Customer Relations – One Little Button

Customer Relations are Key to getting Positive Word of Mouth Advertising.

One Little Button

It might be hard to believe, that the whole of your marketing impetus, your good name and reputation could be brought undone because of customer relations, one little button and the story spread by word of mouth starting with your customer.

This story, I hope will cause you to look closely at your attitudes and actions when it comes to your customer relations.

I was living in Toorak in the 70’s and my business required me to be well dressed. In fact most of my acquaintances at that time had several business suits and it was not unusual to have two at the dry cleaners, two on the rack and one on your back. So you could say that having the number one position for dry cleaning and mending was an enviable place to be in.

Apart from a handful of independents, there were two major players in the dry cleaning business in Melbourne in those days. Both quite profitable outfits, but one had the market lead with a great reputation for workmanship, reliability and service. It was always the first choice among those I knew at the time.

Now, I don’t believe this story I am telling was the sole cause of its fall to number 2 but I do know it contributed quite a lot.

A friend of mine, a high flying executive, really got his knickers in a knot over a minor incident and never let it go. I am sure you probably know somebody of his personality type.

On the day this saga got started as he was collecting his dry cleaning from the industry leader when he noticed he only had half a button on the front of his suit coat. When he pointed it out, he was told by the staff member that it was that way when he brought it in. He, of course was adamant it was otherwise.

So, this is not about the right or wrong or who broke the button, but about the aftermath of not looking after the customer and keeping your reputation in tact by providing excellent service and maintaining excellent customer relations, especially when the button only cost a few cents.

Customer Relations

My friend requested they replace his button at once and of course at no cost – the clerk refused, saying it was broken when it came in and it was not their fault. The manager was called and foolishly he refused also saying it was not their fault. He would however repair it for a small fee.

An important thing he failed to consider at this time was – what would be the life time value of this customer and his circle of influence?

Customer Relations

My friend was ropeable!

From that day he made it his business to tell all and sundry about how useless an outfit he had been forced to deal with and how he now took his business to what was their opposition. Over time the story even grew as these things are prone to do.

At first what he had to say was dismissed as sour grapes by those close to him, but it wasn’t long before others started repeating the story of him being so badly done by. Then some others told some others, who told yet more and on it went.

18 months later I was at a party when a person I had just been introduced to, proceeded to tell me about how badly this dry cleaning group treated their customers. Talk about word of mouth. It was also around this time that the #1 became the #2. Now I can’t say it was just because of this one button and some foolish decisions and questionable service, but for me to hear about it from a stranger, eighteen months later, it carries some credence, doesn’t it?

The lesson – if you want to stay or become #1 at what you do – be quite sure that the only words being spoken about you are good ones – positive word of mouth builds, its opposite destroys. Your customer relations count. So whatever you do don’t let a little button ruin you.

Customer relations


Ron and Sue