Keeping Your Customers Satisfied -- It's All in the Details

One entrepreneur's story of how he gained a long-term customer by going the extra mile to set himself apart from competition.

Brooks Review

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In their book Success Secrets of Sales Superstars, sales experts Barry Farber and Robert L. Shook interview 34 industry leaders to discover the sales moves that took them to the top. In this edited excerpt, the authors provide a humorous first-hand account from Joe Bourdow, former president of Valpac Direct Services Inc., that illustrates how going the extra mile for a customer can set you apart from your competitors.

A couple of weeks before Christmas in 1989, when I was a Valpak franchisee in Richmond, Virginia, I phoned Jim Caroon, who owned Caroon Firestone in Fredericksburg, about 90 minutes away. Jim had been a customer for about six months.

"Jim, it's Joe Bourdow with Valpak," I said. "I called to thank you for your business and wish you a Merry Christmas."

"Very nice," he said, "and I appreciate your call. But if you really want to thank me, you could get me a bottle of 18-year-old Chivas Regal. Now that would truly be appreciated."

"It sure would," I said. "Happy holidays, Jim."

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I had another customer in Richmond who was in the same shopping center where the Firestone store was. I had a great relationship with her, and she had a wonderful sense of humor. I called her and said, "Betty, would you do me a big favor?"

"Sure, Joe, what can I do for you?" she asked.

"There's an ABC liquor store in the shopping center. I need you to pick up a bottle of Chivas Regal, an 18-year-old bottle, and drop it off at Caroon Firestone. Please attach a card to it that reads, 'Jim, Merry Christmas and happy new year.' And be sure to sign my name."

"No problem," she said.

"I need you to do it right away."

"What's the rush?"

I told her about my conversation with him and said, "I just hung up the phone with him a few minutes ago. If you can do this right away, it will really surprise him that it was delivered so fast."

"I get it," she laughed. "I'll do it immediately. I'll have it to him in less than 20 minutes." Like I said, Betty had a good sense of humor.

"It's expensive," I told her. "The 18-year-old bottle sells for around $50. Call me back, and I'll send you a check to reimburse you."

"No sweat," she said. "I know you're good for it, Joe."

"Thanks, Betty. I owe you one."

Betty dropped off the bottle at the store, leaving it on Jim's desk while he was in the bay with some of his guys who were putting tires on cars. When he walked into his office, it was just sitting there with my note.

He called me immediately. "Joe, how in the world did you ever do that?"

"Do what?" I asked.

"Get that bottle on my desk like you did."

Related: How to Win Face-Time With Tough Prospects

"Jim, my job is to take good care of my great customers and good friends. I was just doing my job."

"Joe, I just walked into my office and like magic, there it was. For crying out loud, I just got off the phone with you. How did you get it here so fast?"

"A magician doesn't reveal his secrets," I said. "You know we have a code, don't you?"

He laughed and said, "Joe, you're the best."

Robert and Barry's Comments:

This short story teaches a valuable lesson about how going an extra mile for a customer sets a salesperson apart from the competition. Not only did Bourdow demonstrate to his customer that he cared about him, his action showed that he was creative in doing something different that surprised him. The customer never forgot what Bourdow did and has retold the story many times since. Not only did Caroon become a longtime customer, but over the years, he referred many customers to Bourdow.

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