Squeaky Shoes and Dental Floss = Customer Loyalty

Posted by Bernie Reifkind on June 2, 2009

Because of squeaky shoes and dental floss, I learned a powerful business lesson. Let me explain.

Many years ago, in my early career as an executive recruiter, I went shopping at Nordstroms and purchased a $250 pair of the most exquisite black business shoes that I had ever seen. In those days, $250 was a fortune for a pair of shoes (it still is!), but I reasoned that these shoes would be an investment for my business career. So I made the purchase and the next day I proudly wore my shoes to work. I wore those shoes at least 3-5 times per week for 6 months. They looked great except they squeaked every time I walked.

It didn’t bother me at first, but then it started to get on my nerves. I felt like everyone knew when I was entering a room because of my squeaky shoes! Yet, I let this linger for 6 whole months.

One day I went back into Nordstroms and asked the sales person if there was some type of shoe oil available to get rid of this annoying squeak. Additionally I asked how much it might cost to have them repaired. Can you even repair squeaky shoes? He politely asked me what size shoe I wore. I told him size 10 not knowing why that even mattered. He told me that he would be right back. He then went into the back room (I always wondered what it looked like in the back room of a shoe store!) and returned with a brand new pair of the exact shoes. He politely asked me to try these on, which I did. They were heavenly and just as important, no squeak!

He replaced my shoes for free. Even though I had worn those shoes for at least 6 months, they were replaced for free. I couldn’t believe it. I felt guilty about accepting a free brand new pair of shoes. The sales person told me that it was Nordstroms policy to replace the shoes and that customer satisfaction was more important than the shoes.

To this day, Nordstroms is the first place that I go when I look for new shoes. I trust them and I know that they will stand behind their product. Nordstroms went the extra mile for me and I will remain a lifetime customer.

Many years later on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving weekend at 11:00 PM right before going to bed, I was flossing my teeth when a piece of dental floss broke off and got stuck between my back teeth. After many attempts, I could not remove it and it was driving me crazy. If you’ve ever had dental floss stuck between your teeth than you know how painful this can be.

The next morning I opened up the yellow pages and began calling every dentist in the phone book and almost all of them were closed on that Thursday Thanksgiving morning.

Except one.

Dr. Witkowsky’s office was open because he was a new dentist in the area and he had a family to support. He needed the business. He agreed to see me right away. And right away, he removed my well lodged dental floss. He went the extra mile for me by seeing me on Thanksgiving day. I became a very loyal patient.

Dr. Witkowsky was my dentist for more than 10 years. Unfortunately, I moved to a different town or he would have been my dentist for life.

So squeaky shoes and dental floss taught me a powerful business lesson which has significantly increased my business through the years. Business is all about relationships. Relationships foster trust, trust fosters loyalty. Loyalty means repeat business.

Go the extra mile for your customers and create a relationship. You’ll never regret it.

Bernie Reifkind is President of Premier Search, Inc. one of the nations most successful health executive search firms specializing in the placement of long term care and assisted living processionals. Please email him at bernie@psihealth.com or visit: www.psihealth.com. (310) 247-8900.

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