National Clothesline
National Clothesline
Who wants to be a loyal customer?
Why is it that becoming an ex-customer is better than being a loyal customer?
I don’t talk about customer service too often because there are others in the industry that fittingly call that their niche. Still, I am a professional customer and sometimes certain things are completely nonsensical to me.
Can it possibly be true that becoming an ex-customer is more beneficial to your customers than remaining loyal to you? I gotta wonder. I have more than one story to share with you that suggests exactly that.
It seems more than a little bit odd that there is little that resembles uniformity when it comes to customer care. Perhaps that is understandable to some extent.
You probably give your best customers gifts around the holidays and maybe a “volume” discount. But would you consider charging them more if they are loyal?
I am discovering precisely that lately, and I am appalled! It seems that at every plant that I visit, there is special attention paid to the shirts that belong to a “good customer.” I suppose that this is understandable, but it is important to remember that the new customer that you might think is a “one-hit wonder” could well be a “big tuna” waiting to be impressed.
I’m a loyal customer and, as I like to say, a professional customer. I am a regular customer at many businesses and many of those are restaurants. I don’t want special treatment or a discount, but I like to be recognized as a regular and treated with respect. With all the traveling that I do, I like to be at a place that feels like home, where everybody knows my name.
Would you feel good about this if you found that you were charged more?
Here in New England, we need furnaces that burn oil to heat our homes. The oil companies offer a contract of sorts. This protects you from a huge spike in oil prices in the dead of winter.
I have been dealing with the same company since 1975. Every year they call me to renew our contract. I assume that I am being treated like a loyal customer should. I agree to their current price and the somewhat higher ceiling price.
This past fall, a year ago, I got the call, but I didn’t agree so readily. The advertisements of competitors had gotten my attention and something didn’t seem quite right about the price that they were offering. I stalled.
I reminded the representative on the phone that I had been a customer for decades. That got her attention and she put me on hold for a couple of minutes.
When she returned, she said that because I was such a loyal customer, she was able to offer me a special price reduction; 10 cents per gallon. That would have mattered when oil was 30 cents a gallon, but I was insulted.
I told here that she had better be putting her best foot forward, because I was ready to walk. She didn’t budge.
I believed that she really was giving me the lowest possible price. She wasn’t, I later learned. About a month later I was at a trade show that featured products and services for the homeowner. My oil company had a booth there. The booth personnel had no idea who I was, but they summoned me to their booth as they did to other passersby.
I introduced myself as a former customer and briefed them on my story. One gentleman simply got right to the point, he wrote a price down on the back of his business card. I don’t remember the precise number, but I know that it was more than 50 cents lower than the best price I was offered on the telephone!
This was a great deal, but I was a bit perplexed. I had already made up my mind to stay with these guys when I asked why the good deal. He explained that this is the price that they offer new customers.
It remains to be seen what sort of a price they will offer me next month, but shouldn’t I then simply try the same tactic? There is something about this that just doesn’t feel right.
I was in a drycleaner’s shop once when a man came into the store and was immediately recognized. He dropped an armful of clothes on the counter and left. He didn’t leave with a quick ticket or an invoice. The CSR invoiced his order while I stood beside her.
She said, “I add two or three dollars to every piece for this guy. He can afford it.” She was not the owner. She just had an ax to grind with people of means.
When I travel abroad, I always return with to an eye-popping cell phone bill. It simply is very expensive to get data and phone service out of the U.S. without having to pay for it dearly.
Every time I am ready to leave the U.S., I call my carrier and ask to be reminded of the guidelines, the dos and don’ts. Rest assured that I am on the most cost-effective plan.
You may not know this, but the entire cell phone industry is moving towards unlimited free phone calls and text messages (Remember when it cost a bucket of money to make a call just outside your local calling area, even if that was only five miles away or even down the street?). They will be focusing on charging for data — web browsing, email, instant messaging.
Well, I was informed that I was on a plan that is no longer offered, but they were continuing to sell it to me because I was grandfathered in. We have all heard that term before. Certain businesses are allowed to do something that others cannot because they were doing it before it became illegal or disallowed.
How appalled was I to learn that I was grandfathered into a plan that was two and a half times more expensive than the plan that they switched me to! Had I not called, this could have gone on forever. This is incomprehensible to me!
If you want to subscribe to a magazine, you can get an amazing rate as an initial, new subscriber, but will pay many times more when you stick around.
I understand what they are trying to do here. We can offer a new customer a discount to get them to try our service, believing that they will happily and readily pay full price when they see our quality and service. But I think that the magazine offer is different.
For one thing, you can simply let your initial trial subscription run out and re-subscribe using a pseudonym. They will soon be contacting you to offer you the same introductory offer. I understand that business. I am not being ignorant. The more subscribers they have, the more they can charge for advertising. What they charge you for a subscription doesn’t cover the postage cost (same is true for this publication). Still, the continuing subscriber is taken advantage of if he or she allows it. This isn’t ethical business in my view.
There are examples in this business, too. Suppliers will lower their price if and when you complain that you can get a better deal elsewhere. Remain silent and you will pay.
It is my job to write a column about shirts in this magazine. There! I did it, sort of. Sorry if you’re disappointed. This applies to every facet of your business and every facet of your personal life. You are both a customer and a vendor.
My mother taught me to treat others in the manner that I wish to be treated. She’s right. Take care of your customers — all of them — and they will take care of you.
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got!”

Don Desrosiers has been in the drycleaning and shirt laundering