September 17, 2014

How (Small) Heroic Acts of Kindness Will Grow Your Business

Zane’s Cycles Is Deliberate About Becoming Their Customers’ “Go to” Place

Picture a dad on a Saturday morning toting a bike with a broken chain and a disappointed kid. Dad’s already been to the hardware store, with no luck. Two stops later, exasperated and increasingly frustrated, both father and son find their way to Zane’s Cycles in Branford, CT.

business hero

Within minutes they find out what will fix the chain: a 25-cent master link. The salesman at Zane’s hands it over, with a firm “No charge.” Zane’s has decided to give these parts away. Anything that costs a buck or under, they give to any customer who needs it. Though small in price, these parts are usually attached to a frustrating experience for the customer.

Owner Chris Zane says:

“I could either charge the guy one buck or two bucks for the part or give it to him. So I give the part away, along with an extra one.  By making seven good impressions, we keep customers connected and returning to us.”

Emotional Bonds Create Lifelong Customers

Zane’s wants to become the lifeline for their customer throughout his or her bike ownership. And that sometimes means throwing in a bike part for free — especially at frustrating moments. Zane’s wants to build strong relationships through creating indelible memories, like the one that made the day of that father and son.

Chris Zane is astute enough to know that in these moments, an emotional bond to his store is created. And this will translate in the future into a prosperous customer relationship. Zane’s works to deliver at least seven “wow” moments for each customer. They do this because at Zane’s they believe that seven powerful interactions prove to customers that Zane’s is (a) consistently good to them, and (b) the best (and only) place to go for anything regarding bicycles.

Why does Zane’s do this? Because it’s the right thing to do.  And because they have a track record of success with these acts of kindness. Zane’s “pays it forward” consistently with their customers, and that grows their business.

By Extending Human Kindness, Zane’s Wins Market Share

The memories customers have of times when they were stressed and Zane’s came through, with no strings attached, pull them back to the store. And once a customer walks back into Zane’s, he or she usually buys. Each Zane’s customer spends an average of $12,500 with the company. And Zane’s experiences unheard of 43 percent margins.

You do the math: Wouldn’t you spend $1 to make an impression that will earn a customer worth $12,500? How many “wow” impressions do you encourage your people to deliver in the course of a day, a month or a year to your customers? Consider if those nickel, dime and dollar charges are costing you more than you’re charging in lost goodwill and future customers.

Have You Planned for Heroic Acts of Kindness?

Zane’s Cycles decided to give away bike parts costing less than $1. This makes Zane’s the lifeline for their customers throughout their bicycle ownership. These gestures create “wow” memories that pull customers back to the store.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is everyone in my business ready to go the extra mile? Do they have permission? Are they inspired?
  • Do I celebrate heroism every day?
  • How would I rate my intent and ability to enable and deliver heroic acts of kindness?
  • Do customers rave about your heroic acts of kindness today?
  • How does my decision to go the extra mile compare with this beloved company?
  • Let’s identify one simple gesture you can make to give people permission, ability and the freedom to go the extra mile.


Image from Gabi Moisa/Shutterstock

1 Comment ▼

Jeanne Bliss


Jeanne Bliss Jeanne Bliss is the founder of CustomerBLISS; a consulting and coaching company helping corporations connect their efforts to yield improved customer growth. Her best-selling books are; Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action and I Love You More than My Dog: Five Decisions for Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad.

One Reaction

  1. Excellent! I am a product demonstrator at a large warehouse chain. I LOVE to work with the children. Lower the tray of items, say “the one you touch you have to take”. “Good job!” said when they do it perfect. Or, if chips and spicy salsa, ask mom if they would like a cup of chips only. I tell the child I am making one “just for you.” This not only lets the children practice what the parents have been teaching them at home but it also gives a very favorable impression of at least one demonstrator at the store. And all of us have heard the child say, “Mom, can we get some of those?” This results in additional sales.

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