The Common-Law Customer: The Ties That Bind

What keeps customers happy with you when there’s no “marriage license” — no obligation to stay loyal to you and you alone?


People expect a consistent experience with you and your brand. If your sandwich at Panera Bread is supposed to include a pickle, and then one day you are thinking about that pickle and looking forward to that pickle, and you open the bag and there’s no pickle, you feel cheated. Does this example seem like a personal rant? It is. And yes,of course, it’s a First-World Problem, but it’s still true that consistency builds confidence.

I was responsible for the printing of my company’s annual report, and was using a local commercial printer. The first year I managed the project I had an account executive who was involved, efficient, and who even showed up in the middle of the night at the facility to say hello and check on the progress of the print run. The second year I happily anticipated a similar experience. Instead, a different person was assigned to our account. He didn’t return phone calls, couldn’t remember my name or our company’s needs. So we went elsewhere.

Moral: Don’t woo me and then disillusion me. Don’t take me for granted.


Responsiveness, too, builds trust and confidence. It can also build in the Wow Factor. It’s the first step to great customer service and support. Demonstrate that when there is a need, you will be there to answer that need. And don’t forget that the more contact you have, the more word of mouth you generate.

When we moved to our town, I went to the Library to open my account — and had a brief talk with the director. A few days later, I got a phone call. “Just thought I’d let you know that we have a new Jonathan Gash book coming. I know you said you liked him.” Wow. Now it’s many years later, but I’m still telling this story. Responsiveness is powerful.

Moral: Make me think I’ll always be top of your mind. It’s rare and memorable.


In a way, speed translates to the second phase of superior customer service/support. Acting on your prospect’s immediate need – in real time – gives you credibility as being capable and attentive. It also has the added benefit of compressing the buying cycle, freeing up more time for other tasks.

Moral: Rush to my side and do nice things for me, so you can have more time to do more nice things for me. That makes loyalty easy for me.

Solid knowledge and expertise about every aspect of your product

Meet the prospect’s need for information right through the buying journey. This means expertise not only about your own product or service, but keeping up with trends, competitors, and your customers’ satisfaction level. When a customer has a problem or challenge, do they reach out to you for ideas? Be present. Use your CRM resources (shameless plug for Nimble!) to keep in touch and stay at the top of their minds.

Moral: If you’re smart and interesting, you’re more fun to be around. I’ll even brag about you to my friends.


Vigilance is a subset of knowledge — monitoring what people are saying is powerful stuff. The  definition of “peers” has changed — they’re not just your friends or people you’d meet on a jury. Peers can be far-flung strangers who are connected in many ways like ripples on a pond. For a number of reasons, peers can be perceived as credible and trusted (sometimes illogically so). Knowing what is being said, and by whom, can thus be extremely valuable. If you are alert, you can find ways to participate to correct inaccurate information, discover new issues of customer concern, and uncover new leads.

Where are people talking about you — forums, Quora, LinkedIn groups? Tour the sites and be ready to step in with expertise, insights, advice, and encouragement.

Moral: Talking and socializing together deepens our bond and sets the expectation of a long relationship.


Connecting socially is like glue. It helps you maintain relationships with existing customers. Your customers aren’t going to leave your product or service behind casually–that’s probably not the kind of decision they would make on a whim. Don’t let relationships drift away; keep connected. You can keep small problems from become big ones.

I was a subscriber to Martha Stewart’s magazine as of the very first issue. Around year ten, I saw yet another offer for a lovely gift for new subscribers. Not for loyal old me, but for new signups. I let the relationship slip away, because the brand didn’t keep connected with me other than to ask me to renew every year.

Moral: When you’re actively involved with me and show me I’m important to you, you’ll become an integral part of my life. With time, I won’t imagine life without you.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Nimble!