The Promise, What Your Medical Practice Can Learn From L.L. Bean

Last year I bought a new jacket from L.L. Bean. I had only been using it for about month before I found a small tear in it. I’m not entirely sure, but I think the tear happened when I was putting my son’s hockey skates on. The blade must have sliced through the fabric.

A few weeks later, I was at the L.L. Bean store buying a present. As I was paying, I said to the lady, “… you know, I got this jacket a couple of months ago and this little tear started… can I exchange it?”

Without hesitation, the sales rep says, “Yes, of course we can replace it!” She hardly even looked at the tear. She immediately called up another rep and said, “can you go get me XYZ model for this gentlemen… his jacket has a tear in it.”

No questions; no, do you have a receipt; no, how long have you had it? How did the jacket tear?”

Wow, I was impressed.

The rep then turned to the present I was buying and asked if I wanted to open up a credit card with them and save 10%. I said no, but told her that I had a 10% coupon for the item I was buying.

You know what she did? Instead of doing an even exchange for the ripped jacket, she gave me a full refund for the ripped jacket, and then applied the 10% discount to a new jacket (same jacket and model). So, not only did I get a brand new jacket, I saved 20 bucks.

I was blown away by the customer service. I was very impressed. I even texted my wife and told her about my new jacket and the savings.

Back in the car, I couldn’t get over what the sales rep had done. And as I always do, I started analyzing the situation trying to extract lessons I can put into practice at our medical office.

I found the lessons once I read their website. This is what their website says: Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way. Return anything purchased from us at any time if it proves otherwise. We do not want you to have anything from L.L.Bean that is not completely satisfactory.

I other words, if I, the customer, am not satisfied, neither is L.L. Bean.

Looking back, it was clear why the rep didn’t hesitate to give me a new jacket. As an employee of L.L. Bean, her job is to fulfill the promise. That is why she didn’t ask questions or give me a hard time. Although I didn’t know it, their company promise was at stake right then and there.

Leon Gorman, chairman of the board of L.L.Bean, stated, “A lot of people have fancy things to say about Customer Service, but it’s just a day-in, day-out, ongoing, never-ending, persevering, compassionate kind of activity.” As you can see, this is a commitment that comes from the top.

My question to you (and to myself) is, what promise are you making to your parents?

Naturally, as pediatricians, there is a commitment to do no harm, to always act in the best interest of the child, as well as give the best possible healthcare. But I’m not talking about that. Because that is a given. That is like being a restaurant owner and committing to selling fresh food.

I’m talking about a promise that goes above and beyond the expectations. I’m talking about a promise that you will deliver no matter what the circumstances.

For us, this is the promise I’d like to make to our patients: Provide exceptional service, remarkable care, over the top compassion, and unabashed empathy.

What is your promise?


  1. Brandon,

    You have found great parallels between two very different industries. I completely agree with the promise you make to your patients within your clinic. In fact, I plan on sharing those exact values with my staff.

    I do think, however, that providing exemplary service cannot always be equated with patient satisfaction. Unfortunately, I have upset families by not ordering a test a parent was requesting, or not prescribing a medication that was not indicated by evidence-based practice standards. Some of these families have been so put off my lack of “the customer is always right” mentality, that they have left my practice.

    Does that mean I have not kept my promise of exemplary service?

    I sure hope not.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this site. I enjoy hearing your perspective on continuing excellence within private pediatrics.


    • This is a great post for any industry Brandon. To Natasha’s point I think the key is to ensure that your mission or focus is visible to both staff and patients so that expectations are appropriately set. If a clinic makes it a priority to be known as the clinic that not only strives to have high patient satisfaction but is also a clinic where decisions are based on evidence and research a patient will be less offended when that clinic actually stands by its mission. In this case that could mean not ordering a test because it would be a violation of the mission. Of course I realize that a mission cannot encompass every scenario where a customer may be angered.


    • Brandon says:


      In a pediatric private practice, there is a distinction that is present that other business don’t have. And that is, we have the patient and we have the customer (aka the parent).

      What the patient needs is not always what the parent/customer wants.

      Let’s say you have a promise to always go the extra mile for patients. And then, a parent calls and request an antibiotic to be called in to the pharmacy because they are completely sure little Timmy has an ear infection. The parents don’t want to come in.

      Going the extra mile doesn’t doesn’t your clinical judgment. Right? You clinical judgement is inherently the promise.

      Now, calling in Vigamox for a single mom that has a 4 year old with pink eye and can’t get to the office because she is working 2 jobs, I would say is going the extra mile for the parent.

      Thank you for the excellent observation.


      PS – We’ve lost plenty of “parents” for doing the right thing. Imagine that. But we’ve never wavered from providing exceptional service, remarkable care, over the top compassion, and unabashed empathy.


  2. There are many companies out there that do the same….”Coach” is one of them as well. I was with a friend in another state at a conference in Baltimore and she was approached by the salesperson who asked her if she knew that the purse she was currently carrying could be exchanged for a new one due to the handle she had on her purse was broken (the salesperson noticed this). My friend walked out of the Coach Store with a new purse, and a smile on her face!

    Where I see this type of application for the medical field is two fold: Keep your patients happy by giving them excellent service and care, as well as empowering your employees to go the extra mile. A team approach with a culture that allows this “buy in” with the staff along with the physician(s) and management leading the way is surely to stand out from the others.


    • Brandon says:

      Absolutely. I agree that empowering staff is the only way to truly be able to go the extra mile. Having to call a manager over for every little thing is just not sustainable in my view.

      Thank you for the comments


  3. Good post Brandon. In my personal experience as a patient, the caregiver almost always provides exceptional service & empathy. It’s the support staff where I’m generally underwhelmed. From being ignored at check-in for minutes while a staffer types at a keyboard intent on the monitor (and oblivious to me), to having to type in 12 prompts on an auto-attendant phone system to get to a human, and then having a stressed (or worse, indifferent) staff member give me a run-around (“no, you can’t talk to Dr. Jones”). While I understand that in private practice (esp primary care & peds) it’s hard to make big spends on support staff, it’s not that hard to emphasize your core values to EVERYONE on the team. Best management technique I’ve found is “catching them doing something right”, i.e. high praise when you see an example of exceptional service.


    • In my experience, the staff’s behavior and actions are a reflection of management. If management is not engaged, either is the staff.

      Thank you for your comment Paul.