What is Great Customer Service?

Ask any bride or groom the most important part of selecting their wedding professionals and they whole-heartedly agree: Customer Service! The best product or service is only as good as the people who handle it from start to finish and the worst single thing that a business can do is to drop the ball when it comes to this (most) critical element.

So, without being vague, what makes a company’s customer service great? Attention to detail, follow-up, communication and the willingness to settle for nothing less than perfect.

I remember a  bride from many years ago who inspected her gown upon arrival and there was a giant fabric flaw directly in the front of the skirt. There it was, right in the middle, completely visible without a magnifying glass- a huge slub of silk!  She immediately asked the store manager to get another gown and was told this was not possible. She was then offered a discount of 20%. This did not sit well and she left the store in tears. Later that day she came in and spoke to me, I was working in the alterations department and she asked what I could do. I suggested that with the owner’s permission we could replace the front of the dress with an entirely new skirt panel of the same exact fabric. It would take several seamstresses many hours to complete this task and it was going to cost the store hundreds of dollars in materials and labor but, the owner decided it was worth it.   Melinda picked up her gown the day of her wedding and it was perfect, we completed the task to her satisfaction and were able to recoup some of the loss from the manufacturer due to their lack of quality control. She was thrilled, she referred us to dozens of her friends and the story had a beautiful ending. I think of Melinda often because of her calm resolve and her unwillingness to compromise quality for a 20% discount. Her words haunt me, “I am not unhappy about the price of the gown, I am unhappy about the quality. I have paid a fair price and I would like the product I ordered.”  The fault fabric was not of her doing so, why should she have to suffer? As wedding gown professionals it was our job to deliver that product, and as experts in customer service…. we did.


-If the customer has needs you cannot fulfill, refer them to another professional. It is better to say no to a job too big than to make a promise you can’t deliver.

-Remind the customer that they do get what they pay for. Your company may not be the cheapest but, you’re worth it.

-If they have selected you from dozens of bakers, florists or DJ’s to handle their event, they deserve to be spoken to as soon as possible. Even if it is a call to tell them you are very busy and wont be able to handle a consultation at a later date, you need to manage your time well enough to handle every customer as if they were the last, or they might very well be just that.

Great customer service is putting your customer’s needs first,  identifying any problems, addressing them immediately and being accessible.  Great customer service is not just making promises but, keeping them.


-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

What is it with Big Box Bridal?

A long time ago when a woman became engaged she headed to a  small, local boutique and ordered her dress which was nearly made-to-order.

Her other option was to hire a local seamstress to create her dream gown. Expensive designer gowns were limited to  the mega-rich and superstars. Those small boutiques were based on one thing: customer service. Many times the owner knew the bride, sometimes her whole life and could very easily help her select her gown since they had a personal relationship.

For the most part, almost all department stores had bridal  and bridesmaids gowns but they began to fade in the 1980’s and by 1990 were almost completely gone.  The rare exception to the department store shut-down, Marshall Fields (now Macy’s) expanded the bridal department and has become a Chicago legend with their unique level of customer service and selection of gowns. I cannot speak for the other Macy’s stores but this brand has become synonymous with bridal success in Chicago.

Since late 1990’s everything is available at the click of a button on the internet and some brides are quite comfortable buying a gown they have never seen or tried on, in an undetermined size, off of a site that may or may not have any real credentials in order to save money. To me this sounds like a bad idea and I always discourage brides from buying gowns in the internet for one reason – customer service. Plus, we all know you get what you pay for.

A few years ago Target tried selling wedding gowns by Isaac Mizrahi. They were priced around $99. I had the ‘honor’ of seeing the entire collection as it  arrived in boxes at a media event. The only one I recall was made of what I would consider to be the cheapest fabric I’ve ever seen. The collection lasted about as long as this blog and I doubt if anyone even remembers that belted monstrosity or its similarly cheap counterparts. I am not sure whatever happened to Mr. Mizrahi’s failed attempt to enter into the bridal market but I would guess it had something to do with ….. (wait for it) ……customer service?

Recently select Costco stores began selling Bridal gowns at weekend trunk shows.  Don’t get me wrong –  I love everything about Costco, I’m just not sure that I would want to try on a bridal gown next to a 50 lb bag of dog food and a 15 lb bag of frozen chicken breasts. I saw the gowns and they were lovely but I couldn’t help but think something was missing. What was it? Oh, yeah – customer service.

This week when I read the news that Priscilla of Boston is closing all of it’s stores nationwide by the end of the year, my heart sank. Priscilla of Boston has been dressing brides for 65 years from every walk of life – including former first daughter Tricia Nixon who was married in the White House’s Rose Garden (it’s the only Rose Garden wedding to date) for her wedding to Edward Finch Cox. She appeared not once, but twice on the cover of Life magazine in a dress designed by Priscilla Kidder herself. I remember this very well because I was about 10 years old and was so enamored with the gown and all of the trappings, I persuaded my mother to buy the “Tricia Nixon Paper Doll” set for me. My love affair with weddings and bridal gowns began with Priscilla Kidder and Tricia Nixon.

So what’s next for Bridal? Will we be seeing bridal gowns stuffed on the clearance racks at Wal-mart next to the team apparel? Hopefully not. If my hunch is correct, this will move brides back into the direction where they came, directly to the bridal salons and boutiques who specialize in service. The same salons who hold trunk shows where you can get the ultimate in customer service by the designer him or herself. The ‘cash and dash’ of big box stores is just not suited for the bridal industry. Brides need assistance. They need ( at a minimum) someone to help them into the gown and more often than not an honest opinion.

Anyone in bridal retail will tell you that it is unlike any other form of retail sales. The level of service is so high that consultants are expected to be  encyclopedias of information. Bridal Consultants are trained to know about shipping, fit, construction, size, fabric and every single detail of the process…. especially customer service.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago