Bloomingdale’s is Writing a New Script for Winning Customer Loyalty and Satisfaction

"Richard J. Mast"

Richard J. Mast

A few weeks ago I was in Bloomingdale’s when a friendly young store employee approached me to ask if he could help. I wasn’t obviously shopping at the moment so I asked him who he was and learned he was Bloomingdale’s Director of Customer Loyalty, a new position in New York. This led to the following personal interview about the store’s robust customer loyalty program with Richard J. Mast, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Bloomingdale’s 59th Street in Manhattan. Mr. Mast discusses how understanding and responding to customer needs engenders customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Why did Bloomingdale’s create the Director of Customer Loyalty position? Is it part of a corporate branding program?

If you’re in the retail business you know that satisfied customers will continue to shop with you. So it’s our responsibility to enhance the customer experience. We’ve had employees assigned full-time to customer loyalty for several years. There are four Managers of Customer Loyalty in the Manhattan store but we decided to strengthen the structure by appointing a Director of Customer Loyalty with the other MCL’s reporting to him.

What are the responsibilities of this position and who does the Director report to?  

The role of the Director of Customer Loyalty is to interface with the senior executives in charge of ready-to-wear, Men’s Young World, the Home Store, Fine Jewelry and other departments. They tell the Director what they need and what customers want, and then these needs are translated to the MCLs assigned to these departments who then implement the actions to be taken.

The Director of Customer Loyalty reports directly to me. I don’t see him a lot because he and his staff need to be out on the selling floor interacting with customers. Nothing replaces the experience of talking to customers.

We also conduct focus groups – I sit in on these, too, so I get to hear directly from customers about what they like or don’t like and what would make them have a more satisfying customer experience.

It would seem that good customer service leads to customer loyalty. Are employees trained in customer service?  

Our employees are trained in what we call our “b-connected” system. It’s love at the point of sale. Employees are trained in relationship selling and not simply transactional selling. When a customer using a Bloomingdale’s charge card buys something, that information is entered into our database so we begin to build a profile of that customer. After a second or third visit we understand his or her level of spending and interests. We call it “client telling.”

This benefits the customer because capturing this information draws customers into our “family.” We can send them information about events they may be interested in attending, or invite them to private sales, or suggest making an appointment with a personal shopper. Whatever we can do to strengthen the customer relationship.

Is Bloomingdale’s undertaking any customer loyalty initiatives?

Yes — throughout the store we’re making changes based on what we’ve learned our customers want. For example, we learned that a woman in a dressing room becomes very annoyed when she needs a different size garment and there is no sales associate to help her get it. So in our Intimate Apparel dressings rooms on the 4th floor, we’ve introduced phones in each room. When a customer picks it up she is connected to someone who can help her. The associate helping the customer also leaves her business card in a slot on the door.

In our shoe department our initiative is called “4 to the floor and 2 out the door.” Sales associates are trained not only to get the particular shoe a customer requests, but also to bring out four different styles. That gives the customer a broader choice and may lead to an extra sale.

Another example is in our men’s department. Our customers have told us that when they pick up a suit that’s been altered, they would like to see a selection of shirts and ties to go with the suit. Don’t just hand them the suit.

Sometimes it’s the simplest changes. We’ve learned that people tend to buy shoes and belts at the same time. So we’ve moved belts to the shoe department and we’re selling more belts than ever.

What has customer response been to your customer loyalty program? Is it working?

They love it. The customer experience begins when a customer steps in the store. We have what we call Brand Ambassadors stationed at all the entrances and strategically around the building. They are there to greet customers and answer their questions or take a customer to the department if he needs that extra help. Our Concierge desk will help with your shopping needs but also purchase theater tickets for you and book restaurant reservations.

Bloomingdale’s is a leading destination for tourists. We invite them to visit our International Visitors Center on the balcony for help and special offers. At the end of the visit, we’ll give them a gift just for shopping with us.

We’ve made great strides in customer loyalty and satisfaction here at the Manhattan flagship store – there is always more that can be done. But it’s working and other stores in the system are following our lead with more robust customer loyalty initiatives.

Richard J. Mast is Senior Vice President and General Manager of Bloomingdale’s New York City Flagship Store, with responsibility for 150 Executives and 2500 selling and sales support associates. He has been with the company for 28 years, having held various operating, financial, and merchandising positions both in the flagship and in branch stores.

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  1. Jeannette,

    That was a great interview. I love to read about companies that are finally getting customer service right and understand the value of their customers. With the increased use of the internet it is easy for people to just keep it moving when they are not satisfied with your product or services. Good to hear that Bloomingdale’s understand this and is working to keep feet in their stores. Hope they are doing just as good with their online shoppers.

    Great job,

    • Thanks, Jenn. Good question about Bloomingdale’s online customer service. Richard Mast and I only had time to touch on that very briefly. Definitely a subject for another blog.

  2. Great article! Employee training is essential to providing exceptional customer service…and it’s nice to hear that management is not only listening to customers but taking action. Nice job Bloomingdales! Thanks Jeannette.

    • Yes, Jennifer, it’s heartening that stores are actually responding to customer needs. This is not always the case, as you know. Today I wanted to try on some intimate apparel at a store in a chain that shall remain nameless. No, you can’t try it on in the store but you can return it if doesn’t fit. So, if I’m allowed to try it on at home why not in the store? Why make me trek back with the thing if it doesn’t fit? Makes no sense.

  3. Great initiative on your part Jeannette to get the interview. When you think about it what they do is a simple way of strengthening customer relationships that customers appreciate.

    I wish our stores had that approach.

    • Thanks, Susan. Trust me, most of our department stores aren’t very good about customer service either. That’s why the Bloomingdale’s program stood out for me.

  4. Wow! That’s a very informative and useful interview for both customers and other businesses who want to enhance their customer experience. Great job researching this topic.

    • Thanks, John. It was refreshing to meet with Richard Mast and to experience his enthusiasm for drilling down to discover what customers want and then responding. As a woman, I can identify with being in a dressing room, needing a different size and having no one to get it for me. I loved his idea of putting phones in the dressing rooms. It’s like an SOS — someone will come to help.

  5. Hi Jeannette, what a great opportunity to get a valuable interview! Smart move on the part of Bloomingdales. Customers need to be treated like they matter – because they do! Thanks for sharing your experience and insights!

    • Yes, Julie, I was fortunate that Richard Mast agreed to an interview. I think he understood the value of letting the world (or at least my readers!) know about Bloomingdale’s commitment to customer service.

  6. Congratulations on seizing the opportunity to interview Richard Mast. His insight is extremely valuable to those of us who are serious about treating our small businesses the same as big business. There’s a lesson to be learned here. In an environment where so many businesses are failing, it’s reassuring to see one that embraces customer engagement and is truly listening.

    • Good point about lessons learned for small businesses, Sherryl. Customer service is even more important for a small enterprise. Losing a single client could hurt a lot financially. A huge business can withstand losing a single client. Of course, if one leaves others may follow. That’s why you can’t look at your customers as monolithic. They are all different with different needs.

  7. Knowing what customers want would go a long way in boosting business productivity and profitability. I love the strategy the company uses and I think it’s something other businesses should imitate.

    • Lanre — That is the bottom line. Do good for your customers and you’ll be rewarded with their loyalty — and more business.