Keeping customers satisfied requires constant care

Many years ago a stand up comedian (Robert Klein? George Carlin?) had a comedy sketch in which he advised us how to ruin somebody: Buy his daughter a Barbie doll. With that $5 investment, your opponent would go broke buying clothes and accessories for the doll.

Razors are a little like that: Buy the handle and there’s only one set of blades that fit. For many years I used a Gillette Mach 3 man’s razor. Why? Because I got the handle free, tried the blades and liked them. Then, one day, I bought a package of Rite Aid blades, whose label suggested that they would fit in the Gillette handle. They didn’t, so I bought a Rite Aid handle to go with the blades. Gillette lost my repeat business while Rite Aid made certain that I had to come to their store whenever I needed blades, at which time I would also buy … whatever: Greeting cards, candy, sunscreen, lip balm.

The other day I went to Rite Aid to buy more blades. The package didn’t say what handle they’d fit, but they seemed OK. Nope. The alternative blades didn’t fit, either. Well, heck. If I’m going to buy a new handle, I’m going to buy a national brand, so I won’t be restricted to Rite Aid.

With that failure, Rite Aid potentially lost hundreds of dollars of my business.

It gets better. I started comparing devices and costs and discovered that the unit cost of a single, triple-bladed cartridge can go as high as $2.60, while a package of twin-bladed disposable razors have a unit cost of 38 cents each. Note that those were men’s razors. Those for women – pink instead of green but otherwise apparently identical – were 41 cents each. Are my legs more sensitive or complicated than my husband’s face? I think not. (The women’s razors with the Susan Komen brand logo were even more but I wasn’t going there!)

The lesson here is about preserving customer loyalty. You can never, ever let up. Of course you have to continue to provide value, but a satisfied customer will pay a premium to avoid having to shop around for a replacement. Remember, too, the adage that a satisfied customers tells three people while an unsatisfied customer tells seven. Look at me: I’ve just told 850 people about my dissatisfaction and how to find a decent shave for less than 38 cents a day.

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