Monday, April 13, 2009

Maxine Johnson

I want to introduce you to Maxine Johnson, assistant manager of men's sportswear at Nordstrom Galleria Dallas. The reason I think Maxine is important is because she taught my son and me about customer service. I met her several months ago. I still have her card, and I'm still grateful to her. Here's what happened.

A few months ago, my wife and I were in north Dallas with some time to spare, and I convinced her to go with me to pick out one or two pairs of dress slacks. I felt like I was wearing the same pants over and over again when I traveled, and I could use an extra pair or two. We usually go to Nordstrom for that, and so we did again. After some time, I had two pairs of trousers that we both liked, and so we had them measured for hemming and picked them up a few days later.

A week or two passed, and then I packed a pair of my new pants for a trip to Zürich. I put them on in the hotel the first morning I was supposed to speak at an event. On my few-block walk from the hotel to the train station, I caught my reflection in a store window, and—hmmp—my pants were just not... really... quite... long enough. Every step, the whole cuff would come way up above the tops of my shoes. I stopped and tugged them down, and then they seemed alright, but then as soon as I started walking again, they'd ride back up and look too short.

They weren't bad enough that anyone said anything, but I was a little self-consious about it. I kept tugging at them all day.

When I hung them back up in my closet at home, I noticed that when I folded them over the hanger, they didn't reach as far as the other pants that I really liked. Sure enough, when I lined up the waists, these new pants were about an inch shorter than my favorite ones that I had bought at Nordstrom probably four years ago.

Now, pants at Nordstrom cost a little more than maybe at a lot of other places, but they're worth to me what I pay for them because they're nice, and they last a long time. But these new ones made me feel bad, because they were just a little bit off. I could already foresee a future of two new pairs of slacks hanging in my closet for years, never really making the starting rotation because they're just a little bit off, but never making the garage sale pile, either, because they had cost too much.

My wife agreed. They were shorter than the others. They were shorter than they should be. I needed to get them fixed.

Now, this is the part I always hate. Having made the decision, the next step is that step where you take the thing back and try to get the problem fixed. I hate that part. My wife doesn't mind it so much, but these were my pants, and so I was the one that had to go back and put them on so someone could fix them. I really dreaded it though, because I knew that the only way they could fix those pants was to take off the cuff.

It's late in the evening by the time my wife helps me build up a little head of steam, and we both decide (well, she decides, but she's right) that tonight is the perfect night for me to go on a 20-mile drive across town to Nordstrom to get my pants fixed. As a matter of fact, it'd be good if my older boy went with me. That makes it a little more fun, because he's good company for me.

It's late enough by now that before I could leave, I had to phone ahead, just to make sure the store was still open. A nice lady answered the phone. I said my name and told the nice lady that I was having some trouble with some slacks I had bought a few weeks ago, and how late did they stay open? She told me to come right on over.

So my boy and I got into the car, and I drove right on over.

A half hour later, I walked into the store, thankful that the doors were still open, carrying two pairs of slacks on a hanger, with my son walking beside me. A smiling nice lady approached me as I entered the men's department. "Mr. Millsap?" Yes, I am. It surprises me anytime someone remembers my name from that one phase of the conversation where I say real fast, "My name is Cary Millsap, and blah blah blah blah blah," and tell my whole story. The person on the phone hadn't asked me again what my name was. She had caught it in the blur at the beginning of my story.

She proceeded to explain to me what was going to happen. I was going to try on the slacks in the dressing room. The tailor would be there waiting for me. She and the tailor would look them over. If there was enough fabric to make them longer, then they'd do that tonight. If there weren't, then she was going to find two new pairs of slacks for me, and the tailor would have them ready for me tomorrow. If for any reason, those didn't work, then she'd keep preparing new trousers for me until I was satisfied.

Mmm, ok. I was probably grinning a little bit by now, because this was pretty fantastic news. I wasn't going to have to get my pants de-cuffed. I was still a little nervous, though, that when I came out of the dressing room, everyone was going to look at me like, "So what's the problem? I don't see any problem. Those are long enough."

When I came out, Maxine Johnson crossed her arms, put her hand to her chin, shook her head a little, and immediately said something to the effect of, "Oh my, no. That won't do at all." So she brought me two new pairs, which I tried on, and which the tailor measured for me. She gave me a reclaim ticket for the next day. As usual, I had missed her name when she introduced herself as I first entered the men's department. (As you probably already figured out, I have a bad habit of not paying enough attention to that part of the conversation that I think of as "the blur.") I did have the good sense to ask for her business card, which is why I know her name is Maxine Johnson.

My boy and I talked the whole ride home that what we had seen that night had been some real, first-class retail customer care right there, and that we all knew where we'd be buying my next pairs of pants. When I had gotten into the car an hour or so before, I had been very apprehensive about what might happen. I had been especially nervous about how I'd perform during the proving-what's-wrong part of the project. But Maxine Johnson put me completely at ease during my experience. She didn't just do the right thing, she did it in such a manner that I felt glad the whole problem had happened. Here's the thing:
Maxine Johnson made me feel like it was not just ok that I brought the pants back for repair, she made me feel like she was delighted by the opportunity to show me what Nordstrom could do for me under pressure.
I hope that the way Maxine Johnson made me feel is the way that my employees and I make our customers feel. I hope it's the way my children make their customers feel someday when they go to work.

Thank you, Maxine Johnson. Thank you.


Aman Sharma said...

Wow, now that's some thing which I would say, "rare to happen". On retail shops and especially in big stores, most of the times, this kind of customer care is just not there. But seems that those who don't do this forget, customer is the king and king must be happy all the time :) .

Glad that it all worked so well!


Robert said...

Great story!

Kerry Osborne said...

Awesome post. You're the kind of customer that companies who care about service, cherish. An awful lot of people dread a negative interaction so much that they will just go away with a bad taste in their mouth. Never to do business with the company again. (I'm like that most of the time) Customers that will actually tell you about a negative experience, and give you a chance to fix it are worth whatever effort is necessary to make them happy. Thanks for reminding us.

Brian said...

I too agree that it is much easier to just put the bad transaction in Nordstrom's column and then not go back there the next time you need pants.

The real issue is that someone measured the pants wrong or someone did not put the cuff in the pants right. That is the problem that needs fixed and by bringing it to their attention, you may prevent the next person from getting a pair of "floods".

What did you do with the old pants? I think I'm about an inch shorter than you and can always have the waist taken in ;)


Cary Millsap said...

Brian, I'm hoping they sold them to someone a little thinner and a little shorter than I am.

Fahd Mirza said...

You should offer job to Maxine.