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Why I Still Shop at J.Crew: An Education in Customer Service

April 9, 2013

At some point in time we’ve all experienced poor customer service. Sooner or later we all have a run-in with an unhelpful store associate or cranky customer service representative but the way I see it, an unfavorable incident will rarely define my view of a brand. It’s what follows that demonstrates the caliber of a company. In other words, it’s the response to the unsatisfactory experience that determines whether or not I will remain a loyal customer or end up a disenchanted devotee.

Most of us are wise enough to know that the person behind the counter or at the call center doesn’t speak for the brand and even the best of us can have a bad day or be misunderstood. One person or one exchange rarely defines a brand’s image, unless it’s the person at the top. And with Mickey Drexler at the helm, that’s where J.Crew triumphs.

JC

The above screen shot is from an email I received from J.Crew with the subject reading: “For a one-of-a-kind wedding plus, in stores & online, shop a Cardmembers-only sale.” Being a long time J.Crew card holder (because of such benefits) and having a summer wedding looming where I was in need of a specific suit, I thought it appropriate to take full advantage of the sale situation. To make a long story short, the discount code didn’t work and upon calling and speaking with a J.Crew associate, things went down hill quickly. After dismissing my concerns, stating they had no record of the email, I was referred to read the fine print, which states suiting being excluded from the sale. I was then told the worst words anyone in the customer service industry can utter, “there is nothing I can do about it.”

I felt misled, as the email I received at the very least suggested that such attire was indeed under the sale umbrella. I also didn’t appreciate the inference that I was misrepresenting their email communication, trying to pull a fast one just to save a few bucks. But ultimately it appeared I was wasting my time speaking to someone who not only didn’t seem interested in helping but suggested that they couldn’t even do so if they desired. With my customer service representatives hand’s effectively tied, I had to ask myself, “who in this company has the power to help me?” Not knowing where else to turn I sent a brief and explicit e-mail to J.Crew’s chairman and CEO, Mickey Drexler, simply stating what had transpired and alerting him to take a look at the emails being sent to customers, making sure they are more straightforward regarding such sale information. I wasn’t sure I’d hear back but at the very least, I wouldn’t be silent. 9:25 am, email sent.

At 9:29 am, I get a message back reading, “Thanks for sending- On it! Mickey.”

In a matter of 4 minutes flat, the chairman and CEO of J.Crew, Millard “Mickey” Drexler, managing a company with over 12,000 people, over 300 brick and mortar stores and revenues of somewhere around 1.7 billion had responded to a random customer’s concerns. Within an hour’s time I had a phone call from a J.Crew associate apologizing for the misunderstanding and offering the make good on the email’s promise. Obviously someone cares about J.Crew’s customer experience and that someone is Mickey Drexler.

If there is one point I would like to make clearly, it is this: it is not about the money. I could honestly give a damn about getting the discount. Fortunately in this stage of my life a few dollars wouldn’t delay me in procuring something as specialized as a suit, as it’s rarely a rewarding venture to scrimp on suiting. It was in the response that J.Crew reminded me that they care and in a globalized world where a man has more purchasing options than ever before, care is invaluable. Because Mickey cares, J.Crew cares.

Any Business 101 course will tell you that it costs five times as much to get a new customer as it does to keep an existing one. By mastering this simple principle, Mickey is not only revolutionizing J.Crew in terms of detail and design, but with emphasizing the customer experience. And granted, care is a relative term. At the end of the day, Mickey runs a company that is in the business of selling goods that make money. But it seems he realizes the important truth that all business is people business.

That’s why I continue to return to J.Crew. Of course they carry first-rate menswear that has a penchant for innovation with roots in the classic. Aesthetically, they’ve learned to go one step forward without going five, which makes their clothing infinitely wearable. But in this day and age of e-commerce, I can get that experience elsewhere. What I know I will get at J.Crew is that feeling of being taken care of along with quality garments. Typically this is the experience I have with any level of J.Crew associate; one of knowledge and care that emphasizes the customer experience. I’m sure I’ll have another misunderstanding with J.Crew at some point but it’s not about getting it right all the time, it’s about making it right. A company will undeniably reflect it’s leader. J.Crew cares because of Mickey Drexler.

Many thanks Mickey.

