The Power Of The Extra Mile

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Today’s guest contributor is my friend Tim Brownson, who’s a Life Coach, NLP Master Practitioner and author from England now living in Orlando, Florida. He’s currently involved in a huge project to give away 1,000,000 copies of the book he co-authored, How To Be Rich and Happy.


Do you find it strange when there is so much evidence to prove money is an appalling long-term motivator, so many businesses still seem oblivious to this fact and rely so heavily on it?

They will offer bonuses to staff for hitting targets, discounts to tempt new clients to join them, and hand out huge ex gratia payments to executives in spite of mediocre performance. Even though doing all this not only fails to improve performance and/or loyalty (other than in the very short-term), but will often impede it.

Study after study has removed any shred of doubt that the thing that really motivates people isn’t money or material objects, it’s something that is free and relatively easy to implement for any business that genuinely wants to do so.

If you have staff, clients or customers, making them feel valued and appreciated is, by some considerable margin, the single most effective thing you can do to build long-term relationships and guarantee great results.

Yet so many individuals and businesses fail to grasp that being appreciated is a basic human need. They then wonder why staff get demotivated and either do a poor job or leave, and customers aren’t continually trying to beat a path to their door.

A couple of years after we moved to the US, I was talking with a customer service advisor at Progressive Insurance about renewing the insurance on our cars. I forget how it came up now, but the women suddenly said to me “Wait, you mean you have a US driving license?” “Sure” I replied. “Well that means you qualify for another discount”

She then asked me how long I’d had it and when I replied two years she asked if she could call me back. Five minutes later she did so and advised me not only had the discount been applied but she’d requested and been granted authorization to backdate it 2 years.

How valued and appreciated do you think I felt?

Her determination to show me how much Progressive valued my custom not only saved me $400, but generated a rabidly loyal customer that spends over $2k per year with them and would never consider moving. That’s what I call a genuine win/win.

Here’s a secret that it took me years of running my own businesses to fully grasp:

Customer service is easy. Really easy. If the will is there it’s not only the easiest part of your business to get right, but the one that is, presuming your product or service is up to scratch, likely to yield the greatest results.

I used to own a record store back in the UK in the 90‘s and as you can imagine the holiday time was manic. One year we had a guy come in to order a CD on 23rd December. Fortunately for him we could get most items shipped over night and told him that we should have his CD in on Christmas Eve.

Unfortunately, the delivery was late, and when he came in mid-morning it hadn’t arrived. He didn’t quite go postal, but he was certainly very, very, unhappy, and he was ranting and raving in the store about poor service and how we’d messed up his Christmas.

Here’s what I could have done.

I could have pointed out what an idiot he had been for waiting until December 23rd to order a present he considered so important. I could have also explained that we had no control over the traffic that the delivery had got stuck in and thus it wasn’t our fault. I could have said we never guaranteed delivery, just said it was probable. And I could have waved him and his cash goodbye…forever.

Here’s what I did.

I got his home address and told him I would personally deliver the CD after we closed that evening. And then I did exactly that. I drove the couple of miles out of my way, knocked on his door, gave him the album and wished him Merry Christmas.

How easy was that? Do you think he felt valued? Do you think he told other people about that? Do you think he became a loyal customer?

I’m not saying that you should always go out of your way in such a manner or that you should be dictated to by irrational and aggressive customers or clients looking to rip you off. Sometimes it’s wise to walk away and be at peace you did your best to help somebody out.

But how often can businesses honestly say that they really did their best?

The Progressive story stands out because it is the exception when it should really be the rule. If you own your own business, no matter what it’s size, you have the opportunity every single day to separate yourself from your competition by getting the easiest part of your business right.

I’d love to hear any stories you have about a company blowing you away with customer service and making you a raving fan for life.


About the Author: Tim Brownson is a Life Coach, NLP Master Practitioner and author from England now living in Orlando, Florida. He’s currently involved in a huge project to give away 1,000,000 copies of the book he co-authored, How To Be Rich and Happy.

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35 responses

35 responses to “The Power Of The Extra Mile”

  1. Jen Brentano says:

    Great share! I completely agree….

    Here’s my quick story.

    I am now a RAVING lunatic fan of Costco because of their gas station. I am a member of Costco – the closest location is about 15 miles away. No big deal, I drive often so when I am out and about, I’ll stop in a get gas.

