Dillards Department Store and the Cleinman “WOW” Award

This past Monday, while visiting my brother, I purchased a new suitcase at the Dillards in Mesa, Arizona.  While I call upstate NY home, it's not unusual for me to do my shopping on the road…after all, it's where I spend the majority of my time and the pickins are slim where I live.  As you can imagine, with my travel schedule, I need a good suitcase.  My last one hit the million mile mark and started to disintegrate.

I packed up my new bag and headed for home.  Upon arrival, I noticed that the outside zipper was broken.  Given my need for quality, I didn't have confidence that this bag was going to work for me and I simply don't have time for trial and error.  I wanted to return the suitcase for credit…but I'm a long ways from a Dillards.  So, putting on my "customer from hell" hat and preparing for a fight, I called the Dillards in Mesa and spoke to Neil, the manager of the luggage department.  My conversation took nomore than 3 minutes.

AHC:  "I purchased a piece of luggage from you on Monday and used it once.  The zipper has broken."

Neil:   "Well, just return it and we'll give you a new one."

AHC:  "That's a problem on two fronts.  First, I won't be in Phoenix anytime soon and second I don't really trust the piece, given that it broke on its first run.

Neil:  "OK, go to your receipt and read me the ten digit number at the top.  I'll just credit your account."

AHC:  "That's great!  How do I get the bag back to you?"

Neil:  "Just throw it away, keep it or give it away."  No sense spending money on shipping."


Neil, to put it mildly, I'm still blown away by our conversation and yourno nonsence, customer centric approach.  I was prepared for a hassle or at the least, the need to pack the bag up and ship it to Arizona.  You didn't even try to satisfy me…no…you WOWed me!  You took the wind right out of my sails.

Congratulations!  Today I award you an Al Cleinman WOW Award.  As a professional speaker, I spend a good deal of my year talking about the topic of customer service to audiences throughout North America.  I am now a Dillards "ambassador."  You and your team, both up and down the corporate ladder, can rest assured that your gesture to me will be repayed.  This WOW experience will be shared with thousands from the podium, for many, many years to come.

Neil's action reminds me of one of my thirteen mantras…"Destroy bureacracy.  See clearly the decisions that are yours.  Make them!"  Neil didn't hesitate to read the situation and take action.

Congratulations Neil and Dillards.  You've anambassador in Al Cleinman and a customer for life.

What might you do in your business to take what would be perceived as a customer hassle and turn it into a service goldmine?  Are your employees empowered to do what Neil so smartly did?  Why not?


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