Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, I was out shopping and stopped in at REI, an outdoor gear and clothing store. I stepped over to the watch display case thinking I might buy a replacement for my 2-1/2 year old Freestyle sports watch. Its wrist band was coming apart and due to the precision molded rubber fit-up between the case and the lugs, I didn’t even consider trying to get it repaired. That and the fact that I thought the problem was caused by a watch shop that replaced the battery – not a defect in the product.
As I was looking over the watches, John, a sales associate, came over and asked me if I’d like to try on anything. I was describing what I liked about the Freestyle, why I wanted to replace it and he asked me if I’d bought the watch at REI. I said I thought so, but I wasn’t sure. Shortly, he was entering my membership number into their database system and looking up the watch purchase record – it was found and the nuisance of finding a receipt evaporated. Next he called Freestyle customer service. No answer – it was after 1:00 PM here in LA and Freestyle is located in the Eastern Time zone, three hours ahead. Being the afternoon before Thanksgiving we agreed they’d all left for the four-day weekend. No problem. John handed me a business card and we made arrangements for repair or replacement after I returned from business travel.
I was all ready to buy a new watch and John easily could have sold me one. But John’s interest was in making me completely satisfied with a product I bought from REI a couple years ago. This is one of the reasons I’ve been a steady REI customer for nearly four decades, and probably an important reason the business of REI has grown throughout the years.
A successful business does more than provide a fair exchange with its customer – that’s an expectation that must be fulfilled just to stay in business. A successful business finds ways of adding value for its customers, beyond expectation.
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