Customer: A person who buys. esp. one who buys from, or patronizes an establishment regularly.

Service:     Giving aid or assistance; helpful; useful.

The foregoing definitions lay the fundamental ground rule for the way I discuss customer service. Fundamentals are always valuable to have when things get confusing, complicated and out of control.

Customer service today, is all over the board. Some is very good, some is mediocre, most is very bad. I attribute this  to a lack of empathy, lack of enthusiasm, and a severe lack of manners. Quite frankly, there is a huge lack of understanding of what customer service really is!

If  no one is complaining about your customer service, don’t brag! Service has become so bad that many have just given up complaining about it. This doesn’t mean they won’t do something about it. In many cases they just quietly go away and try somewhere else. For you numbers people out there, it costs about 5 times as much money for you to gain new customers as it does to keep current ones. I’m no genius, but this tells me it might be worth the effort to put customer service at the top of your to-do list.

Product exclusivity can sometimes lead to lax customer treatment. But exclusives are very hard to get. And even if you get one, it won’t be long before it’s copied. In other words, product is not the most important part of building a loyal-customer based business. Although , good quality products do come in a strong second place on the list. What I talk about here also applies to service-based businesses. Your service is your product.

Excellent customer service is not hard to achieve. You only have to “want” to provide it!

I  talk about it without the over complicated theories, analysis paralysis and rocket science, and discuss what really works. Not what should or what I’d like to work.


Customer service begins with your very first contact with a customer or client. It’s a great advantage to be able to sense what the customer wants or needs. You develop this sense mostly by knowing everything you can about what you are selling.  This doesn’t  mean only the benefits of your product.( I’ll explain why this is so important in my next post). Too many people don’t know enough about the products they sell to be as effective as they should be. The more you know, the more you can help.

If you’ve noticed where I’m going here it’s that Service and Sales are not really separate issues to deal with. They are synergistic. You really can’t separate them if you want to be effective and create satisfied and loyal clientele.

Sometimes, among my posts, you will find ideas or concepts repeated. I do this on purpose to reinforce points I feel strongly about.



Customer Service Is Not About Knowing Power, Voltage, Amps And Ohms!

When you want to turn on a light in your house, here’s what needs to happen for the light to function.

  1. You need power running to that switch from your electrical box. This power is generated at a plant owned by your electricity company and delivered to your house through a series of transformers and electrical lines.
  2. You need amps, (the flow of electrons), through the wires and your light.
  3. You need voltage, (the electrical pressure that pushes the amps through the wires and your light).
  4. You’ll have ohms in your wires. Ohms are resistance to the electron flow.

Do you need to know all of this stuff to simply turn on your light? Not really. You only have to walk up to the switch and flip it on. The above knowledge is useless to you for your purposes.

In regards to customer service, what are you trying to learn about your customers that may be useless to you?

Don’t spend time learning about power, voltage, amps and ohms.

Spend your time in direct contact with customers and you’ll learn all you need to know about servicing them!


Where Will The Customer Shop?

Your best friend is in an emergency situation and needs help!

A stranger is in the same emergency situation and needs help!

You are willing and able to help, but you can only help one of them. It’s not life or death so the decision is not critical.

Who are you going to help?

“Make friends with your customers”!  

Your Sale Went Perfectly……Too Bad You Blew It!

Congratulations! You made a sale! Everything went perfect.

You were polite and kind to your customer.

You answered every question they had to their satisfaction.

You pointed out all the great features and benefits of your product.

The customer was cordial towards you and was pleasant to deal with.

You accept their payment, say thank-you, please come back and shop with us again.

The customer thanks you for your help and goes on their merry way.

A text-book transaction.

It’s too bad you didn’t optimize your opportunity to create a loyal return customer!

That customer may come back or they may not come back. All that neat stuff you did for them was nothing special. It’s routine. They expect what you did as a minimum.

There is something you didn’t do, and most salespeople are guilty of it, that would have pretty much guaranteed the return of that customer.

When was the last time you said this to a customer before they left the store:

“If you have any questions or problems with your purchase, please contact me personally”. I want to make sure you are satisfied with your decision.

That is the most powerful question you can ever ask customers to gain their trust and loyalty.

Do you have the confidence and moxie to ask that question?

A Customer Loyalty Program……The Only Way To Do It!