    They have Dave. Dave is similar to what we know as a Wal-Mart greeter. Dave is there to support the customers that drive up to the pumps and depending on the number of people waiting, he may even pump your gas. I officially met Dave about a month ago. It was a VERY cold day and I stepped out of my vehicle to pump gas. Dave was right there offering to take care of it for me. End of story, right? Nope…

    Dave had such a warm, welcoming smile and personality. He is the kind of person you want to get to know. We visited while my gas was pumping and near the end he looked up to the sun, looked back and me and said, “do you hear that whining?” No, I didn’t hear anything. “that whining, that is the sun whining because it knows you’ve brightened my day more than it has.” What?! Incredible.

    End of story… nope…

    Just the other day, I needed gas and pulled up to Costco gas. It was super busy and again very cold. Dave was helping an elderly man with his gas. I started pumping my gas and walked to the other side so I could see Dave. I gave him a hearty hello. In that moment, Dave turned around and waved back at me and said “Sunshine Girl!” “It’s great to see you. Are you having a wonderful day?”

    We continued our conversation for a moment and I have shared this story at least a dozen times and it just happened on Tuesday.

  2. Lori says:

    This is a great post with very powerful points. Customer service is everything. It costs so much to acquire a client, keeping them should be just as important, if not more. Too many businesses are not ready to support their products at a level that is necessary to build a truly “sticky” client. No matter what you do, always and I mean always show people you care.

    • Tim Brownson says:

      I’m not sure of the accuracy, but I have seen figures anything from 5 x to 10 x more expensive to gain a client than retain one.

      Yet businesses spend much more on attracting new clients than they do on servicing the ones they have. Weird huh?

  3. Brad Gosse says:

    This is a great post Tim.

    I think is important in your business to have a culture of service that goes above and beyond. In many cases it’s as simple as empowering someone in your customer service department to spend a predefined budget to solve problems when needed.

    Making people feel valuable is actually easier than it seems. And rewards you get in return are phenomenal.

    Looking forward to more of your articles 🙂

    • Tim Brownson says:

      The obvious example is Zappos, their rise has been nothing short of phenomenal and it’s built almost exclusively on customer service.

      It’s not like it’s a secret and other businesses can’t adopt their policy, just that short term profit chasing to appease stockholders means many CEO’s daren’t invest in the infrastructure needed as it may mean a short term hit.

  4. Cory says:

    Great post, and exactly what I aspire to do with both my clients and staff. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by remarkablogger, Grant Griffiths, SarahRobinson, Tim Brownson, Corey Allan and others. Corey Allan said: RT @TimBrownson: I apologize for the picture try and avert your eyes RT @jonathanfields The Extra Mile […]

  6. Mike CJ says:

    Good to see you here Tim.

    I find it fascinating how a problem often acts as a catalyst for good service.

    I remember years ago doing some research when I worked for Toyota, and we found that customers who had a problem with their car (and had it dealt with well) ended up more satisfied than those who had no problems at all!

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Mike – that actually makes perfect sense. The bigger the problem, the more pain and the deeper the emotion associated with it. If you can take that depth of emotion and flip it, you end up turning haters into evangelists.

    • Tim Brownson says:

      That is 100% bang on. A satisfied customer is not a rabid fan because satisfaction is people’s minimum requirement. When they see you bend over backwards to put something right, then they become rabid fans.

      Every screw up is a huge opportunity to generate loyalty.

  7. Tom Bentley says:

    Tim, this isn’t quite making me “a raving fan for life” but it did stand out from the standard customer Christmas card. I own a 30-year-old Mercedes that needs to have its medicine fairly regularly, though it’s been a good recovery year for the old horse. Though I hadn’t spent a lot of dough at my shop, I was surprised and pleased to get a box of fancy chocolates sent to me from the shop owners, with a nice card and handwritten note. And these were GOOD chocolates, much better than the paint on my hoary Mercedes.

    I was about to start using a shop much closer to my house, but this gives me pause; I’ll bring the old beast back to these guys again…

  8. Contrarian says:

    Jesus said much on success on the sermon on the mount. He said…”when your neighbor asks you to go one mile … go two!”

    The little extra things we do don’t mean everything, they mean it all!

    Folks are always looking for the competitive advantage and the differentiators that will make them stand out. Well, try going the extra mile and you immediately separate your self from 99% of the rest … who can, but choose not to, go that single step further.

    It’s east to be successful! Oh yeah “well, why isn’t everyone successful then?” Because it’s easy not to be successful.

    Great piece, Tim. I look forward to hearing from you again!

    • Tim Brownson says:

      It’s such a win./win.

