Don’t Be Penny Wise and Pound Foolish with today’s
Wired & Dangerous Customer

A few years ago, John Barrier, in Spokane, Washington, asked a bank receptionist to validate his parking slip after he'd cashed a check.  With a glance at his dirty construction clothes, the receptionist informed him that he hadn't conducted a real “transaction” and suggested he make a deposit.  The branch manager also refused to stamp the parking ticket (the value involved was sixty cents).  So Barrier called the bank's headquarters in Spokane and vowed to withdraw all of his deposits unless the manager apologized.  No call came.  The next day, he came back--and withdrew $1 million.  And the next day as well!  The bank lost a customer with more than $2 million on deposit over a sixty-cent parking voucher.

Customers judge service by the way you take care of the details.  The cleanliness of the bathroom can sometimes trump the quality of the restaurant food.  We also judge service by the sense of fairness and generosity exhibited by an organization.  We once knew a consultant who focused on the pennies of his practice and not the experience of his clients.  The idea of absorbing some of the normal “cost of doing business” was unimportant to him.  He invoiced clients for the stamp used to mail their invoice…and, the secretary’s time spent in preparing the invoice.  The invoice almost took two stamps because of the penny wise detail included.  His practice lasted only a short time.

Like the parking voucher validation, it's not the service details in and of themselves that are important to manage--it's the relative importance attached to them by the customer.  In other words, before you make your people crazy by mandating that phones will be answered within two rings, or three rings, or eight rings, make sure your customers consider that an important service quality factor.  View other details from the customer's standpoint as well.  It will save you a lot of headaches and heartaches.

What are the details that matter to your customers?  How can you take care of business in a way that also takes care of your customer relationships?

© Chip Bell Group, 2023.  Courtesy of John R. Patterson (  Permission is given to download and distribute this article as long as it contains this copyright notice.