Signing people up for loyalty programs is the easy part. It doesn’t guarantee they will become loyal buyers. By loyal, I mean they will always think of you first when they are in the market to buy what you sell.

You still must provide good service to those customers. The “loyalty program” won’t save them if you don’t deliver acceptable service and take care of them like you should. Remember, treating your customers well always has been and always will be the #1 best policy; to create loyalty.

Having said the above, I’ll explain my 8 principles for an effective customer loyalty program mentioned in my previous post.

You can have a loyalty program. You can have a whole bunch of people signed up in that program. But if you don’t administer the program right, you may be wasting a whole lot of time,effort, and money. A loyalty program run the wrong way can even alienate customers. Not exactly what you intended.

If your customers don’t have a clear understanding of what they get for being loyal…..they probably won’t end up being loyal. At least not because of your “loyalty perk”. If you sign people up and it ends in disappointment, the biggest blabbermouth in the world finds out……the “internet”!

Rule #1: Every single customer gets exactly the same deal. You  never discriminate! Never treat your big spenders better than you treat the people who spend less. You never know when those small customers will become “big Spenders”. It does happen!

Rule #2: Membership is FREE! The one type of customer loyalty program I will never sign up for are the ones that charge a price to do so. I’ll never pay 1 penny for the “privilege” of spending my money in any business…period! This type of program is not a customer appreciation program. It really traps you into returning to shop just so you can get your money back plus the bonus they promise you. Very insincere. It doesn’t create loyalty, it creates an obligation.

Rule #3: You give customers free merchandise or free service. To most people, the most powerful words in whatever language are 1. their name, 2. free! Free trumps a coupon for an extra discount. Think on this. Whenever we ran a sale where customers could purchase one item and get a second item of equal value for free, the traffic it generated was considerably higher than if we ran a sale giving 50% off. It boggles the mind. The customers were shopping to get the free merchandise. Do the math on this and you’ll understand what I mean.

Rule #4: Absolutely no hoops to jump through when customer meets requirements for the bonus. When you put restrictions on the bonus, you run a huge risk of alienating those “loyal customers” you worked to create. If you make the pay-off complicated or hard to get, you will lose!

Rule #5: Your customers belong to the program forever. Don’t put a time limit on the membership. Don’t inactivate a membership for lack of use. Creating loyal customers does not mean getting them to spend “x” amount of dollars within a certain time period. Creating loyalty is when a customer thinks of you first when they are in the buying mood. Many customers may not shop frequently, but they can be very loyal when they do shop.

Rule #6: Customers can transfer the membership to someone else at no charge. There are many legitimate reasons why a customer may have to stop buying from you. Sometimes they want to offer the benefit of your loyalty program to a friend or relative. Don’t make this impossible or difficult. You’re trading one loyal customer for another loyal customer. In Vegas, it’s called a “push”!

Rule #7: If you end the program, you offer every customer (member) a prorated credit for purchases made. Sometimes disaster strikes and you can’t continue your loyalty program. That’s o.k. To save those loyal customers don’t cut them off at the knees.Many of them became loyal because of your membership club. You’ll save most of them if you give them something for the loyalty they’ve given you.

Rule #8: Customers receive credit based on a certain number of purchases and the retail value of those purchases. This is the most important rule of the eight. It’s very simple and the fairest way to operate a loyalty program. I’ll use my store as an example. My customers purchased 12 pairs of footwear at regular price. We then totaled the purchase prices of the 12 pairs and divided that total by 12. Voila! We come up with an average. Example: 12 pairs @$40 per pair = $40 average. This is the value of the free  pair the customer had coming to them. They could pick out a higher price item but had to pay the difference. They could pick out two $20 items. Whatever their heart desired.

See the fairness here? My customers that bought higher priced items (spent more money)   had a higher average. My customers that bought middle or lower price items, had a lower average credit to cash in but they received the same deal and here’s why.

When you boil this all down, you’ve given your customers an 8.5% discount on all of their purchases. Regardless of price point. You can adjust the above numbers to give whatever discount you like.

The key to the popularity of this type of buying club is the fact you’re giving the customer FREE merchandise. Free is good. Consumers like free stuff! Also, you’re not FORCING customers to buy. You’re in essence saying “thank-you for shopping with us, we appreciate your business”.

