In it for the long term
Posted by Becky Carroll on February 21, 2008
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)