Land’s End tradition of innovation: focus on the customer

When you think about customer experience, brand position, and what it means to be a customer-centric organization, think about Lands End.  The company has built a legacy of  doing right by the customer, backed up with their 100% no-questions-asked guarantee.  While their roots are firmly planted in the values of yesterday, their branches are keeping pace to match customer’s busy lifestyles.

I’m a long-time Lands End customer. I think I made my first purchase 15 years ago when my family relocated from Florida (my home state) to Iowa (um, we’ve actually moved to Iowa twice, proof that even intelligent people make mistakes, and sometimes repeat them). I needed a winter coat, the real kind (easily spotted, real coats are hideously ugly and bulky as the Michelin Man).  I had heard Lands End was serious about winter, Midwest-style.

Today, many snow drifts later, I still buy the brand. Less so for womens fashions (I find them slightly out of synch and often oddly cut), more so for boys clothes. Although most of the garments are not made in America (near as I can tell), the production quality of kids clothes is generally excellent. My only issue has been with coat zippers failing, although that may be attributed more to my sons rough treatment than actual defect.

In my 15 years of shopping, I’ve seen the Land’s End site evolve alongside technology to include live chat, virtual models, and more. Now there are also social channels in which traditional 2-way dialog has evolved to 3-way communication.  The company puts a lot of effort into helping customers make good purchase decisions, both online and through their friendly, knowledgeable customer service (called Personal Shoppers) staff.  The “human connection” remains a consistent thread woven throughout the Land’s End experience.  Thumbs up again.

If you’re a harried mom, you’ll appreciate the company’s lost mitten policy (where *do* single mittens go?). The company’s

satisfaction guarantee

This car, purchased by a LE customer in 1984, was returned to the company for a refund in 2005.

awareness of womens issues and sensitivities is shown with offerings like swimsuits for women who have had mastectomies and modest styles for those who like to show less skin.  There’s reflective safety material on the backs of coats and backpacks – which, did you know also come in tot sizes for pre-K and kindergarten kids?

New this season are great value-conscious features like “Grow-A-Long” snowpants and coats. Imagine – a clothes manufacturer helping you eek through another season!

While these features and products are very refreshing and some even leading edge, long-time customers aren’t terribly surprised.  These things are just more reasons why they’re loyal to the brand.  Lands End delivers on the expectations set forth in all of their marketing and promotional materials.

Historically, Lands End has placed the customer at the center of its operations, manufacturing, merchandising, and service functions.  The mantra “Guaranteed. Period.” isn’t a marketing term disguising some detailed restrictions and exclusions.  It’s a philosophy that dictates the way the company does business and approaches relationships.  Moreover, the mantra is a statement which empowers all employees to do what’s best for the customer, because that’s what’s “best for all of us.”

Company President Nick Coe was recently interviewed by Kathy Mance at the National Retail Foundation where he talked about going the extra mile for the customer.  Some shining lights include these bits:

“…continue to relentlessly focus on making great products at a fantastic value and deliver them with friendly knowledgeable service season after season, year after year, one customer at a time…creates a bond of trust with customers. . .we don’t just strive to satisfy customers, we strive to exceed their expectations.”

He went on to say that the responsibility for servicing the customer – anticipating their needs and providing solutions in ways that are most convenient for them – is something that everyone in the company owns.  The ideas, the methods, the problem-solving all belong to everyone.  In that there’s ownership and accountability.  That’s a customer-centric organization.

I don’t know if Lands End has been able to balance marketing and sales, optimizing the mix of immediate sales with the future value and brand equity (surely all this awesomeness comes at a cost).  However, since customers don’t think in terms of channels (although they do notice when there’s a disparity), they expect a singular, fluid brand experience.  When that experience compounds over time and events/interactions, the kind of equity is built that withstands downturns or the occasional PR blip.

My advice?  Go build something today.  It will be your foundation for tomorrow.

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Note:  not a paid endorsement for Lands End. Customer records will show I’ve spent a small fortune with the company in my lifetime.  I’ve certainly received a sufficient number of catalogs from them, too.






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