There you have it.The basic rules to set up the only buying club/customer loyalty program I’ve seen that is fair, equitable and truly creates repeat customers. Personally, I don’t even carry most of the cards I’m given for loyalty programs. They aren’t worth my effort or my loyalty!

Set up your program based on the rules I mentioned above and I will make the effort to do business with you and you will gain my loyalty!

Most Customer Loyalty Programs Are Bogus!

Most customer loyalty programs out there are more a waste of time and money than they are an affective way to create “customer loyalty”.

I’m just a regular guy and I  am signed up for a number of these programs. I let them sign me up so I don’t have to hear the pitch if I return to the store. Am I loyal to those businesses? Not really. The programs are too complicated and they don’t really give me enough to retain my loyalty. If I see it that way, how many others out there think the same way. My guess is A LOT!

It’s hardly worth my effort to pull my wallet out to get at the card they issue to me. A $5.00 coupon or an extra 10% discount after spending “x” dollars, or 25 billion miles flown to get a ticket with 25 billion restrictions, isn’t going to make me loyal… period! It’s just a nuisance to me. And there is the operative word. Nuisance! If that is what you create for me, how does your customer loyalty program really measure up on the “customer service scale”?

So, how should a customer loyalty program work that is simple and fair to every customer and creates customers that really return to do business with you?

  1. Every single customer gets exactly the same deal.
  2. Membership is FREE.
  3. The customer gets FREE merchandise or service when they meet the criteria.
  4. Absolutely no hoops to jump through to cash in.
  5. Customer belongs to the program forever… time limit.
  6. Customer can transfer their membership to someone else.
  7. If you end the program, you offer every member a prorated credit for the purchases they made.
  8. Customer gets credit based on the number of purchases made and their value;  not based on dollars spent.

How do I know if the above will really create loyal customers? We did it in our business for over 30 years and it worked perfectly. I’ve never seen or been offered a customer loyalty program that even approaches the simplicity, fairness, and effectiveness of the one we implemented in our stores based on the above principles.

In my next post, I’ll explain in more detail WHY the above principles are the only way to implement an effective customer loyalty policy based on purchases.

I Don’t Want Customer Loyalty Cards And Extra Discounts!

Customer loyalty cards and giving “extra” discounts are not authentic customer appreciation.

These things are marketing tactics to induce me to shop at your store or website. Don’t get me wrong.  They are ok marketing tactics but that’s all they are. I take them for what they are worth but I don’t take them as “appreciation”.

If you want to express real appreciation to me, appreciation that I believe is sincere, you’ll  have to do it face-to-face and right at the point of sale.

Give me a “free” pen!

Give me a “free” calendar!

Give me a “free” notepad!

Don’t give me another pitch!

Better yet, give me a thank-you for shopping at your store and tell me to contact you if I have any problems with the merchandise or service I purchased. Tell me you’ll be there to help me. Tell me that is what you are there to do. Give me the assurance that you really want me to be satisfied doing business with you.

Say these things to me and follow through and I will be loyal. It’s a whole lot cheaper than discounts and it really “buys” more customer loyalty.


I Used To Lock Some Customers In My Store Until They Made A Purchase!

I guess you can’t have it easier than that. If a customer doesn’t buy, lock them up until they do buy!

All kidding aside though, on many occasions I did lock the customer in the store with me until they were taken care of.

This would happen if it was closing time and my customer wasn’t finished shopping or we may have been having a fit problem that was going to take some time, or I might have been making an adjustment on returned merchandise.

I would tell the help to go home and lock the door and leave the lights on with me and my customer inside. The surprising thing was that most of the times this happened the customer was willing to return the following day to finish but I was always willing to stay late if they were willing. They had the option.

I can hear you saying now, “why lock the door when you might get more customers”?

That wasn’t my concern. My concern was the customer I had and I wanted to be in a position to give that customer my undivided attention. Other customers coming in would have split my attention. Not  conducive to good customer service.

Every customer I ever did this with was very grateful to me.

Every customer I ever did this with became a loyal customer to our store.

Did I give up my time just to make a loyal customer that would spend more money in my store?

NOPE! I stayed simply because I wanted to solve the customer’s problem.

Oh, and by the way, I always did solve the customer’s problem.

Are you willing to lock the customer in your store until they make a purchase? Do you allow your associates to stay late to take care of your customers?