CultureDysonEntrepreneurshipProduct ManagementSaeedSales

How to create a customer for life

by Saeed Khan

It’s only the 3rd day of the year, and I already have a great customer experience story that I want to share.

I have to say, that barring any changes in the policies of this particular vendor, they’ve got a customer for life in me.

So what do I want as a customer or purchaser of products? Simple – three things:

  1. Products (or services) that work as advertised or expected.
  2. Honesty and competence from the vendor’s employees.
  3. Post sale service that treats me fairly and efficiently.

Now how hard is this for companies to understand and implement?

Many times, I’ve had the opposite experience of the 3 points above.  I’ve blogged about my horrible experience with Future Shop (a large Canadian retailer) here.  They pretty much violated #2 and #3 above right from the get go.

On the flip side, one of my first posts on this blog — back in 2007 — was about the Dyson vacuum cleaner I had bought.

During the almost 5 years that I’ve had it, it’s continued to work well. We had a problem early on with a small plastic clip that broke. I called up Dyson — via the toll free # very conveniently visible on the front of the unit — and spoke to a customer service rep. He verified the problem over the phone and shipped me a replacement clip free of charge. Nice.

But now I have another problem with the unit. The telescoping hose — a feature I really appreciate in the unit — is wearing out. It tore sometime last year, and we patched it with some duct tape. But, over the holidays, the hose got to the point where tape was no longer a solution.

So this morning I called up Dyson intent on buying a replacement hose. What’s actually very neat about the Dyson machines is that they come apart and snap together very easily, and virtually every part except the electrical bits can be easily removed and replaced by the owner. I could write a whole post on the implications of this, but I’ll save that for later.

So, I called up their toll-free line, waited a few minutes in the queue until a service rep answered the call. He verified which model of vacuum I had, confirmed that I was still at the same address, and  listened to my problem. And before I could ask him how much a replacement hose would be, he said he’d ship a replacement hose to me — NO CHARGE!!!

Yes, 5 years after I bought the unit, replacement parts are shipped FREE– no cost for the part, no cost for shipping. And he added, once I get the part, if I have any problems in replacing the hose, I could simply call them back and someone would step me through it over the phone. Awesome!

As long as Dyson doesn’t change their policies or their level of service, they have a customer for life in me for their vacuums.

When I bought the vacuum several years ago, I did it mainly due to a VERY positive recommendation from a friend of mine. His wife had bought one a year earlier, yet he said he loved using it. Doesn’t get better than that. I wondered if the premium price of the unit — at $500, it was about 2X the price of other competitive models — was worth it.

Well, without a doubt the answer is yes.  So how do you create a customer for life? Let me modify the 3 bullets I started with at the top of this article just a bit:

  1. Products (or services) that work as advertised or expected AND do it better than the competition.
  2. Honesty and competence from vendor’s employees REGARDLESS of who you speak with.
  3. Post sale service that is so far ABOVE THE NORM, I’d be a fool to switch brands.

How does your company rack up against these three traits?


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  1. Giles Farrow

    Great example. This is exactly why customers are always your most important asset.

    Some vendors treat replacement parts as a cash cow. For example I wanted a spare battery for a battery-powered lawn mower – it’s the same price as the entire lawn mower!

    I will never buy anything from that vendor again

    Dyson have gained a loyal customer but much more importantly they gave you a story. A story to share with your friends and readers.

    Customers telling stories as word of mouth marketing will be far more effective than advertising or other old-school marketing

    1. Saeed


      Thanks for the comment. I agree about the spare parts racket. I had this problem with with all in one printers. I wrote about one such experience here. https://onproductmanagement.org/2009/12/07/an-ecologically-unsustainable-business-model/

      I think the problem comes when companies are run by accountants or based strictly on financial measures. What accountant doing his or her job could ever agree to shipping all replacement parts for free, years after the initial purchase.

      But it goes back to the beginning. Dyson vacuums are designed and built in a very modular fashion where it’s dead easy to replace virtually any part. So it makes sense when you can charge a premium price, to build in this replacement parts service and lock up customer loyalty.

      Not all companies can do it, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the companies that do this, e.g. Apple, Dyson, are in the leadership positions they are in.

  2. Geoffrey Anderson

    Great post, and likewise, I had a similar experience with Apple. I had a MacBookPro, one of the first ones. It just died on me one day. Called up the applecare number, and an unbelievably helpful person walked me through some simple troubleshooting. It was in a bad way.

    The next morning by 8:00 AM, a shipping box was delivered to my place of business (not my home), I dropped the laptop in the box, and affixed the shipping label. 3 days later, I had it repaired. They replaced the logic board, and apparently when it died, it damaged the HD. They swapped it with a new (bigger) HD, and copied over all my data. It is safe to say that when my wallet opens up, I will buy another Apple computer.

    I could tell a story about next day onsite Dell warranty service that will make your hair stand on end.

    Oh, and my Wife was skeptical when I recommended the Dyson vacuum. She is totally hooked. Great company, and NOTHING picks up pet hair like a dyson.

    I think the difficulty is how to capture these customer for life stories and how to use them for testimonials.

    1. Saeed


      Thanks for the comment. I have my own positive stories about Apple, as I’m sure most do who have dealt with them. I think the one distinguishing thing about this Dyson experience is that there is no “DysonCare” service or fee. i.e. I didn’t have to pay anything extra to get the service I got from Dyson.

      I’m not judging Apple here, but simply remarking on the sheer simplicity of the Dyson service. Call our 800 number and we’ll take care of you, regardless of whether you bought the product yesterday or 5 years ago.


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