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Rue 21: A Great Example of Customer Service


As I’m deep into the customer experience industry, I am always aware of customer service as I’m out and about in my personal life. I recently had a wonderful experience with an associate at Rue 21 that I wanted to share as an example of employees who go above and beyond to assist customers.


My oldest daughter recently started high school. While this is already a nervous time for teens, it was impacted by the fact that she was moving from a small, private elementary school to a larger, public high school. She was not only going from a class of 30 that she’s been with since Kindergarten to a school of almost 4,000, but she has been wearing school uniforms for the last nine years.


As you can imagine, she was very unsure of herself when it came to back to school shopping. She didn’t know what other kids were wearing, and, I think in part, basing her perceptions on shows she watches on television. It was frustrating for both of us, until we visited Rue 21.


We had never been there before, so I didn’t know what to expect. As we shopped, we were greeted by associates and reapproached after several minutes of browsing, which I would expect from any retail store. Then something wonderful happened….


We approached the counter when we thought we were finished selecting clothes. The associate, doing her part, asked if we found everything okay and then pointed out that a few of the items we selected were “buy one, get one for $3.00.” This made my daughter happy, and she made a comment about being thrilled to be buying more items since she’s been “stuck” in a uniform for the last several years.


The associate heard this comment and started asking my daughter questions about her school, what high school she was going to, etc. She then made the comment that she must be nervous about clothes shopping for school for the first time. She then took the time to look through what my daughter selected and assured her that she saw many other teens buying similar items. It was taken a step further when she walked around the store with my daughter, making recommendations based on my daughter’s responses to her questions about likes and dislikes. She helped her make outfit choices and offered suggestions.


As we finally checked out, she told us her name and encouraged my daughter to ‘stop by any time” and she’d be more than happy to help her pick things out.


My daughter felt so much better after leaving the store and was reassured more than I could do for her as ‘just her mom’ who she probably thinks is out of touch with teenagers. Hearing these words of encouragement from someone who works at the store gave her a world of confidence and she felt much better about the entire experience.


The associate didn’t have to do this; my daughter was making the comment about the uniforms to me, not the associate. Even if she had overheard it, she didn’t have to go out of her way as she did to help my daughter. She did more than increase sales; she was reassuring and encouraging to a teenage girl. That was well worth any amount of money we spent that day.


It’s experiences like these that make customers loyal. This is now my daughter’s favorite store by far, and we will return on a regular basis because of how kindly we were treated.


Beware of Rating Scales


Whether it’s your mystery shopping or customer feedback survey, making sure the response choices get the best data possible is key to a successful program.


There are small variances that can make a world of difference in how people respond to a question, one of which lies in the answer options. This article discussing rating scale tips offers a good explanation of why it’s important to be uniformed in response choices, and to strongly consider what response options you will use.


The suggestions offered include:


  • Use 5-point scales when rating against one attribute (unipolar scales, for example: “Not at all satisfied” through “Completely satisfied”)
  • Use 7-point scales when rating against polar opposites (bipolar scales, for example: “Extremely likely to recommend against” through “Extremely likely to recommend”)
  • Use unipolar scales instead of bipolar scales wherever possible, as such scales are shorter and less confusing to respondents
  • Use fully labeled scales without showing respondents any numeric ratings – such scales are preferred by respondents and have higher reliability and predictive validity than numeric scales
  • List rating scales with the most negative item first, to prevent order-effect bias from inflating your ratings
  • Use common scales whenever possible, rather than writing your own scales
  • If you do choose to write your own scales, follow one or two common patterns when framing your choices
  • Develop guidelines as to the common scales to use across your organization and your research, so that you can compare the results from study to study and from department to department


I particularly like the suggestions for using the same rating system across all questions when possible, keeping the response options in the same order (negative to positive or vice versa), and not using numerical ratings. In the last situation, customers then focus on the experience and what terminology fits best versus a “score.” People react to “scoring” things, especially when it comes to an employee instead of an operational aspect, such as cleanliness or appearance.


Keeping things uniform and making sure that the questions accurately and objectively reflect what you’d like to know will go a long way in a successful feedback or mystery shopping program.






Is It Time To Revamp Your Customer Service Standards?


I came across an interesting article talking about ways to reinvent the customer experience. It showed that only 1% of customers have an experience that meets their expectations. That’s an extremely low percentage – it could be attributed to actual declining customer service, or that consumers’ expectations are higher than they once were.
At any rate, it’s always a good time to take a good look at your current standards and see if there is room for change – there almost always is.


By looking at customer feedback responses, talking with your customers, and evaluating sales numbers, you can get some insight into the health of your customers’ experience. Are there complaints that revolve around certain themes? Do you see a drop in returning customers?


Technology and other advances have made it easy to reinvent ways you interact with customers, whether it is changing the way customer inquiries are handled,  better ways to communicate with customers and make them feel valued, or even something as simple as speeding up the time spent in line.


The key question to ask yourself, as stated in the article, is:


“If we had no infrastructure, no politics, no barriers, and no limitations–how would we exploit the status quo to radically improve customer service?”


Doing something because “it’s always been done that way” or not having the time to make change is not an excuse. We are headed into the fourth quarter and a new year – why not start thinking now about ways you can improve the customer experience? It’s time to think outside of the box and really brainstorm for ways to make it better.


Here are some tips to get started:


1. Have a brainstorming session: throwing out any and all ideas, no matter how crazy they may seem, is the best way to start with your team. Ask the question above and collect ideas. The point here is to think freely and pretend for the moment that you can implement anything you want to. This will give you a “wish list” of ideas.


2. Ask your customers directly: if you are using a customer feedback program, or even a mystery shopping program, include a question that asks, “If there was one thing we could improve on, what would it be?” A few of our clients have added this question with great success. Your customers are the ones in the experience – they have thoughts about things that could make the experience better. Why not ask? You may get ideas you’ve never thought of.


3. Don’t feel like radical change is needed: making even small changes can go a long way. From the wish list you create, pinpoint some small changes that are most realistic and easy to implement. Customers will notice, and you will feel accomplished in the process, making it easier for you to continually monitor and make changes to make customers’ lives easier.


Change is good, and if you’re still doing things “old school”, consider making some honest evaluations of your standards and processes and decide how you can make change for the better.