Can customer service go too far? It's a question that came up in the comments on my latest post on All Analytics when someone suggested Amazon is too generous. But perhaps Amazon has decided to follow the course set by Stew Leonard's as described here: http://www.umass.edu/fambiz/articles/just_business/get_your_customers.html
"At Stew Leonard's, it really IS written on a rock: "Rule 1: The customer is always right. Rule 2: If the customer is ever wrong, reread rule 1." And the three-ton rock has a prominent place at each store entrance.
Priding itself both on low prices and extreme service, Stew Leonard's is not the typical small grocery chain. Stew Leonard, Jr. told the Center about it at the May gathering.
A 100% commitment to the customer can lead to some interesting situations - like the time a security employee asked a woman not to stuff her pockets full of strawberries, and she told him to go read the rock!
Another customer presented a coupon for a free half-gallon of ice cream with any three-dollar purchase. The cashier accepted the coupon, but then went around afterward to the other staff, asking if anyone had ever seen it before. A veteran employee said it was something Stew, Sr. had done when the store was very new, to get the average sale up from two dollars.
The next time that customer came through, the cashier asked, "'did you know that coupon was over 20 years old?' "The woman said, 'I was cleaning out my mom's attic and found it in an old newspaper. I'm a reporter for the local paper and I just wanted to test the rock.' She wrote her story, and then it was picked up by the Wall Street Journal." Better yet, the store attracted the attention of management guru Tom Peters. After Peters wrote about the store in two of his books, the store became a destination for visiting Japanese businesspeople - the only people who would buy the 5000 miniature engraved rocks that Leonard had ordered.
And how does that rock happen to be at the store entrance? It was Stew Leonard, Sr.'s daily reminder to himself, after losing a customer over a badly handled return. And Stew, Jr. firmly believes in the message on the rock. "Sometimes employees want to 'protect' us from the customers and not give money back. They have to realize each customer represents $60,000" in lifetime value. "We don't want to lose that. We've had customers bring back a fresh-cut Christmas tree in February and say, my tree died. We give them back their money. We get abused a little but we make the customer happy."