How to create a loyal customer

When I was still a young woman, I had to have a wisdom tooth out. I’d always been a coward and a visit to the dentist ranked high on my list of things to avoid, but it was an emergency; the tooth had to come out. I was terrified and doubted that I would survive without emotional support from my parents who were bicycling in Europe at the time. I needed someone to act in loco parentis so I let my dentist’s office play the part. Aside from making the appointment with the oral surgeon for that very afternoon, I’m not sure exactly what they did to earn my undying gratitude, but that day I swore to return faithfully, twice a year, to have my teeth cleaned. And I have, even though the practice itself was sold long ago and none of the original cast of characters remains. The office had earned my loyalty.

Some months ago, I received an unsolicited catalogue from Soft Surroundings, a vendor whose clothes are a cross between J. Jill and Chico’s; all to my taste, and all too expensive. However, inside the catalogue was a coupon for ten dollars off a purchase from their outlet web site. Right before the coupon expired, I searched the outlet site for the pieces I had liked in the catalogue, and found one. I filled out the online form and included the discount code. When the transaction completed, not only had I been charged ten dollars for shipping, but the discount had not been applied. I was not a satisfied customer.

I had to wait an hour for their web site to synch to their database before customer service could help me. When they were finally able to see my record, the customer service representative, who was, mind you, very pleasant, informed me that the item I had ordered was not on the outlet site and therefore ineligible for the discount, but as a sign of goodwill she would apply the discount anyway. I accepted the offer, but remained peeved by the assertion that I had made a mistake.

When I hung up, I retraced my clicks, found the url for the shirt, and sent an email to their customer service department. The episode ended for me once I reclaimed the moral high ground, but not for them. Within moments they had emailed me back, apologized for the confusion, and informed me that they were removing the ten dollar shipping charge. I was now a fully satisfied customer.

My final note is about IDG List Services and a young woman I’m not sure I should name ─ Kim McDonald ─ who works there. I rented a list from them for a project I was doing for a client. I was not happy with the results and had no expectation that it would matter one iota to IDG, a big company with lots of customers. I was wrong. Kim worked very hard to satisfy me. And she invoked the names of a whole slew of people on her team she said were also working on my behalf. Her emotional support cost IDG nothing, but bought a ton of goodwill. In business, there’s no line item for goodwill on the balance sheet. But there should be.

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6 responses to “How to create a loyal customer

  1. Pingback: Judy Mintz: How to create a loyal customer « NESCBWI Kidlit Reblogger

  2. Nice posting. WRT to the last paragraph, there actually is a line item for good will in financial statements that is intended to capture intangibles such as reputation and [I believe] brand, etc.. I would guess that in some small way you have just contributed to theirs 😉

  3. Its amazing what a little bit of ‘niceness’ can do in the world.

  4. I think customer service is important. When I trained at GEICO, we were told to always apologize even if we hadn’t been the one to make the mistake in the first place.

    As a customer I try to be patient. I know what it’s like to work in customer service. When a place goes the extra mile, I really appreciate it.

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