How do ironing boards breed customer loyalty?

How do ironing boards breed customer loyalty?

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at


Which is more powerful a satisfied customer or a loyal customer? Loyal, of course. How do you measure satisfaction? Easy, you ask a bunch of meaningless questions, the customer answers “satisfied (or even VERY satisfied), and you triumphantly proclaim, “We have a 98.7% customer satisfaction rating!” Big deal.

Customer satisfaction is worthless. Satisfied people will shop anywhere. “I’m satisfied over here, Mabel, maybe we can get more satisfied over there – let’s try it.”

I believe customer loyalty, not satisfaction, is what will drive repeat business. How do you breed a loyal customer? Tough question.

Here’s an example of an opportunity to gain loyalty and an opportunity missed:

I checked in to the Drury Inn in Overland Park, (suburb of Kansas City). The staff was friendly.

As a “limited service” facility, I dragged my own bags on a luggage cart to the front desk. The help they offered was in the form of a question, “Can I help you with your bags.”

If he had helped me, (which I politely refused) I would have been “satisfied.” BUT he had an opportunity to begin to breed loyalty by taking a memorable action, and failed. If the clerk had jumped from behind the desk and said, “Mr. Gitomer, let me show you to your room personally – (and with tongue in cheek said) these halls are fraught with danger, let me drag your bags down the hall for you, and ward off any lions or tigers that may gobble you up. We lost five guests that took their own bags down the hall last week. Pity.”

I would have been howling with laughter and told everyone of the experience. Instead, I drug my own luggage cart satisfactorily down the hall. They had a chance to take my bags memorably down the hall and blew it.

I got settled into my room and found no iron or ironing board. I called down to the front desk and asked, “Could you bring me an iron and a full size ironing board, please?”

Ten minutes later a nice guy bangs on my door and hands me an iron, and one of those mini-ironing boards for Barbie-doll clothing. As he handed me the stuff he said, “There are no full sized ironing boards, sorry about that.”

There I was – satisfied again. Got the iron, kind of got the ironing board. BUT – I hate those damn boards. You can’t iron anything on them. I call down to the front desk (again) and ask for a big people’s ironing board. They say, “There are no full sized ironing boards.” “In the world, or just at this hotel?” I asked.

The front desk person didn’t get it (surprise), so I decide to take my satisfaction into my own hands. I drive 4 miles down the road to Wal-Mart, and buy a big-people’s ironing board (for $12.88).

Ever walk INTO a hotel with an ironing board under your arm? Let me tell you, you’ll get a few looks.

So the story ends with the general manager offering to pay me for the board – I refuse the money and donate the ironing board to the hotel so that other salespeople with wrinkled clothing could get some use from it.

The story COULD have ended with a positive (loyalty breeding) spin, if the person at the front desk was trained to start with YES. Instead of saying, “there are no ironing boards…” He could have said, “The best way to handle that is…” or “The easiest way to get one is…” or “The fastest way to get one is…” and would have been forced to come up with a solution.

For thirteen bucks they could have been heroes instead of goats. The hotel person could have asked me, “Jeffrey, is a full sized ironing board important to you?” “Yes,” I would have replied. “Well, if you can wait fifteen minutes I can make one appear.” That’s what I wanted to hear. How tough would that have been?

The biggest reason that positive endings don’t happen is because employees are trained on policies and rules (why you can’t do things), rather than principles (think “yes,” and figure out how to satisfy even if it means leaving for a few minutes and spending a few bucks).

How many memory chances are you blowing with the ordinary actions you take? Let me give you a few examples of missed every-day opportunities:

Weak service offerings in the form of questions —- “Will there be anything else?”

Dumb voice mail message —- “I’m either on my phone or away from my desk.” Oh boy! There’s an intellectual and spirited message if I ever heard one.

Rude sounding initial phone greeting —- Spoken too fast for anyone to understand it, or said in a matter of fact tone.

Recalcitrant receptionist greeting a visiting guest —- Your name is? You’re here to see? Do you have an appointment? Can I tell him what this is in reference to?

NOTE: These actions are NOT the fault of the employee —- they’re the fault of the person who trained them, and the person who decided the training content.

ACTION: What can you do? Start by identifying every action or contact with a customer, and change each one to a new, better, creative, memorable, loyalty breeding action.

CHECK THIS OUT: At the end of my Drury Inn stay, I was handed an envelope as I checked out. It was a twenty dollar bill and a coupon for a free night’s stay. Very nice (lesson).


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