- DJS

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Thomas permalink
    April 9, 2013 8:55 am

    Unfortunately, most people have had initial interactions with customer service like you experienced. A lot of times if you just hang up and call back you will get a representative that puts customer and service together. As much as I like J. Crew and admire Mickey Drexler’s business acumen, I’m sure he has a staff that specifically handles customer concerns sent to him. I worked for a major consumer products company and that was the case. I will say though, the fact that someone responded in 4 minutes was very impressive.

  2. April 9, 2013 9:33 am

    How odd, I was just talking to my wife last night about my less-than-desireable J. Crew experience this weekend. One of the things that really bugs me is when no one in the store acknowledges you. I don’t expect every single salesperson to leap over tables just to say hi, but if I’m the only person in your section, take a pause from folding jeans and say hi. My wife and I have both worked retail and know how much management stresses acknowledging a customer. My wife still works retail and still gets surprised by customers who don’t appear that fashionable who then drop major coin because she acknowledges them and is genuine.

    • April 9, 2013 1:57 pm

      This is a tough subject, because everyone is different. I, myself do not like it when sale people approach me. The occasional hi doesn’t bother me so that I know they are there to help me, but for the most part, I just want to be left alone. When I do need assistance, I will ask for it. Some sales people are just not as good at reading customers in this way. But, the point of this post is that when assistance is needed, everything possible should be done to keep returning customers satisfied.

      • Kevin permalink
        April 10, 2013 8:33 am

        My recent experience was an offer for $20% off using the card and then several weeks later a different offer for 30%. When I inquired about a price adjustment i was told no. The solution, reordered all the same items using the free shipping and returned said items to the store using original receipt for an additional savings of roughly $100. Not much you may say, but to me it’s money well saved.

  3. Bruce permalink
    April 10, 2013 6:07 am

    Sorry for nitpicking, but you’ve fallen into a common spelling trap (and my personal pet peeve). It’s “misled” (past tense of “mislead”), just the way “led” is the past tense of “lead”.

    I did enjoy the post — I have had good J Crew experiences, too. :)

  4. April 10, 2013 10:31 am

    I dunno, as cool as it is to have a CEO personally answer your email in 4 minutes, fixing your problem is not his job. That’s the customer service associate’s job. Mickey’s job is to make sure is CS people have the right tools, authority, and priority to make things right when a customer calls with a complaint. Case in point: Bonobos. I imagine you wouldn’t get a personal email back from Andy Dunn about a customer service issue, but that’s because there is no issue he could help you with that the Ninjas wouldn’t handle better. I’m not going to get into PR conspiracy theories about how or why your email was answered by the CEO in 4 minutes, but the bottom line is, if he were playing his correct role in J.Crew’s customer service regime, you never would have had to send that email.

  5. April 10, 2013 10:42 am

    For a few months I would stop in to my local J.Crew store and it seemed like no one was ever eager to help me out. I love J.Crew clothing so this was disappointing to me. They are the one store I have found that understands great fit for slim guys. There must have been a shift recently in management because the last few times I have visited I have been greeted by some of the nicest sales representatives possible. Just two days a go I went in had a great suit fitting and conversation about how the “Mad Men” style was coming back and how its growing more acceptable to wear color again. He even gave me a pep talk saying not to be afraid of being bold! I didn’t buy anything that day but he shook my hand and looked me in the eye! Thats the J.Crew I know and I will definitely be purchasing that Ludlow Navy Blazer in Cotton Pique.

  6. April 10, 2013 2:29 pm

    As someone who has worked for J Crew and has spoken many times directly with Mickey, I can assure you, he personally cares quite a bit about every detail. J crew is a huge company at this point and there are bound to be incompetent people and buffers at every level. I would go as far as to say there are people who are even there just to keep Mickey from hearing details and complaints like this, yet, I know that he will go seek them out when he feels like people are just yes-ing him and problems aren’t being solved. And trust me, the man moves a million miles per hour, is constantly on his phone where he receives every single email sent to him directly, and looking into everything. I can honestly say, I’m not surprised by your experience.

  7. April 10, 2013 2:51 pm

    I’m a fan of their customer service as well.Purchased an overcoat online that was “final sale” but the fit was wrong, which you couldn’t know until you tried it on.Dragged my feet returning it but went to a brick and mortar shop to try for the next size.When I explained my dilemma the clerk said she could take care of it. She ordered my coat, I returned the old one, and with little in the way of explanation, received my refund and the new coat at the same sale price.

  8. April 24, 2013 2:01 am

    I’ve had some pretty bad retail experiences with J.Crew. I have to say the email reply you received probably wasn’t from Mickey himself but one of his employees writing on his behalf.

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