August 13, 2003, 12:00 AM

Neiman Marcus says SmartLabel a hit with customers

Already known for a high level of customer service, Neiman Marcus Group Inc. tested a pre-printed SmartLabel returns process for its effect on customers’ online shopping experience. Customers were quick to offer positive comments.

Already known for a high level of customer service as well as high-end products, Neiman Marcus Group Inc. sought a way to raise its standards even further. Over a 3-month period March through May, it tested a SmartLabel returns process for online and catalog orders placed for its Neiman Marcus brand and got an enthusiastic response from customers, Jessica Weiland, senior vice president of marketing for Neiman Marcus Direct, tells "Customers say they love it," she says. Now Neiman plans to roll out SmartLabel program to its other two brands, Horchow home furnishings and Chef’s cooking equipment.


The SmartLabel program, a service provided by Newgistics Corp., inserts a pre-printed and pre-paid return-shipping label into each order. Customers wanting to return an item simply attach the SmartLabel to their package and drop it off at any U.S. Postal Service location. Retailers have the option of absorbing the cost of the return shipment, though Neiman charges it against the value of the returned or exchanged item. Weiland says customers don’t seem to mind paying for the return shipping, but appreciate the fact that the label shows the exact shipping fee and makes it possible to simply drop a package off at a Post Office without having to wait on line.


She adds that Neiman timed the introduction of the SmartLabel program to have it ready in time for the fall shopping season, when it figured that an improved returns system could have a major effect on customer satisfaction.


The most significant aspect of the program for Neiman customers, Weiland says, is the increased level of comfort it provides to customers who might otherwise feel confused or frustrated about how to return a product. "We’re always trying to raise the bar of customer service," she says. "Now customers don’t have to wait in line at the Post Office, and people who are happier with our returns process are more willing to make additional purchases."


Neiman inserted brief customer questionnaires with each SmartLabel package, asking about 4 questions related to the ease of using the program. Returned questionnaires generally cited the ease of using the service. Customers also offered positive comments during calls with customer service reps, Weiland says.



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