‘You’re Going to Like the Way You Look. I Guarantee It.’ Men’s Wearhouse founder promotes relationship building

Neil Weiss, staff editor
Posted on November 1, 2003

The most important aspects of running a successful business are focusing on customer service and creating an upbeat work environment, according to George Zimmer, founder and CEO of Men’s Wearhouse.

Zimmer, a successful entrepreneur who have built a chain of 650 stores throughout the U.S. and Canada, will be a featured speaker at the LCT Show Feb. 22 to 24 in Las Vegas.

He sees a number of parallels between his business and the limousine industry.

“Our attitude is that we’re in the people business more than the suit business,” explains Zimmer. “There are limo operators who think their vehicles are the key to their success. I would argue that they would find greater success if they realized they were in the people business more than the transportation business.”

Quality employees are essential to this equation, adds Zimmer, who looks for personality over a resume – character over credentials – when hiring.

Like many limousine operators’ employees, Men’s Wearhouse employees receive a training program that promotes customer service, personal development and courteousness.

Zimmer believes the most significant lesson his wardrobe consultants take away from their 40-plus hours of training is the importance of being friendly.

Zimmer criticizes the somber, British-butler sense of formality, adding that ideal chauffeurs open the door with a smile, shake the client’s hand and introduce themselves.

“You have to let people know you prefer they smile or they’re likely to assume that the more serious they are, the more professional they will be perceived,” Zimmer says. “You have to be professional, but we’re all human beings.”

This simple shift in the chauffeur-client relationship changes the experience, he explains. It is the first step toward forming log-term relationships. And once a relationship has been formed, clients tend to be more loyal, even in the face of an occasional problem.

To help solidify this bond, Zimmer recommends matching chauffeurs with clients whenever possible.

“I think most people feel more comfortable when the person coming to their home is someone they know,” he says.


Zimmer’s 5 Tips For Success

  • Instruct chauffeurs to smile and shake hands with customers.
  • Under-promise and over-deliver.
  • Look for character over credentials when hiring.
  • Interview clients to determine other ways of serving them.
  • Match up chauffeurs to clients to solidify relationships.

Client retention is often tied to how comfortable someone feels using your company, Zimmer notes. Comfort comes from trust, which is why he recommends under-promising and over-delivering as a customer-service philosophy.

Comfort and trust can also impact sales. Men’s Wearhouse wardrobe consultants are therefore instructed to interview new customers the way a doctor with good bedside manners interviews a patient. Reservationists should do the same.

“Some doctors are so busy that you are immediately put in an examination room the first time you visit them,” Zimmer explains. “The doc comes in on his 10-minute burst and you feel a little awkward because you don’t know the guy and he’s immediately probing and examining your body.”

According to Zimmer, the best doctors sit down and spend 10 minutes personally interviewing a patient.

Likewise, reservationists who take the time to build relationships with customers are better able to suggest other uses for their company’s vehicles. This might allow them to promote a romantic night on the town to a client who generally calls for rides to and from the airport.


The History of Men’s Wearhouse

Started in the summer of 1973, Men’s Wearhouse closed out its first day in business with sales of $3,000- which was kept in a beat-up cigar box instead of a cash register. The Houston-based company expanded over the next three decades into the largest retailer of men’s tailored clothing in the U.S. and Canada.

Men’s Wearhouse went public in April 1992 on the NASDAQ exchange. During the mid- 1990’s, it grew at a rate of one store per week.

Today the company operates 650 stores and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol MW. A merger with K&G Men’s Center and Moores in 1999 pushed annual sales over $1 billion.

K&G was founded in 1989 and offers discounted men’s clothing. Since its merger with Men’s Wearhouse, K&G has expanded from 13 stores to 62 stores and now sells women’s clothing.

Moores is Canada’s leading men’s clothing retailer, with 113 stores. The 40-year-old chain sells dress and casual clothing and shoes for men.

The merger with Moores also included Golden Brand, Canada’s second largest manufacturer of men’s tailored apparel. Much of Moores merchandise and a portion of Men’s Wearhouse merchandise are manufactured at Golden’s facility.

Men’s Wearhouse CEO, George Zimmer is a Washington University graduate in economics. His company was recognized by Fortune Magazine as one of the Top 100 Best Companies to Work for in America in 1999 and 2000. Zimmer is best known from his television commercials, where he promises buyers, “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”

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