My good friend Shawn was telling me about an experience he had recently. It was so in line with what I talk about and share with you on a weekly basis, that I asked him to put it into an article form and let me show it to my subscribers first.

I’ve added a particularly important challenge for you at the end of Shawn’s article. This is a longer tidbit, but it’s worth it.

Here it is:

I was recently in the market to purchase an upgrade to my car’s audio system, and since I’m about as mechanically inclined as a panda bear wearing mittens, I also needed it installed.

This dilemma ruled out Amazon and eBay pretty quickly and left me looking at big box retailers – all but one of which were horrific from a customer service point of view.

Visions Electronics was delivering me a fantastic customer experience until one mistake in their corporate policy screwed it all up and cost them the sale.

The shame of it all is that even though they were initially my third choice, they were so far ahead of their competitors it was almost laughable.

I wanted to throw my money at them.

I was ready to throw money at them.

But here’s how it all went wrong.

First I tried calling the nearest Best Buy. At their robo-prompt, I picked the right department, and then the phone put me on hold for four minutes before I hung up.

I called back and tried another department – answered on the first ring!

When I asked them to transfer me, I was put on hold for another six minutes before it hung up on me.

To add insult to injury, their on hold messaging was simply two recordings on a loop in between what sounded like crackly radio station music.

The first one said something to the effect of “We appreciate that your time is valuable, so you can hang up and order off of our website!”

The irony of them suggesting my time was valuable while nobody picked up the phone, and while I wasn’t given the option to leave a message and be called back, quickly turned from novelty into frustration.

Next, being the good Canadian that I am, I called Canadian Tire. The first location I tried repeated almost the same pattern from Best Buy. I was placed on an interminably long hold before it hung up on me.

The second Canadian Tire I called suggested that I should get in touch with Visions Electronics for what I was looking for, as that store was better equipped to help me.

Visions was immeasurably better than their competitors!

When I called, a human being answered the phone. It was like some sort of miracle. That’s where I met Lauren. Even better, Lauren was extremely personable and very helpful. She listened to what I wanted, determined the closest thing she had in inventory, and assured me that an install would be no problem.

This was fantastic!

But then we ran into a bit of a snag – My car would require a 2nd part to install what I needed.

No problem.

Lauren put me on hold while she checked availability, and this was the next area that Visions knocked out of the park. Their ‘hold’ messages were incredibly entertaining. There was no repetition. They were such unobtrusive advertisements that I was almost disappointed when they ended.

Lauren let me know that they didn’t have what I’d need in stock, but that she’d call other locations in the city and ask around. She took down my number to call me back when she knew more. This was the third area that they were light years ahead of the competition.

Lauren got back to me within 30 minutes.

At this point, I was incredibly impressed with Visions. I wanted to shop there and to keep shopping there.

They were securing my loyalty before I’d ever given them a dime. As my good friend Noah (that’s this Noah) says, “customer loyalty often starts long before the sale is ever made.”

Lauren told me that no other location had the part, so she’d have to special order it and that she’d need me to pay up front for it.

“No problem!” I said! “I’ve got a credit card right here – I’ll pay for everything right now.”

This is where Visions lost me. Not Lauren, who was uniformly fantastic, but the corporate leadership of Visions.

You see, they have a policy in place that doesn’t allow credit cards to be taken over the phone.

To place an order for a part, I’d have to drive 30 minutes to the store to do it in person, then turn around and drive 30 minutes back.

I often talk to companies about the importance of having policies and processes in place that make it easy for customers to buy, because a depressingly large number of corporate processes exist that make the customers life harder, to make the company’s life easier.

As a customer with credit card in hand, the last thing I want to hear is “I can’t take your money because we have a policy against it. Here are nine hoops you can jump through to give us your money, you lucky guy!”

In the end, I ended up doing a bit more research and finding a product online that would do a good enough job for 1/10th the price and elected to have it delivered overnight.

I am vehement in my preaching about the importance of having the right processes in place, supported by the right tools, to make it easy for your customers to do business with you.

For an extended discussion on these themes, you can view the entirety of a talk I recently gave at Noah Fleming’s recent Evergreen Summit here:

The sad truth is this.

Even though the customer service was 100X better than the competitors; even though the product selection was better; even though every part of the experience was objectively better than the competitors, I still had to walk away without buying, and without getting what I wanted.

This could have been avoided by having somebody who was 1/10th as customer focused at Corporate, as Lauren was on the floor.


Here’s today’s key challenge.

In your business, consider the following:

How many ways are you keeping people from giving you money?

Does your relationship with your merchant processor not allow you to take certain types of payment, as in the case below?

Have you created a point of sale system that makes it hard for employees to handle special requests?

Do you have regulatory or corporate policies in place that make life easier for you to handle paperwork at the expense of your clients’ ease of transaction?

Almost every company has some barriers in place that make it harder than necessary to take money from their clients.

Find yours, and start thinking of ways to make it easier for your clients.