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leadership lab

Brian ScudamoreKATIE BOSDET

Brian Scudamore is the founder and CEO of O2E Brands, which includes home-service companies including 1-800-GOT-JUNK?.

I'll never forget a particular customer who I called to thank for letting us haul his junk away. It turned out he was a purchaser for a huge company and was shocked to hear from me. "I spend $55 with you and you call to say thank you? I spend thousands every day with other companies and I never hear from them!"

1-800-GOT-JUNK? has changed since then – I'm not on the trucks anymore – but the day's not over until we've reached out and thanked our customers. Other companies might balk at the time and expense, but from my perspective, we can't afford not to do it. These calls are a chance to get feedback, build a personal connection, and create loyalty. And loyalty spurs business growth: 80 per cent of your revenue will come from 20 per cent of your existing customers.

If you really want to blow a customer away, embrace the power of the little things. Here's how we do it.

The opening gesture

Every company says that they care about their customers, but showing means more than telling. This starts with offering to do something helpful or thoughtful that goes beyond what you promise on paper. Just look at how car rental company Enterprise picks up their customers for free, or how online fashion success story ModCloth provides complimentary customized styling advice.

With You Move Me, our movers call when they're en route to ask for a customer's coffee order. It's a simple act, but when you realize the coffee maker is packed on an already stressful day, a hand-delivered latte can feel like a small miracle. This powerful rapport-building hack costs just ten bucks and a pit-stop at Starbucks – that's some great ROI.

The unexpected token

Waiters who include mints with their bill get tipped 21 per cent more than those who don't. Turns out that a tiny gift is another inexpensive way to make a lasting impression. It's all about creating a moment of delight, in addition to getting the job done right, that shows a customer you care.

Tech accessory startup HEX credits its success to the handwritten thank you note included with every purchase. Men's grooming shop Beardbrand includes samples of their luxury beard oil in each package shipped. With WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, we leave a bouquet of Gerbera daisies on the kitchen counter after we're done transforming a room with paint. All of these examples are affordable and more Instagrammable than a gift card (which 73 per cent of people say they dislike receiving).

The follow up

Collecting feedback is a common habit among successful companies: just asking (whether you act on it or not) drastically improves retention. Phone calls and online surveys work, or maybe you want to pull a Zappos and take customers out for coffee. We touch base with every single customer after we've hauled their junk or cleaned their gutters.

Ninety-six per cent of unhappy customers won't bother to make a formal complaint, so if you aren't asking how things went, you might never know why you've lost a customer – and you certainly won't have the opportunity to make things right. The insight you gather can help your whole company recognize (and correct) problems with other customers too.

Whether it's a bouquet or a latte, what these things have in common is that they're a catalyst for storytelling. People don't share anecdotes about the beige paint on their dining room walls; they talk about how it got done in a day, or how they found flowers in the kitchen at the end of it all. A satisfied customer tells an average of 42 people about a positive experience; you can get a lot of mileage from one cup of coffee. These are moments of human connection in the world of business, which can be rare. Treat your customer like a friend, and they'll be telling your story for years to come.

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