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Happiness is a new rain coat! (and other customer service stories)

W person in a yellow raincoat stands out in the rain.

Good , Bad or Ugly Gossip; YOU choose how people spread YOUR story.

I’m a relentless optimist. I borrowed this expression from a great friend of mine who claims to be one also. Like optimists everywhere, as a consumer I anticipate a great experience. I believe that most businesses care, and want to deliver a great experience.

I was inspired recently to write on this subject, (which, let’s confess, has been done to death), because, believe it or not, there are still companies who don’t get this. They don’t get it so badly that they are BLEEDING customers. I imagine them sitting around their board room tables, looking at one another and wondering why despite the marketing, merchandising, advertising, staff recruitment and all their other efforts, they are STILL losing customers every month.

And this isn’t even a PRODUCT problem (read all about product issues like Ugly Snugglies in the fabulous book “Why She Buys” by Bridget Brennan. It’s revelational.

Some companies just GET IT. One of my marketing heroes, Terry O Reilly, spoke about this recently on his amazing Podcast “Under the Influence” – all about extraordinary customer service and how it CREATES, not COSTS, profitability in your business. (Our team listened to it at our last staff meeting. We took notes.)

So, there I was in a retail department store buying my daughter a rain jacket and pants for $29.99. The suit had just been released in the store for the season.

It didn’t rain for a week, so my daughter didn’t wear it right away. On the first rainy day, she excitedly donned her new duds (she’s a fashionista) and trotted off to school.

By the time she arrived home that day (yes, same day), the pant legs were SHREDDED to bits at the bottom. Not torn, not scuffed, literally falling apart. I took one look at them, packed them up and went back to the retail store, thinking I had an obvious problem and a simple solution on the part of the retailer – refund and send the sub-quality product right back to the manufacturer.

See the customer service opportunity?

Opportunity is clearly subjective – the poor, harried cashier at customer service not only didn’t rustle up a return, but when I requested help (no manager was available) , she offered me a discounted in-store rebate. Discounted, because 1 week after the rainsuits debuted in the store, they were already discounted by 50%.

In-store credit on a 1 week old, defective purchase? No one at the store disputed that the rainsuits were new, or poor quality – the problem was just that they “couldn’t” help me.

I left the store with the credit (the only option) and was encouraged to fill in a customer comment card, which I did, volunteering to sit on a customer panel. I never heard from them.

I don’t shop there any more.

Good Gossip is Spread by Happy Customers!

In our business, without repeat clients we could never comfortably forecast next year’s revenues. Kind of impossible to do so if every month, you’re starting all over again.
And who buys from companies that disappoint them?

Ummmm…….. You know the answer to that question.

Satisfied clients are repeat clients.

As proof, brands as diverse as Taco Bell and Cadillac have studied what is cryptically called CLV (stands for Customer Lifetime Value). It is represented by a formula that looks like this:


OK, let’s break it down. Taco Bell’s one .54c customer may spend up to $12000.00 in their life, IF ONLY THEY GET GOOD SERVICE. So, if a client walks in the store, orders a taco, and leaves, that’s like, maybe 7 minutes. Not so long, really, to smile and be welcoming?

But Whew. That’s 22,222 tacos.

Cadillac looked at their own client base – one satisfied repeat client would contribute $300,000 of value to their business. If an average Cadillac retails for about $45000.00, then that represents the purchase of 6.67 vehicles over a client’s lifetime.

Would you be happy with a client that purchased a minimum of 6 times from you?

Convinced yet?

I’ll tell you a much happier story. This morning, I was in a Starbucks store which I regularly visit. I like the people, actually. I ran into a colleague who also frequents the store, who was waiting at the till for a coffee refill.

The cashier asked me for my Starbucks client card. She swiped it, and then refilled my colleague’s cup. “How much?” he asked. Nothing , she explained, looking at me. My coffee purchase entitled me to a free refill on my Starbucks card, and she had gifted it to him knowing I don’t normally use the refill.

She didn’t have to do that. It might not be the original Starbucks corporate intention behind free refills to Starbucks card clients. But it was creative, solved an immediate problem, created tremendous customer goodwill, and made both of us happy (me because he is a potential client of mine, and him, because he got a free coffee).

That simple gracious customer service helped two businesses – mine, and theirs. And they probably didn’t know they were helping mine.

I can’t help reflecting on how much a culture of customer service converts to massive bottom line potential.

If becoming wildly profitable with customers who are raving fans doesn’t appeal to you, hey it’s a democracy, after all.

For the rest of you – go get em, you CLV nuts, you.

Maybe I’ll be your customer some day, and write a blog about how wonderful you are.

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