It’s easy to pay lip service to the concept of listening to the customer and learning from mistakes. Truly great companies follow through.
A case in point is the venerable L.L. Bean and their now legendary guarantee. Every direct marketer is familiar with founder Leon Leonwood Bean’s pledge, still posted prominently in the store:
What many may not know is that L.L. Bean’s early success was due in large part to living up to that guarantee big time. Bean’s mail order business launched in 1912 with a three-page flyer announcing the Maine Hunting Shoe. Mailing to a list of hunting license holders, Bean proclaimed “You cannot expect success hunting deer or moose if your feet are not properly dressed. The Maine Hunting Shoe is designed by a hunter who has tramped the Maine woods for the last 18 years. We guarantee them to give perfect satisfaction in every way.”
While the mailing was a success, 90 of the first 100 pairs of Hunting Shoes shipped were promptly returned because the rubber bottoms separated from the leather tops. While this nearly put Bean out of business, he refunded every penny, borrowed money, corrected the problem and tried again. Word of his stellar customer service spread, and remains at the core of the company’s success 96 years later.
I think of this example when company owners hesitate to use product reviews, forums or blogs because they fear negative comments from customers. Instead of a minus, such comments provide an opportunity for merchants to get vital feedback quickly (I’ll bet Bean wished he could have spotted his problem after 9 pairs instead of 90!), to educate customers, and to assuage any fears prospects might have about ordering a product sight unseen.
Embrace customer feedback, good and bad, and you’ll lay a great foundation for thriving 96 years down the road, just like L.L. Bean.