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July, 2009:

Forgive me if I start looking too preppy…

…but I think I’m done buying clothing anywhere but Land’s End.

8:41 PM  My mind starts drifting away from the emails I’m trying to return, and I remember that I have a bunch of pants that aren’t quite right.  Bought ’em a month ago, and been wanting to return them (or at least the ones I haven’t yet worn) to the vendor (Land’s End) to see about getting a slightly different length.

8:42 PM  I compose an email reply to the shipping confirmation email, asking if they can replace or alter all six pairs (even the worn ones).

8:51 PM Desk phone rings (hey, could that be an entrepreneur looking for some equity at this hour?  What a work ethic!).  Turns out it’s LE customer service.  Wants to know if I can wait until next Monday to receive six pairs in a free replacement shipment with an RMA and prepaid box for shipping back all the old ones, including the worn ones.

WTF?!?  LE FTW!

I understand that I could have had this kind of doting if I went to Nordstrom.  But showing up to a department store and breathing the perfume and hearing the piano and seeing the halogen lights is bullshit.  Getting six identical pairs of trousers tweaked 1/2 inch and shipped out ASAP without leaving your office at 8 PM on a Monday is anti-bullshit.

So, I beg you: think not ill of me when you see me wearing the all-Land’s End wardrobe from here on in.  Because it’s officially game over for me and apparel retail.

And, my apologies: I will now, thanks to LE, be all the more insufferable of a consumer when asked to wait on hold, navigate phone menus, etc.  I’ve now been trained: when I have a product problem in the middle of the night, my vendor calls me.  (A competent, polite, anglophone vendor at that.)

[Strongly considering a long SHLD position but LE is basically noise compared to the KMart and Sears juggernauts.]

But seriously now: a few key things they did right.  1. Actually checked the replies to the various “bot” emails that go out at points in the workflow.  Most !@#$@#%^ companies just use a “noreply@” or > /dev/null any emails you send to automated messages.  2. Some combo of skills-based-routing with order-size-queueing (I bet).  My order was probably in the above average range, plus it was a good bet that I was around and available, so queuing up an agent ASAP was a high-value proposition.  3. Empowered agent — clearly he was able to spend a fair amount of money (call it $20 in shipping plus eating another $50 in “trouser expenses”) to get the issue closed.  Big time kudos to IT, Customer Service, and a culture that lets the two work together so well.