635730312941599350-ThinkstockPhotos-170556477

As part of our company’s move to a new, bigger warehouse, we had to buy and install 6,000 feet of storage racks. We got the standard three quotes, all pretty much the same price, but one of the vendors (also named Rick) said something that stuck with me: “I’ll be there for you in case there’s a problem.” Sure enough, we had a problem. Rick, who claimed to have some thirty years of experience, recommended a configuration that turned out to be completely unworkable.  As I called to inform Rick of the issue, I didn’t even get to the part where I was going to infer his involvement in the error. “I can’t believe it,” he said, “A rookie mistake. When can I get back in there? It’s going to get fixed and don’t worry, I’ll cover every penny to get it done.”  In truth, even that didn’t make me a full believer. Saying something is one thing; following through is the real test. But not only did Rick bring out a team to redo all the racks, this time he stayed around to supervise to make sure everything was done exactly the way we wanted it.

We all know the expression… “The real measure of a man [or woman] is how they act in the face of adversity.” Rick could have easily said, “I only did what you approved. If you want it changed, fine; but here’s what it will cost.” His company has no worry about getting an adverse YELP review, nor is his business built on repeat, weekly business the way a drycleaner’s is; so an unhappy customer or two wouldn’t really affect his long-term bottom line.  That’s what makes his doing the right thing worthy of mention. He did the right thing when others might not have: faced with adversity, he did exactly what his customers would want him to do.

I thought about that this morning while in an audience full of executives and entrepreneurs. We were listening to a talk given by Morgan Carson, who runs a digital arts agency “committed to growing artists and curing social boredom.” She asked us to consider whether our business strategies were like “players looking for the next girl or have we were committed to our current relationships.” She said that those who didn’t just lure in a new customer or fan, but “showed up” and kept “upping their game” were using, “the power of falling in love to build a commercial movement.” It was the first time I’d heard the concept of trying to get customers to fall in love with a business or product, and then to keep the follow up and maintenance necessary to keep that love alive. What happened to me with the racks is a perfect example. He didn’t just make a quote; he came out to my warehouse to meet me face to face. He gave me his story about experience and offered me a solution, and when the solution became a problem he stuck it out with me. Rick could have thought of me as ‘last week’s date,’ sloughed me off and moved on to the next potential opportunity. Instead he did everything I needed and more than he expected.

It’s a business strategy we try to follow, from working to create a family of good products to the creation of our sales materials, to offering a wide array of marketing materials to help our drycleaners best benefit from our products once they’ve become customers. Which is why, even while still firmly in the growth stage of our business, well over half of our business is re-orders.

What are you doing to get someone to fall in love with your business? Are you happy with your branding? Is your storefront and counter areas inviting? Are you doing reach-outs to your community? Do you keep in touch with the influence makers of your towns, be they the local media, schools, church groups or local organizations? What are you doing to keep your customers happy? Do you ever surprise customer with a free service for their loyalty? Do you, like Rick did for me, do exactly what your customer would want when something goes wrong even if you don’t have to?

Here’s another truism I believe in… that is costs a lot less to keep customers then it does to get new ones. Maybe your customers will never fully love you; maybe they will only remain loyal and share that loyalty with their friends and neighbors. I bet you’d settle for that, wouldn’t you?