair of jeans” – products he couldn’t afford.
In the five years NRF Foundation and American Express have conducted the Customers’ Choice survey, Lands’ End has consistently been ranked in the top ten. How do you continue to delight your customers year after year?
We certainly don’t rest on our laurels — we continue to relentlessly focus on making great products at a fantastic value and deliver them with friendly, knowledgeable service season after season, year after year, one customer at a time. It’s an honest, straight-forward mission and it’s created a bond of trust with our customers unlike any other retailer. We don’t just strive to satisfy customers, we strive to exceed their expectations.
One of our founding Principles of Doing Business at Lands’ End reads, “What is best for our customer is best for all of us.” Everyone here understands that concept. It is simply understood and an integral part of our DNA. Quality, value, service— it’s pretty well summed up in our straightforward two-word promise— Guaranteed. Period.®
How has Lands’ End changed the way it communicates with the customer over the years?
Lands’ End has always told an engaging product story, from the search for the ultimate cashmere sweaters made of fiber combed from Kashmir sheep in Inner Mongolia to the kid-friendly features built into outerwear that guarantee warmth and dryness. What began as a two-way dialog with a catalog and an 800 number is now seamlessly integrated with landsend.com, Lands’ End Shop Kiosks, email as well as Facebook and Twitter. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have allowed us to evolve our two-way dialog into a three-way dialog, giving our customers the opportunity to engage with us as well as with each other.
We’re always looking for additional ways to connect with customers through new technology, but it’s the human connection that stays constant. For instance, we recently launched Lands’ End Live, an exclusive new video chat tool that allows us to bring the personal shopping experience to our landsend.com users, wherever they may be. It’s a terrific example of our commitment to connecting with our customers. Pairing state-of-the-art technology with top-notch customer service, our landsend.com users are able to see and talk to our personal shoppers through their computer screen. With literally thousands of product samples at their fingertips, our personal shoppers can demonstrate product features and show details about merchandise colors and patterns. The launch makes Lands’ End the first apparel retailer nationwide to offer customers this video chat option and it’s something we are extremely proud of.
What are some of the ways Lands’ End goes the extra mile for customers?
I think that having a culture that is entirely focused on the customer, and one that empowers our employees to always do what’s best for the customer has allowed us to consistently go the extra mile. Customer service is something that everyone in the company owns, from our Customer Care Specialists to our merchants and design teams. And when we can pitch in to surprise and delight one of our customers, we do it.
I think it’s also about listening to our customer. Really listening with an open mind, and answering with a smart solution.
With this customer-focused, can-do attitude, we have designed many unique features and benefits into our products. From “Grow-A-Long” features in kids’ outerwear to stylish mastectomy swimwear, we take great pride in offering our customers practical advantages. And of course, the stories are endless about how our Customer Care Specialists go the extra mile every day.
Let’s not forget about the little touches, like the handwritten thank-you notes we send to our new Lands’ End Canvas™ customers. And how we aim to always answer the phone with a live voice – often on the first ring.
Please share your favorite example of an extraordinary customer experience that truly reflects your employees’ commitment to customer service.
Here’s a fantastic example of how we rally around the customer. While browsing our Lands’ End Facebook page, one of our employees found a post from a customer who had a difficult time finding gloves that fit her 8-year-old son because he was born with only four fingers. Our merchants, sourcing and design teams worked with the customer to produce a pair of specially designed gloves that fit, well, just like a glove.
Here’s another great one — recently a mom called hoping to buy Lands’ End swimsuits for her daughter’s Barbie and American Girl dolls. While we don’t make swimsuits for dolls, two of our Customer Care Specialists caught wind of the request and offered to make some swimsuits for the dolls out of swimsuit fabric from our warehouse. I know we offer a wide range of sizes, but this is extraordinary! Just one of the countless examples of the high level of personal service we provide every day.
What kind of challenges do you face as you strive to maintain your standing with customers, as well as your reputation for quality customer service?
It’s certainly a challenge to stay in touch with our customers as lives and communication channels get busier and more fragmented every day. That’s why it’s so important to stay relevant. Remaining connected to the customer by anticipating their needs and providing the services Lands’ End has become known for – in ways that are most convenient for them – is key to building valuable relationships. So whether it is through social media, our call centers or online, we stay the course of being true to our heritage—to be the real, honest, approachable brand that made us trusted by so many customers.
How do you expect your approach to customer service will change in the coming years?
Our approach to customer service will continue to evolve and complement our customers and their busy lifestyle. We will adapt to changes in technology, but it will never depart from the fundamental principle at Lands’ End. What’s best for the customer is best for all of us.
To read Nick Coe’s thoughts on retail as a career destination, visit the NRF Foundation blog.