There’s an old quote by the playwright Chekhov. It’s not technically about customer information, but it could be.

The quote goes something like this…

“If you introduce a gun at the beginning of a play, it should be fired by the end.”

In other words, you must stay consistent in the world you create. The same is true for customers.

How often do you give a business information and then they fail to use it? I’ve told businesses my birthday dozens of times – only some of them use the information. (Even then, some use it better than others, but that’s a story for another article – I’m looking at you, Starbucks.)

Asking customers for personal information – and then not using it – is a business blooper. An unforced error.

Customer information is a trust factor. When people give you their details, there’s an expectation you will respect the info AND the people who share it. This is particularly true when you ask for information that suggests action. Asking for a birthday. Asking who referred you.

So why do so many companies get this wrong?

The simple answer is this – a lack of systems.

Systems help your company cultivate loyal customers

Consider all the pieces that have to fit together in a customer loyalty system…

  1. Customer has to be asked for their information.
  2. Said information has to be logged into some kind of repository – some kind of customer relationship management system.
  3. The repository has to spit the information back out when the time is right.
  4. Employees must be alerted to act on that information.
  5. The biggie…Employees must know exactly what they should do so they can circle back to customers in an appropriate and timely manner.

That takes consistent, coordinated effort. In some companies, it means several groups need to act in sync.

Companies have two options:

EITHER develop working systems for activating customer information, OR don’t gather the information at all.

Anything else deteriorates the customer relationship.

Customer information systems don’t have to be complex – they just need to work.

The other day, I got a nice letter from our new veterinarian…

“The heart of our business is you, Ali & Joe. Thank you for entrusting your pets with us and for having confidence in Fountain Square Animal Clinic to refer your friends. As a token of our appreciation, we have placed $25 credit on your account for referring [NAME OF OUR FRIEND].”

Nice! The letter goes on to promise an additional $25 credit for every person we refer.

How did their system work?

  • Fountain Square Animal Clinic captured the information our friend provided when she signed up for care.
  • They took note of the referral.
  • They matched our names with our account.
  • They added the referral credit to our account.
  • And they sent us the letter.

If the vet had done nothing, we wouldn’t have known our friend put our names down as referrals. That’s part of what makes this letter so delightful – it’s an unanticipated bonus!

Now that we know about the vet’s policy, we are more inclined to refer to them.

First, we get a hook-up for referring folks to a place we already like. I mean, FREEBIES! We like em! Plus, we take our pups there anyways – and our dogs are spoiled to a ridiculous degree. So this is a business we genuinely like and support.

Second, we have more confidence in this vet now because their actions show they are organized and systematized. And that matters.

With consistent systems, small steps can make a big difference for your company.


    1. The point isn’t really about guns – it’s a metaphor and a literary reference. Thanks for sharing.

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