February 20, 2014
Several years ago I was in Phoenix, Arizona, conducting three days of on-site customer service training for the employees of a large bank.
The human resources manager who hired me was a delightful person who loved to share stories with me about her dog each morning before I began the training. She and her husband did not have children and, like many of us pet owners, they treated this dog as a very special family member.
When I asked her the dog’s name, she said it was Leader. I mentioned that I thought it was an interesting name for a dog and she told me that when they brought Leader home as a puppy, they had an older dog who was going blind. This puppy took it upon himself to be a guide dog, steering the older dog away from obstacles. So they decided to name him Leader.
On my last day of training, the manager asked me if I offered any on-site sales training classes. I assured her that I did and so she asked if I could send her information regarding sales training when I returned to Milwaukee.
Once I was back in my office, I put together a sales training information packet to mail out to Phoenix. Before I sent it, I added a hand-written note to the cover letter that read, “Say Hi to Leader for me!”
Then I took it one step farther. The next day I was in the pet food section of local grocery store when I spotted raw-hide dog bones that had Wisconsin cheese in them. They cost $1.19. I purchased a bone.
I mailed the bone to Leader, care of his owner, with this handwritten note attached: Dear Leader, I have heard so much about you. You sound like a fabulous dog! Here’s a bone from Wisconsin. It has cheese in it. Let me know what you think. Sincerely, Your friend, Deb.
Two weeks later, I received a letter from Leader that read:
Dear Deb. Thanks for the bone! The cheese was quite a surprise. It was delicious…please send more! Your friend, Leader.
Not only was I hired for sales training, that bone translated into a great deal of new consulting and speaking business for me. Why? Because I paid attention to the person, or in this case, the pet that was most important in my customer’s life. Leader was her family. This manager apparently shared the story with many of her colleagues.
To this day, I receive calls from companies needing employee training in the Phoenix area who inquire, “Are you the dog bone lady?”
Our customers often tell us way more than we need to know. They will share information about their families, vacations, challenges, favorite charities, and much more. When they do this, they are letting you know that they trust you enough to care. Listen carefully and pay attention to those details. They will give you tremendous opportunities to build loyalty. I’m not suggesting that you need to buy them gifts. But you can keep track of those details and inquire about their interests each time you interact with them. Never underestimate the power of paying attention to what is going in your customers’ lives. It’s a wonderful way to show them how much they are valued.