      In fact it’s better than that, it’s a win/win/win

      You feel good for helping somebody, they feel good for being appreciated and you build a great working relationship too boot. What’s not to love about that?

  9. Ken Gregg says:

    I may have posted this before, either here or on Tim’s blog but my favorite story is one of both terrible and great customer service.

    My mother had a contractor build a bathroom addition. When it was about finished he gave her the dimensions and told her to go to a specific company and order a shower door (something he should have done). When the door came in, he showed up to install it and it turned out to be too small by a half an inch. He told her she would have to return it and order another, the correct size.

    When she went to return it, the company said they don’t make mistakes, she (the contractor) gave them the wrong measurements, and there would be a 15% restocking charge (on a $400 door).

    Being a little perturbed with both contractor and door supplier, she decided to call a local glass company. Asked them to measure and install the door.

    They came out, measured the shower, and installed her door a week later. They then refused to charge her because “she had been through enough hell”.

    She has since spent thousands with them having just about every window in her house replaced.

    And I continue to tell this story to everyone I meet.

  10. Yes! I am thrilled to read this fine post. Deep gratitude to both Tim and Jonathan for giving him the floor here! Thank you.

    Customer service is something of an obsession for me. In a good way, of course! I keep my eyes and ears out for it wherever I go, with whomever I do business with or just talk to.

    As an living, breathing example:

    There’s a DVD rental shop right in town where I live not far from my house. As it is an offshoot of a store that already had established somewhat of a dominant presence in the next town over with an amazing and ever-growing selection, but without much in the way of decent customer service, I admittedly had low to no expectations that this new one would do much better.

    To my surprise, I meet the manager and he jumps into energetic, agile conversation with me right from the start! What a wonderful surprise, I thought. Whereas the owner of the two shops will barely give you as much as a hello or a sidelong glance, this manager’s customer service game is clearly much more friendly and honed.

    As I see it, any company, small, large, or in between, needs to be in the business of “creating an experience” for the customer or client. Really, whatever that business is, it doesn’t matter whether you offer a tangible product or a specialized service.

    Speaking of which, I was in the original DVD rental shop recently browsing titles and I overheard two remarkable customer comments. One guy was in there with his two teenage sons (presumably) and he became extremely excited when he saw that they had “Someone Up There Likes Me!” (a very early Paul Newman cult favorite) in stock. Now, this store has zillions of titles available, but when this customer saw that they had his “favorite movie”, he nearly jumped through his skin into the next room! Suddenly, he was on the emotional level of a teenager himself.

    The other instance was two young guys in their early 20s or so walked into the store and the first one said, “Wow, look how big this place is! It’s HUGE!” and his friend said, “Yeah, I didn’t even know it was here!” Then they eagerly went about scouring the shelves.

    In both cases here, a customer experience was created.. but in neither instance was either the owner of the shop or any of his employees in the room or even in earshot to appreciate this very positive feedback. So, the shop owner had succeeded in so far as the physical set-up and inventory of his business gave his customers pleasure, but what is needed next, as a vital follow-up, is to make the emotional connection with customers like these. Only then will they become “rabid fans” of not only the shop itself but the human element behind it.

    Who out there thinks that the human element is NOT crucial, that is to say, eventually, at least, even a “make or break” factor for anyone’s business?

    Best wishes,


    • Tim Brownson says:

      “Who out there thinks that the human element is NOT crucial, that is to say, eventually, at least, even a “make or break” factor for anyone’s business?”

      Honestly? I think a lot of people think that and by and large they are the businesses that are struggling or have already gone under and blaming the recession rather than themselves.

      The recession has been terrible, no doubt about it, but it has also offered a lot of people a cop out they have rushed to embrace.

  11. Naomi Niles says:

    I just wanted to comment that working with Tim for a short while earlier this year was one of the best things I ever did.

    He really does practice what he preaches. Although I can’t remember one specific thing he did that stood out, I just felt like he really cared and that meant a lot to me.

    And yep, I recommend him and his book to anyone that’ll listen, LOL.

    Thanks, Tim. 🙂

  12. Patricia says:

    This is a very valuable point that makes so much difference to people. At our local postal store the woman owner knows all the regular folks names – your business and time are appreciated by her and being greeted with a smile and your name makes one feel welcome. ( The new owners do not even try this practice – not even the smile – they are all business – I don’t feel appreciated, especially with such a small business.) The previous owner also carried greeting cards by local artists – they were lovely and remarkable and supportive of our community.

