Customer loyalty

A dry cleaner war is waging in my community. There is a dry cleaner conveniently located a door or two down from a very popular grocery store. New owners are have set up shop in this location and they’re playing for keeps – much to the annoyance of my dry cleaner, who operates a location not too far from these aggressive upstarts.

Even though the insurgent dry cleaner is dropping prices, flying balloons outside the shop, offering competitive hours and enjoying a location next to where we buy groceries, I have made the decision to maintain my loyalties with my current dry cleaner.

I like my guy. Even though he told me I looked like TD Jakes after I – and a few extra pounds – returned from a New Orleans vacation last year.

More than just knowing I don’t like starched shirts, he gives Zoe (and yours truly) lollipops, he asks about work, and after learning through our random small talk that I’m from Jersey – South Jersey – he entertains  me with his stories of seeing the Eagles at the Vet, back in the Jaworski and Vermeil days.

I’m a sucker for decent customer service. I don’t mind paying a couple of extra pennies or driving a block or two for good service. I trust his other customers feel the same way, because he tells me that business is good, despite the arrival of “those new guys down the street”.

The battle lines have been drawn!

Even though I’m in for the long haul, my dry cleaner took a major step toward securing my loyalty. Last week, in a very solemn moment, I thought he was going to tell me he ruined my favorite trousers – the marked down navy blue designer name slacks Carla found on the clearance rack at Macy’s about six years ago. Instead, he proudly gave me a frequent shopper card. You know the kind, make a certain amount of purchases and get a break on the next one. In this case, I’m in store for a 20% discount on my fifth visit – not enough to fund retirement on LBI, but enough to keep me coming back.

Good for him! Of course frequent shopper cards and similar customer loyalty programs aren’t new and you don’t have to have a Wharton MBA to figure out their value. It’s just encouraging to see – in this ragged economy – a small-business person keeping the competition at bay by taking steps to retain his best customers – as if the lollipops weren’t enough!


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