Originally published in Fast Company
We know that our customers talk about us, brands. According to the Keller Fay Group the average American consumer mentions specific brand names 60 times per week in conversations. And since most of them happen online and, frankly, it is easier to track them online, we understandably are in awe of social media that focuses on online conversations. We analyze and pay attention to online influencers and focus on numbers of fans and followers. But what we forget is that less than 10% of word of mouth conversations happen online. Keller Fay stats dating back to 2006 have consistently shown word of mouth conversations disproportionately happen offline in face-to-face and voice-to-voice settings. 90% of all conversations Americans have about products/services and brands taking place offline is a startling statistic. Is it possible that we are focusing too much on influencers and ignoring a ‘regular’ consumer?
We all hear those amazing stories of extraordinary customer service. Zappos, for example, is continuously cited as the leader in this department. Whether you are looking for shoes or the closest pizza joint, you will get help in finding it if you call Zappos. However, the unfortunate truth is that most of us have not experienced it very often. What’s more disappointing is that some of us have never experienced it.
For my mother-in-law it took 68 years to encounter an amazing customer service, truly touching on a personal level.
Couple of years ago I bought my mother-in-law, Lauri Walter, a bra from Soma Intimates as a Christmas gift. It was exactly what she was looking for . This year Lauri decided to replace it. The store was 3 hours away for her house but not far from where I live so I offered to take her next time she was in town. Which I did, without success. We went to the store only to find that Sofia bra that she was looking for was discontinued. Lauri was disappointed. For some of us it’s the little things that matter the most. And so it was for my mother-in-law.
Unbeknownst to me Lauri wrote a letter to Soma to express her sadness. It was a handwritten letter – Lauri is in her sixties, she doesn’t use social media.
Imagine her surprise when two weeks later she received a call from the company’s representative informing her that they received her letter and discussed it at the corporate office’s weekly meeting. The result: they were going to look in every store across the country and see if they can find the bra she was looking for. And a week later she received a package containing seven bras – the last seven left in the country! With it came the handwritten letter from one of the store managers – an appropriate way to communicate with the woman of Lauri’s age. It said:
“Dear Lauri –
Our corporate office called saying you had been searching for a Sofia bra. I was happy to find these at my outlet for you! They have been discontinued and perhaps are the last ones in our company. I hope you enjoy these. They are being sent to you complementary from our corporate office.
Our love and best wishes,
Store Mgr #5287
Lauri finished her story with “I started being rather disappointed with the company. Now, I would never say anything negative about them. Actually, I will be recommending it to all my girlfriends. What a delightful experience!”
To me what is most remarkable about this story is company’s attention to an elderly woman from a small town – a woman who isn’t an ‘influencer’ with thousands of followers and the fact that it didn’t matter to them. They treated Lauri with the same respect and consideration as they would give to their elite customers. THAT is the true definition of an amazing brand.
Lauri’s satisfaction came first and foremost to Soma. Lauri’s daughter-in-law sharing her experience with thousands of other people through this post is just icing on the cake for them. As are all of the additional customers our family will refer to this brand in future.