    An extra mile story: My partner was going to a conference in Chicago several years ago and his mother and I gave him enough money to get a designer suit and have it tailored while there (he was still wearing his mom’s homemade sport coats and slacks at that point in our lives and we lived in a very small city – no on line ordering either) He went into a famous store in downtown Chicago and bought his suit. When he came back to pick it up he left his wallet and brief case and drawings portfolio in the changing room. The clerk took the time to figure out the conference center, hotel and take a cab to hand deliver the suit on his dinner hour. My husband did not know to tip him. So his mother and I got the store address and sent him a Christmas card with the cab fare and a tip. For nearly 25 years, we have sent the Card with the cab fare, though we have never been back to Chicago – we still have a great friend in town.

    Great write up Tim – thanks for sharing Jonathan

  13. Jonathan Fields says:

    For 7 years, I owned one of the busier yoga centers in NYC. We had a fancy-schmancy, computerized management and sign-in system that gave us the capability to hand out keytage and have people swipe themselves into class using a terminal.

    I was really psyched when that functionality was added, even went out and ordered thousands of keytags. But when it came time to go live, even though it would’ve added efficiency, I couldn’t do it. Because adding that automated check-in would have removed a human touch point from the experience. It would’ve taken away from our ability to acknowledge and potentially delight the members of our community.

    So, to this day, each person signs in with a face-to-face conversation. It’s a bit slower, but it lets people know they’re not just numbers.

  14. Christopher says:

    Graduating chiropractic school in December, I opened a cash chiropractic practice in May of this year. Setting myself apart as getting quick results and being patient-driven, there are times where I’m not able to figure out an individual’s chronic pain as quickly as I’d like. So I cut fees in half or treat for free, do at home visits, see patients on Saturdays and Sundays, and spend as much time talking to patients as possible. I regularly buy books for patients if I think it could change their life or go out for tea if someone needs to talk. My hope is that each person sees how much I love them and eventually, we can get rid of their chronic pain.

  15. A week ago, I bought a piece of pottery from Lori Koop. It’s a pretty little bell.

    Today, she refunded $6 to me, saying that she just kept thinking that she had charged me a little too much for it, and here was a little extra Christmas money for me.

    I was floored! Not so much that she gave me $6, but that I kept popping into her head. My experience with her pottery an her business was so important that she thought of it several times. How amazing is that?

    This was the first time I had ever bought anything from her, so it’s not like I was someone she knew.

    Who am I going to go back to when I need a gift for someone? Lori Koop. Because her work is great, and because she thinks of her customers as something beyond an address to which to mail her pottery.

  16. I have a coffee shop I frequent around the corner from my house. Whenever i walk through the door, the owner or his wife greet me with, “Good morning mister, how are you today?”. The next question is always, “Are the kids in the car?”. If I answer yes, i always walk out with a bag of mini donuts for free.

    My daughter and her friend walked into this same coffee shop to get some hot chocolates and donuts. They realized that they didn’t have enough money to each get one so they decided to split a donut. Nick would have none of that. His answer, “Your Dad is a good customer and a friend of this shop, you’ll pick 2 donuts and you’ll only pay for one.” My daughter came home glowing about how well they were treated. Nick had made the kids feel special.

    How can i not stay loyal to a business that does that?

  17. sudan says:

    Hi everyone!
    I don’t have any experience that i would like to share over here. The only thing that comes to my mind when talking about customer service is “Zappos”.

  18. Tim is a great guy. I had the opportunity to interview him for my blog this past summer and I learned so much. He also has an amazing attitude so I’m glad to see him here on Jonathan’s blog.

    The Progressive story is very cool and it is something I follow very closely in my business. One of my businesses is a private membership program where we provide digital products for our clients’ customers. We recently released a product that included advertising flyers and somehow missed a spelling error. One of our clients went out a printed 1000s of copies only to realize when the shipment arrived, that there was an error.

    Naturally, he emailed me very frustrated that we had missed this. I completely owned up and told him we flat out missed the mistake. Before I responded, however, I refunded him 2 months payments for his memberships without even telling him. Obviously we also fixed the problem in the product.

    He responded the same day and he was very understanding. He appreciated my efforts and is now a more loyal customer than ever before. I think as business owners, we have to prepare to make errors and annoy people but we can always go the extra mile and win back their loyalty!

  19. Tim Brownson says:

    Thanks so much for the kind words Justin, I appreciate it!

  20. How about a story of customer service gone terribly wrong? Here’s the link: