For Want of a Nail
For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.
For want of a horse, the rider was lost.
For want of a rider, the battle was lost.
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
The proverb - "For Want of a Nail" - is about preparation and maintenance. It says that by being unprepared and not taking care of your things, there can be a disastrous chain of cause and effect.
This is true in general affairs and I do strongly recommend preparation and maintenance, but that's not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about customer service.
Your good customers are super important. I mean, all your customers are super important, but especially your good customers.
I'm here in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. As I described in this article on long term travelling, I try to "Identify key spots when I get to a new place – exercise area, thinking cafe, good healthy cheap food" - I think it's a key part of not going crazy when you're on the road.
Here in UB, my cafe where I go to think turned out to be a place called Adesso.
I like Adesso. Great coffee, great food, great service, very comfortable, nice atmosphere, fast WiFi, power outlets, and all the lemon-flavored filtered water you can drink.
Adesso's fantastic, but it comes at a price - it costs 3x to 10x more than regular Mongolian food. You can get a coffee at a regular Mongolian cafe for 33 cents. At Adesso, it's $3. You can get a really good, hearty meal for $2-$3. At Adesso, $8 to $10.
But anyways, I've had a lot of work and phonecalls, so this place has basically become my office. So I'm dropping $20 to $30 per day here, which is a lot by Mongolian standards. The place isn't so packed, but I'm here every day for a few coffees and a couple meals.
Today, I find out that they have a loyalty card at Adesso. 10 stamps and you get a free coffee. You get a stamp when you get a meal or a drink. Ah jeez, I think to myself, I'd probably have a couple free coffees right now.
So I go tell the girl at the counter, and I show her yesterday's receipt - $33 for the place. She offers to give me... six out of the ten stamps.
That's so, so incredibly stupid.
4 more stamps is 40% of a free coffee. We're talking $1.20 in value to someone who is on pace to spend high hundreds to low thousand over the next 30-90 days here.
I ask her if she'll just give me 10 stamps. Does it really matter? No, it doesn't really matter. To either of us. A free coffee isn't a huge deal to me or them.
She says no.
I say, "Umm, I'm here, like, every day. And spending a lot. I'd probably have 20 stamp by now if I'd known about this. Can you just give me 10 and give me a free coffee?"
Well, okay then. This strikes me as "for want of a nail" territory.
I don't really care. I like the place and I still recommend it.
But I reckon the EV of saying no there was massively negative for Adesso. Inevitably, someone who is a major patron of the cafe will get ticked off and not go back, not bring friends here, and not evangelize the place.
That's really, really bad. That's a huge loss. This is for want of a nail - to hold the line on a portion of a free coffee with someone who spends a lot of time here, patronizes the place frequently, has lots of meetings in cafes, and evangelizes businesses he likes... you just got to say yes to those people when they ask for 10 stamps that they'd have earned 20 times over if they'd known about the program.
You say no to a patron (a single nail). They're in a little bit of a bad mood, and this leads to them coming less or not at at all (horseshoe lost, horse dies). They don't introduce their friends and evangelize the business (rider lost, battle lost). And, as a cascading long term effect, that might be the difference in the business meeting payroll or not - whether the kingdom falls or not.
I'll still come here. The place is good. But maybe slightly less often. Don't do this with your own customers. If you have someone who wants something not ridiculous and they're a good customer, take care of them. The little request, the nail, keeps the shoe fit, keeps the horse healthy, gets the rider through, gets the battle won, keeps the kingdom going.