Friday, July 25, 2003

Trust your Customers

I had a couple of wonderful responses to yesterday’s blog on Trust. Karen Wilhelm, Web Editor for the Society of Manufacturing Engineers sent me this great story, which I use with her permission.

The donut story reminded me of when I used to work for Fred Ruffner, founder of Gale Research, now the Gale Group. At the time, Gale was primarily a publisher of reference books for libraries. Our customer service people had standing instructions
  • If a librarian complained about a book, the rep cancelled the invoice and the librarian kept the book.
  • If a librarian complained about service, and we'd made an obvious mistake, the rep would send the librarian a free book with an apology.
Sometimes when there was a series spin-off (Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism spun off from Twentieth Century Literary Criticism) he would send the first volume of the NCLC to the TCLC subscribers, to be returned if the librarian didn't want to subscribe. If a librarian complained about being sent the new book, the rep cancelled the invoice and the librarian kept the book.

Did he lose money? Not much.

Did he create loyal customers? Yes.

Did he set the company up to be taken advantage of? If someone started abusing the policy, wouldn't our reps recognize that it was always the same library with complaints? Sure.

Another thing he did was to provide free bus service to the American Library Association's annual conference, which was usually held in the summer. That really earned the gratitude of footsore librarians.

He built the company from a kitchen table operation to a company he sold to Thomson for $60-some million 40 years later.

Trust is so crucial. Our actions, not our words, let others know it is there. Thanks Karen for the great story. I’ll share another one from the streets of NYC on Monday.

I hope this is helpful. Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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