Creating Customers for Life

Published On: January 6, 2016By Categories: Editor’s Note

By Thad Plumley

An electrical contractor was working at my house recently and recalled an event early in his career.

He was a young guy with a new job in an unfamiliar city. He didn’t even have a credit card yet, which made it difficult to buy supplies he needed for a job during the day.

His boss wrote down his credit card information and phone number on a piece of paper. The note explained the employee’s situation and said the supply house could call him and he would verify use of his credit card for his young newcomer.

You’ve got to be kidding me, right? This is the 21st century, not 1950s Americana where doors were unlocked at night and there was no such thing as identity theft. There is no way that would work.

It did. At one place. And I bet you can guess who is the exclusive supplier of that now experienced contractor.

“They took a chance on me,” he told me in my living room. “I can’t believe they did, but that is the only place I’ll ever go for my parts.”

You never know when you’re going to impact someone and have the chance to create a customer for life. That’s why you need to treat every customer—big order or single part replacement—the same.

Think about this: The supplier who believed this young electrician’s story will most likely provide him parts for the next 20 years—and all because they called a scribbled phone number on a piece of paper.

The contractor worked on a ceiling fan light fixture in my house for a while when a surprise occurred. He said his original assessment was wrong and he could not make the repair to the unit that day. He explained my wife and I actually needed to order a new fan and light fixture and he would return and install them when they came in.

He then packed up his tools and put them in his truck. He came back in our house to say goodbye. There was no talk about a bill. I finally just asked, “Don’t I owe you something for today?”

A surprised look came on his face. “No. I didn’t repair your problem. You still don’t have light in your family room,” he said.

Perhaps it’s me, but I expect the meter to begin running the minute a contractor’s key leaves the truck’s ignition—after all, I’ve called on plumbers before.

The contractor spent more than an hour working in our house—time he could have spent on another paying job. I expected to pay him for his time.

As he drove off, I thought to myself: He just created a customer for life.

Thad PlumleyThad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and director of information products at the National Ground Water Association. He can be reached at and on Twitter @WaterWellJournl.

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