I live in Boulder, Colorado, arguably one of the hiking capitals of the country. If I leave my desk where I spend my days creating foodservice content, I can literally be on a trail enjoying the view above in 15 minutes. If I'm hightailing it, I can make it in 10. And that includes drive time to the trailhead.
I try to get to the trail every day. Usually, I'm listening to an audiobook, and it's likely one about marketing, writing, or cooking. I get to align interests -- exercise, fresh air, and some new knowledge to help me help our clients -- and those walks have inspired me to write pieces of content like this and this. They've helped me learn more about the craft of writing and communications. The books I listen to have helped make me a better marketer.
So what's all this have to do with hiking and customer service?
To hike, you need shoes.
Last July, I bought a brand new pair of Merrell waterproof hikers. They were a great pair of shoes, comfortable and good on the rocky trails behind my house. Until last week, that is, when the treading on my right shoe started to disintegrate. You saw Zion Williamson's shoe blowout during the game between Duke and UNC? It wasn't that bad, but it was bad.
When I got home, I took to Twitter. I tweeted an image of my shoe along with a call for help. I tagged both REI, where I bought the shoes, and I tagged the manufacturer themselves -- Merrell. It didn't take long for me to figure out who had the better customer service.
Within an hour, REI replied to my tweet and urged me to take the busted boots into my local store. Within several days, Merrell didn't reach out at all. One used social media in the perfect way; the other didn't use it at all.
Yesterday, I did exactly as REI suggested. I took my old shoes into the store, received validation that something was indeed wrong with them, and I received $120 credit to spend either in the store or have it returned to my credit card. It was the full amount I originally paid for the shoes last July.
REI used social media to turn an annoyed customer into an evangelist.
For $120, the original price of the boots, some of which will probably be recouped from Merrell, REI got a glowing endorsement on Twitter. I engaged with them. I praised them for allowing me to pick up a new pair of shoes. And when they tweeted to me saying they were glad they helped get me back out there, they asked me where I was going.
We're happy we were able to help get you back on the trails. Where are you taking your new hiking boots?— REI (@REI) June 10, 2019
I thanked them and told them I was hitting the local trail in the image above. It was honest, meaningful engagement that took me from thoroughly frustrated to freakin' thrilled. I got a brand new pair of hikers -- made by The North Face this time because Merrell has still yet to reply -- and for less than $120, REI got an online testimonial and a customer for life. Even better, they got one who will take the time to spread the experience I had.
Yes, REI, from now on, I will #optoutside.