Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

In it for the long term

Posted by Becky Carroll on February 21, 2008

fallen-shoes.jpg Where do you prioritize long-term customer relationships?  Customers Rock! companies look at every customer interaction as another “deposit” in the relationship account.  Companies that aren’t focused on their customers as a growth strategy view every interaction as money.

My older son and I had a great experience last week on what happened to be Valentine’s Day here in the USA.  My son has long been a customer of the local skateboarding shop, Utility Board Supply, which sells “skating” supplies and clothing.  Many of his friends also go there to buy clothes or shoes (and if you know anyone that skateboards, you know how quickly holes seem to develop in those clothes and shoes!). 

We met Mike, the store’s manager, about one year ago when we were returning a pair of jeans to the store.  These new jeans had quickly developed a hole near the front pocket, and I was dissatisfied with the quality of the fabric.  Although Mike explained to me that these holes were common with skaters, as this is where they put their cell phones (which create holes from the inside of the pocket as they skate), he took back the jeans no questions asked.  (Apology to Mike – all of my son’s jeans now have the same hole, you were right!)  As a result of the great way we were treated, we kept shopping at Utility for my son’s jeans, t-shirts, and shoes (he likes the brand Fallen the best).

Fast forward to this year, Valentine’s Day.  My son had dropped off his new Utility-brand skateboard with Mike to be assembled while he went to a dentist appointment.  After the appointment, we went to pick up the board and saw Mike busy with a sales rep from, wouldn’t you know, Fallen Shoes.  They were looking at upcoming styles, and Mike was trying to decide which ones to stock for the summer/fall.  He saw my son and promptly asked him to come over and check out the shoes.  “Which ones look best?  Which ones do you like?”

Of course, I started talking to Mike and Rich, the Fallen Shoes rep, saying how helpful it must be to get live customer input.  Rich explained that they are always seeking customer feedback, as it is very difficult in the fashion and shoe industry to predict what will be popular in 9-12 months (it takes quite a while to design and manufacture a new style).  My son was thrilled to have been asked for his input, and he was really checking out the new styles.  He was also wearing his newest pair of Fallen shoes which we had just bought from Utility a few weeks before (the last pair he wore out completely – holes in the bottom, on the sides and top, etc.).

The Fallen rep quietly asked Mike a question (I had a feeling what it might be), and then asked my son his shoe size.  Rich then went out to his truck for a moment, came back with a new pair of Fallen shoes, in my son’s size, and handed them to him saying, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”  My son was floored, and he profusely thanked Mike and Rich.  He has since told everyone he knows and everyone he can think of about his experience and the free shoes he got.  I know the word has spread throughout his friends, as well as to the parents of those kids.

We saw Mike again later that day and asked him what Rich had whispered to him.  He said he asked him whether my son ever bought Fallen Shoes from Mike.  Mike answered yes, and  you know the rest of the story.

A simple act of kindness.  A free pair of shoes.  A customer for life – and now an advocate for Utility and Fallen Shoes.  Mike and Rich were thinking about their customers in the long term, not in the short term.  They were thinking about what positive word of mouth will do for a company’s marketing efforts.  Mike and Rich – you guys rock!

How can you delight your customers?  Are you listening to them on a regular basis, in a planned fashion?  Sometimes, just being asked is all a customer needs to feel important.

Want more?  Go listen to this podcast from Church of the Customer about customer evangelism at Maker’s Mark and how they reach out to customers.  (Thanks to Mack Collier at Viral Garden for the heads up on this one.)

(Photo credit: Fallen website, a photo of Tony Cervantes’ Chief shoes)

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15 Responses to “In it for the long term”

  1. Justin said

    CRM is the key for successful business :) good post and interesting insights!

    -Justin

  2. sdipietr said

    Love the story. What I especially like is that your son was treated as a person with a brain, with respect, and not as a ‘little person;.

  3. Jay Ehret said

    That’s a great story! I wish that would happen to me. Cheers to Fallen for giving their reps the freedom to do stuff like that. Rich is truly a brand ambassador.

