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People before profits

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Don’t worry about the sale — just take care of the customer. Give your prospect the best customer service you possibly can, even if he isn’t buying. Eventually the sales will come (and come and come).

I have been writing about this concept for almost 30 years now. Harvard Business School’s Ted Levitt once said, “The function of a business is to get and keep customers.” However, these days, when I ask people what the function of a business is, most of them reply that it is to make money.

Making money is not the function of a business, it is the goal. If you misunderstand the function of a business (to get and keep customers), you actually make it more difficult to reach your goal (to make money).

Once again, I use the example of Ace Hardware, a role model case study for this concept. Here is a Good Samaritan story to illustrate:

Maria lives in Mesa, Ariz. Her eight-year-old-daughter Lisa picked up one of those color-changing mood rings in the mall and put it on her finger. Unfortunately, the ring was too small and she couldn’t get it off. After struggling for an hour, she was showing signs of diminished circulation. What did Maria do? She went to the local Ace Hardware.

Floyd, an Ace associate came to the rescue. With a special pair of pliers, Floyd carefully maneuvered the ring off the little girl’s finger. Relieved, Maria decided to take a picture of her smiling daughter showing off her newly liberated finger. She posted the photo on Facebook and told everyone how Floyd at Ace Hardware had helped her out of a stressful situation. The post received many responses.

Did Maria buy anything that day? No, but that didn’t deter Floyd from delivering the amazing customer service Ace Hardware has become known for. By focusing on helping Maria, they made her so happy she evangelized on their behalf.

Ace knows that the customer is vastly more important than the sale. Customers (and even non-customers, as in this case) recognize this and reciprocate with business, loyalty, praise and, eventually, profit.

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Shep Hyken is a professional speaker and best-selling author. For more information on Shep’s speaking presentations, call 314-692-2200, email [email protected] or go to


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