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newbalance811.pngI’ve long believed that the executives of a company should be the ones who answer the customer service phone rather than minimum wage employees with no power to actually solve a problem. And, since I ran a company called Rent-a-Kvetch in the 1980s, handling complaints for customers who’d been wronged, I know a thing or two about how to reach executives. In this case, I spoke to John Larsen, the president of New Balance Shoes, North America. He answered his own phone. He knew the products in great detail. He was absolutely willing to help me.

Are you listening corporate America? We’re in a recession. Now is the time to beef up your service, make your customers feel great about you, and earn their business for years to come.

My story: a week or so ago, with a hurt foot, I went to a New Balance retail store on 53rd Street and 7th Avenue in Manhattan, figuring that would be the best place to find a knowledgeable salesperson who could help me find the right pair of walking shoes, into which I could insert my special new orthotics designed expressly for swing dancers. Wrong. The store had only a few styles of walking shoes, and the guy sold me the wrong width. That, says my doctor and orthotics maker, is why they make my toes fall asleep.

Problem: I wore the shoes home, didn’t take the box, and so can’t, according to store policy, return them. But they cost nearly $100, and I’m not going to throw that away.

I called New Balance. I left messages on a few executive’s voicemails, escalating my way up to the president. Lo and behold, he answered his own phone. Now that’s pretty impressive in itself. But it gets better.
He listened to my story, said he was sorry I had that experience, and promised to call the store owner to tell them to exchange the shoes for me. When would he do that? Immediately.

I am impressed as hell so far. And I’m going over to the store to exchange the shoes. Stay tuned.
Update: I exchanged my shoes at the New Balance store, got calls back from the owner of the store and several people at New Balance, and am satisfied and tickled too with the outcome.