Back when I worked for Ann Taylor in 1998, I remember such a heavy emphasis on our customers (or clients, as Ann Taylor likes to call them) and giving them a great customer experience. The hiring process was so intense and so serious, even for a part-time sales position, I almost gave up. But the emphasis was ALWAYS on the customer.

I speak often about a great customer experience because I really believe if I spend money with a company, I want to walk away feeling great about it. I want to know that they care about my purchase, each and every single one of them.

I recently had a disappointing customer experience at Ann Taylor. In July I purchased a dress for $59 and I didn’t try it on again until November because the dress had three-quarter sleeves and in Arizona, it’s just too hot to wear three-quarter sleeves. When I did try the dress on again in November, it just did not look good on me. Even my husband agreed! It just didn’t look as good as I thought it did in the store when I purchased it. I tried to return it and because it was after 60 days, Ann Taylor gives a store credit for only the current selling price. This meant my $59 purchase would receive only an $11 store credit.

I have no problem with a store credit. I had plans to use the store credit to buy another Ann Taylor item. But I do have an issue with such a tight return time and not giving a full value credit with the sales receipt…I remember back in the days I was an Ann Taylor employee, people were returning items from 3 or 4 years ago. I get it…that is too long! But 4 months? Honestly, I didn’t even look at their policy because I thought I knew their policy.

I did speak with the manager and everyone just shrugged their shoulders and said they were very sorry but that is their policy—even after I said that I could no longer afford to be a customer if I had to take a loss like that. They even suggested that I consign the item because I could probably get more money for it than what they were willing to refund by credit.

Isn’t that a really bad suggestion and totally beside the point? Try something else because we are not willing to give you a full value credit of what you paid for the item, with store receipt and all.

I feel sad to be a former Ann Taylor customer because I love their clothes and I loved their previous attitude of the importance of customer and their satisfaction. If you look in my closet, three-quarters of my closet is Ann Taylor clothing.

Photo: Courtesy of Ann Taylor

Sometimes companies do not see the big picture, the long-term picture. What is the lifetime value of this customer who just told you that she is no longer going to shop at your establishment? I can tell you this—the lifetime value of this customer (me, in this case) is far higher than the $48 that is causing my unhappy feeling about their company.

This is a lesson for me in my business. I already know how I handle customers. Even if you give one “warning” that this is how the policy is now…today…at this company, but give a one-time pass to keep the customer.

We all see far too much of businesses treating their loyal customers less than great. Think about the recent stories:

  • Verizon trying to implement a one-time payment fee
  • Netflix raising their pricing by a very large margin for the same service
  • Bank of America trying to charge a debit card monthly usage fee

Each of these companies had to back off of these initiatives because of the enormous backlash they received from customers and the public. Treat your customers right and they will be loyal, paying customers who talk about how great you are. Don’t put your company in the position of having to backtrack.

Please contact Anna Brice at Pinnacle Peak Marketing, Scottsdale AZ about Marketing for Small/Medium Business.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 480-661-0292