Customer Service: The Lever for Purchase Frequency
This weekend, two experiences underscored the importance service plays in customer retention and purchase frequency. My husband and I decided to drive to Uniontown, PA for a casual, rainy day shopping trip. Along the way, we stopped for lunch at the Stone House Inn.
We’ve eaten at the Stone House before. It’s generally out of our way, so we stop infrequently. Until now, it has always been a pleasant experience. After Saturday’s visit, we won’t stop again.
My husband ordered chicken and dumplings. The one “dumpling” turned out to be 1/2 of a very stale, moldy biscuit. I ordered a french dip sandwich. Just by tasting, I could tell that the cooked roast beef had spent a significant number of days in the refrigerator without being sealed in an airtight container. From my perspective, the meat was inedible. So was the bun, which had soaked up the stale tasting juice.
When the waitress asked how the food was, we didn’t fess up right away. But receiving spoiled food crossed the line far enough that I called her back and described the quality of the food she’d served us. It was a bad way to start her first day on the job. She apologized and got the restaurant manager. The manager apologized profusely when I pointed out the mold and then knocked on the biscuit to elicit a “thud” or two.
She went in the back to talk to the chef—and I’m assuming owner. He blamed the humidity for spoiling the 1/2 biscuit and authorized a 20% discount. The manager returned (clearly embarrassed) and followed the chef’s orders… mostly. She also gave us a coupon for a free appetizer on our next visit.
Hmmm. My meal was inedible. That means I did not eat more than a taste of the sandwich and about 10 french fries. My husband was served a meal with visually spoiled food. A 20% discount and a profuse apology did not put things back into balance. Purchase frequency from this point forward: 0.
Contrast that with the experience we had at The Finish Line at the Uniontown Mall. I purchased two pair of Brooks’ athletic shoes. One pair is a duplicate of my favorite running shoes that was steeply discounted because they are raspberry pink. (Apparently no one else will wear that color.) The other pair is better suited for cross-training. Both come with a 15-day test run. I can exchange them within that time frame for any other style of Brooks’ shoes for any reason.
I bought my first pair of Brooks’ running shoes about 3 months ago. They’ve lived up to their reputation as one of the best athletic shoes on the planet. Now, with this return policy, you can be sure that the lifetime value of this customer (and a lot of others) will add up to more than money in the bank. We’ll also become advocates who will sway others to try this brand. (Seriously. Try them. They’re unbelievably comfortable.) And so grows market share.
The test run is a simple thing to do. Customer acquisition costs plummet with this business model, while repeat sales ensure a healthy bottom line despite an odd return here or there.