  4. Toby said

    Becky – Another wonderful example of how to do it right. Now marketers have an additional tool to listen to their customers .. consumer generated content through social media avenues. Powerful was to tap into our customers’ raw, unfiltered ideas, concerns challenges. I’d love to see “listening to the new conversations” incorporated into every customer service strategy.

    Great to finally meet you in-person last night. Thanks for the CA hospitality. YOU so rock!

  5. Great story Becky! As a customer feedback specialist I couldn’t help point out how genuine that “market research” your son provided came across. That rep got some great “unfiltered and unbiased” feedback from your son, which might have been different if the company paid for an expensive focus group with your son’s peers. Of course, I would have also asked your son what he liked about the shoe :-)

  6. Five For Friday

    Another Friday, another set of great customer experience links for you to enjoy!

  7. daksh said

    That’s a terrific example Becky! Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us.

    – Daksh

  8. An evangelist for your company from your target market, in exchange for a pair of shoes. Fallen got a steal of a deal, but too many companies would have whiffed on this opportunity.

    BTW Becky make sure you listen to that podcast, it’s probably the best one I’ve ever heard. I wish you could make it to SXSW as Ben and Jackie are both going to be there!

  9. Excellent story Becky. I say this over and over again. Treat customers with respect and dignity and create great experiences. Your business will thrive.

  10. [...] Customer ExpectationsTips for Listening and LearningCustomer LanguageBathroom Blogfest: Door SignsIn it for the long termPizza Customer [...]

  11. Justin, thanks for the compliment.

    sdipietr, this particular shop always says hello to my son first, then says hello to me. They are clear on who the customer is – the one who drags me to the store! :)

    Jay, I agree – Rich truly is a brand ambassador. It doesn’t hurt that Fallen has empowered him to act on opportunities like this one!

    Toby, glad you liked my example. Customer feedback and conversations are truly everywhere these days. The smart organization has learned not just how to listen but also how to act on what they hear. And, it was great to meet you in person, too, Diva!

    Paul, unfiltered customer input is incredibly valuable. I heard last week, at a conference, that focus groups may be “dead” as far as a method of gathering great insight. Not sure, but I do know that Fallen got some great insight from my son! And they did ask him what he liked about the shoes – and he wasn’t afraid to say what he liked AND didn’t like!

    Daksh, thank you for being such a faithful reader!

    Mack, you are right – many companies would miss this opportunity, seeing a teenager rather than a customer. Good for Fallen for always keeping their eyes open! And yes, the podcast is a classic recording! I would love to get to SXSW sometime – just gotta get on the speaker’s list. ;)

    Lewis, I am glad you keep repeating your mantra. Thanks for the compliments, and keep spreading the word on customer focus!

  12. Brandon M said

    Great story. Being a skateboarder myself i can’t tell you how stoked i would be if i recieved a free pair of shoes. Good for them. The best part of all is that they did it purely for the customer. not because they knew that a well known blogger was going to write about it.

    It’s not a marketing tool. Its a way of life and how all businesses should be.

  13. Becky –

    You always have the greatest personal examples that truly embody what customer service is really about. Thank you for sharing it.

    It was easy to see that you and your son were delighted. Your readers might be interested in a classic article on the psychology of customer delight and outrage. I posted a link to it on my blog at: CustomerOps.com

    Thanks again,
    David

  14. Patrick said

    Great Idea!

    Check out http://www.Hellpeter.co.za its a South African site where the consumer can comment whether negative or positive. It gives the Manufacturer or service provider the opportunity to view, monitor and respond if they wish and address any pertinant issues.

    Companies are using it now as a platform to address Service issues that may not be esculated correctly and also as constructive critcism to make amends in their operation.

    Great thing is it allows consumers to investigate where they choose to do their business.

    Scary thing is, I used the platform to see where I could have a Sony Home Theatre System fixed, in South Africa Sony use a 3rd party contractor. The site would make one rather throw the item away and purchase a different brand based on the reviews their service contractor gets on the site! So find this tool usefull and positive as a consumer and business owner!

    Thx

    Pat

  15. Ravi Kiran said

    Excellent example Becky. Your experience is truly rocking. Thanks for sharing the story with us.

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