MLily USA finds success in customer-centric service approach

Golden rule guides how department handles customer complaints, concerns, inquiries for both retailers and end consumers

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — When it comes to customer service, Jenny Christensen has a simple rule: Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.

It’s part of the principle that has guided her as she helped build the customer service department at bedding manufacturer MLily USA starting four years ago.

It’s also one that can help serve as a guiding light to companies looking to improve how they work with customers who’ve purchased their products.

As a consumer herself, Christensen knows all too well the frustration one can experience when dealing with customer service departments of any business, not just bedding. If anything, the experience can feel to many like an anti-customer service approach where companies simply aren’t interested in providing service after the sale.

Jenny Christensen

“If I am not calling you, that means I don’t have a problem,” she said. “But if I have a problem, I want to know how you are going to deal with it,” she told Home News Now. “To me customer service is really your company’s nuts and bolts. When there is a problem, what does your company do for me? That is the most important thing. Because that is what tells you what is a good company from a bad company. And that is my philosophy of how I developed our customer service department.”

The job actually came to Christensen unexpectedly, when a former customer service manager left the company abruptly. At the time, she was working in sales at MLily, having previously run a company that manufactured windows.

Christensen admits she hated sales but needed the job at the time. But when the former customer service exec left suddenly, she was in a position to help CEO Suns Jian handle calls coming into the office.

“The phone was ringing and he said, ‘Can you help me, and I said sure.’ And from that moment on, I helped customer service,” she said. “Basically they gave me carte blanche to do whatever I felt was necessary.”

“So literally, I created this from scratch based on how I wanted to be treated and how I would want our customers to be treated,” she said.

As part of her caring and customer-centered approach, Christensen also built a team with the right people and the right skills to do the job. For example, one person came to the team from a daycare center, while another came from a hospital where he helped put on events that helped raise money.

“Those are the types of people I look for,” she said, noting that the customer service team currently has six people including herself. “I did hire a couple of people that didn’t quite work out, they came from the sales side, and I just couldn’t get them to understand the compassion that comes with customer service.”

She said listening skills are key as is a compassionate sense of wanting to help resolve their problem. So is not taking things personally when a customer is on the line expecting confrontation.

“That is something I am looking for, I am looking for compassion,” she said. “I am also looking for somebody who doesn’t take it to heart because … the first thing when somebody calls the customer service department is they are ready for that fight, they figure they are going to have that big battle, and when you calmly say ‘It’s OK, don’t worry about it, I will take care of you’ that all kind of comes off and goes away. But you have to have that consoling spirit inside of you that helps calm them down…that is what I look for in people. I really look for the heart.”

But product knowledge is also key as is the ability to track orders and be able to provide accurate information relating to delivery issues. From day one, new customer service professionals are given information about the company’s line including mattresses, pillows, protectors and adjustable bases, for example.

From there, Christensen tests them on their knowledge of the line, which gives her the confidence they can answer basic questions particularly for those customers buying a product online. The goal is to help consumers understand the product and ultimately find the right bed to suit their needs.

“We don’t make commissions on our beds, but we want to teach you about our product and help you get the good night’s sleep you deserve whether you buy our products or whether you buy from someone down the street,” she said. “We just want to educate you so you can make the best decision you can make.”

The team not only serves consumers, but also retailers needing information or a problem addressed relating to a specific product.

Christensen noted that information from these customer calls, complaints or inquiries also gets communicated directly to department heads including the president and CEO of the company in a regular report. That way the team has information to be able to fix problems or make improvements, whether it’s a manufacturing issue related to a specific mattress or a customer response to the design of a mattress cover.

Ryan Farber

So how is this customer-centered approach to customer service working? Based on a high number of four- and five-star customer reviews, the company believes it’s on the right track.

“It is a consistent pattern, and it all came back to the way we are treating the customer,” said Ryan Farber, vice president, marketing. “That affects a lot of those reviews, I would say 80-90% of the time. So the tagline I inherited when I came here, which I love, is ‘With You Every Sleep of the Way.’ And I think that speaks to the journey of the customer  — whether it’s a retailer or whether it’s a consumer —that we are with them through the big decisions that they make through their life…And I think that has a lot to do with customer service.  It is the way we treat our buyers and our consumers that they feel is a tremendous added value to the already high quality product that we are delivering.”

“There is a balance that we are trying to really maintain here and part of that includes customer service,” he added, noting that much of the focus about a company’s success has to do with sales, finance or operations. “But the way we treat our customers is important and it does really get lost sometimes. So we have to put it on a pedestal to be equal with other aspects of the business to have a well-balanced machine as opposed to something that’s lacking. So we are really proud of our customer service department.”

Christensen said all the credit goes to her team, which is helping the company put its best foot forward in helping its customers, consumers and retailers alike.

“Every company should model its customer service department after MLily’s because it works,” she said.

Thomas Russell

Home News Now Editor-in-Chief Thomas Russell has covered the furniture industry for 25 years at various daily and weekly consumer and trade publications. He can be reached at and at 336-508-4616.

View all posts by Thomas Russell →

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