Citing clowns like those who return 15 year old worn to death shoes, or, buzzards who scout thrift stores and yard sales for LL Bean stuff so they can return it, get new gear, and then almost certainly sell that new stuff on eBay, LL Bean has eliminated their lifetime, no-questions asked return policy.
Good. This was long overdue.
Lifetime return policies. Responding to every complaint with fall-on-the-sword apologies. Sales reps showering customers with freebies when something has gone slightly awry. Many people would view these things as the hallmarks of true customer service.
But it’s bullshit. All of it.
There is a difference between legitimate customer service, and disingenuous ass kissing in order to buy a customer’s loyalty. And the latter has consequences:
1. Someone’s gotta pay.
Those costs have to be paid for somewhere down the line. And it’s not just “oh gosh we’re sorry” freebies. Hand written thank-you notes cost money. So do sweaters returned 10 years after they were purchased. It’s like an over-litigious society, where companies throw their hands up and just settle a case out of court because they don’t want to pay for the lawyers, and then pass the costs on to the customers that didn’t threaten to sue.
2. People become entitled assholes.
When companies try to buy loyalty by treating customers like they can do no wrong, some of those customers start to believe it. It’s like the internet, always asking for everyone’s opinion (not because anyone cares, they just want your clicks), or a clueless boss fueled by brown-nosing “yes men.” What’s lost to most, is that there are plenty of us out there who’d respect a business MORE if they told some of these types to get the hell out of their restaurant / bar / car wash / department store, instead of comping the whiners just to get them to shut up.
What should be, but sadly isn’t, an acceptable response to unreasonable complaints.
3. It sets a precedent of unreasonable expectations. For you, in your job.
Flip the script. It’s the golden rule. No matter your job, you’ve got customers, somewhere. During a recent personal real estate experience, some paperwork got goofed and a document (a single page) had to be signed an extra time. The realtor came to our place and the new document got signed at our kitchen table. On the way out the Realtor asked, out of nowhere, what my favorite restaurant is. Why? Because she wanted to get us a gift card “for the trouble.” , The trouble? It took two minutes. Would you want to operate in an environment where you had to grease someone with a gift for ONE extra signature?
There are plenty of businesses who can’t seem to get customer service right. But while most of the time we hear about companies who lack reasonable customer service, favoring overzealous customer service isn’t the right answer either.
Editor’s Note: This post was adapted from a post first published in 2014