Last weekend, I ran a 5K and it was very apparent that I needed new running shoes. Being that I’m not an expert runner (except in my own mind), I usually go to a department store, try on a few shoes, and buy a pair at a reasonable price.
This time, I took the advice of one of my running buddies and headed to Gazelle Sports in Grand Rapids, MI. The customer service experience that I had was truly a Zappos.com experience, but in the “real world.” The customer service skills of the staff were superb and they connected with me on a personal level that engaged me as a customer, not just processed me through their system.
The Positive Customer Experience Engaged Me Immediately
I entered and we immediately greeted by two people who directed me to where the running shoes are. Josh then found me looking at a variety of shoes and offered his assistance. He listened to my concerns about my feet, special arch support needs, and had me take my shoes off and watched me walk around for a few minutes to see how my feet actually moved in action. He brought me four pairs of shoes to try on and explained the benefits of each pair.
He also spent a great deal of time speaking with me about my running the race that morning, the pain I have in my IT band, my plans to run a 1/2 Marathon in the fall, and finding a training schedule for me.
Now, like Zappos, Gazelle does not typically sell discount shoes and has sales infrequently. That being said, the benefits they offer far outweigh the higher sticker price. At least three times during the trying on phase, Jose reminded me that I could run with the shoes for a few weeks, and if they did not feel “just right” I could exchange them for a different pair that would work for me.
I left the store with a new pair of running shoes, a sense of excitement for my next run, and an appreciation of a good customer experience and the knowledge that excellent customer service skills are not lost on those companies that truly value their customers.
The Final Touch
This post could end there, but they took it one step further. Yesterday in the mail, I received a handwritten Thank You note from Josh. He thanked me for letting him help me, hoped that my new shoes fit me well, reminded me to stretch like we spoke about, and wished me luck in my training. This Thank You note connected the final “Dot” on the Customer Service Skills. It further deepened the good feeling that I had by doing business with them in the first place.
So the answer to the title of this post is – NO, Thank You notes are not silly. I’ve not met a person yet who was not thrilled to get the Thank You note that they considered to be the icing on the cake of the customer service experience.
The first thing that people have said when I tell them I bought my shoes as Gazelle is “Aren’t they a little pricey?” I say that they really are competitive for “real” running shoes and that the level of service that they give convinces me not to try on 10 different pairs of shoes in a department store, left on my own to wonder if these shoes are good for my feet, and with the anxiety that I will be stuck with these shoes if I run outside and discover that I can’t actually run in them. The customer service experience has been well thought out by their leadership team and they have developed that loyal customer base that all companies strive to achieve.