Monday, March 1, 2010

Customer Loyalty, a Mug, and Dry Cleaning

This is the tale of a mug, dry cleaning, and customer loyalty...

Earlier today I pulled one of my favorite mugs from the cupboard and filled it with water.  I looked at it and remembered it was a gift from a company that has helped me in my business.  I couldn't help but think of all the times I had picked up the cup and not thought of this company.  In a way, I was taking them for granted.  I even found myself wondering if this was really the most effective use of their resources and if it would actually make me any more or less loyal to them in terms of my ongoing patronage of their services.

Two weeks ago I had a horrible experience with a local dry cleaning operation.  I will spare you the details, but when the words of "three strikes and you're out" come out of my mouth it cannot mean they were exceeding or even meeting my expectations!  After several days and all problems were resolved I picked up the dry cleaning and was prepared to let them know they had lost my business forever.  Just before I could express it the store manager said: "For all the trouble we put you through I'm going to credit your account for the cost of this order."  She effectively defused me and I graciously accepted the credit.  And then I realized how brilliant she was.

Notice that the store manager did not waive the costs of my current order, but she credited my account for future orders.  I will have to continue to go there if I ever want to use the credit, which may give them one or two more opportunities to keep my business.  Brilliant!

So what do these two stories have to do with each other?  Sure giving your customers a mug with your logo on it is nice and maybe even appropriate.  Marketers might call it great branding as they think of all the people who might see me use it, including my 3 and 5 year-olds who have no idea what the company even does.  But is it really effective?  Is it going to keep me coming back for more?  My argument is probably not, especially since I have used it enough to where I don't even think of the company when I pick it up.

Even though I had a terrible experience with the dry cleaner, I am going back so I can use my credit.  And, if they do a good job, they will likely keep my business.  Now that is an effective use of company resources to engender loyalty.