How Much is a Lifetime Customer Worth to your Business?


For Zane's Cycles, it’s $12,500, says CEO Chris Zane in Reinventing the Wheel.

That means if we start by providing a child his first bike at 4-years-old and continue through the retirement bike, we will collect $12,500 in fulfilling all of the cyclist’s lifetime needs.

But to actually sell an individual that many bikes to hit the goal of $12,500, we must win their business for life.

We must develop a trusting relationship with the customer from the first encounter and provide them with such an incredible experience, extraordinary service, and attention to detail that they come back time and again.

If we’re extraordinarily successful in doing this, that lifetime customer also brings us business from their children, relatives, and circle of friends.

When confronted by a choice between focusing on the stuff you make and paying extreme care to the way you deliver your service, choose "and" the superior experience.

People want to be able to reach out and grab things whenever it suits them, and any business could be lulled into complacency by delivering just convenience. Yet what makes a huge difference in (customer) relationships, private and public, goes well beyond that.

The $1,200 question

I've been thinking about a fairly intangible product of deliberate practice for organizations that makes a huge difference in how they're perceived as well as why they execute: culture.

In the manifesto, Zane provides an example of honoring the company's return policy with a full refund, no questions asked, as one of the moments of truth.

Because let's face it, you can craft the most beatiful core values statement and frame it for everyone to look at. It is only when you do it that they actually see it — in action.

Good pick up lines

I like a really good pick up line, I bet you do as well. Zane employees are encouraged to do their homework and use the 25-minute retail window they have judiciously.

Instead of the typical "duh!" line — can I help you? They approach each in store interaction from either a stance of curiosity and interest (new customer) or armed with information about a returning customer and ready to pick up where you left off.

This kind of customized approach opens the door for the Zane’s employee to connect with the customer on an emotional level, and the ability to fulfill a lifetime of purchases becomes much more possible.

It is this ind of culture that prompts the employee who makes the occasional slip up to pick up the tab as Greg did after forgetting a customer's Valentine's Day request to surprise her husband.

True meaning of priceless

Is exactly this — not putting a specific dollar amount on the value of a trusted relationship and letting it accrue over time as potential.

When you as a business see a customer as a relationship opportunity, you get out of transaction mindset and into being in the moment and in conversation with them, actually listening and doing what needs to be done.

One of Zane's Cycle business practices is to give customers parts that cost less than $1 for free.

We tracked our giveaways over the course of one year and discovered that the total cost was $86. For $86, we were able to help 450 customers and create a positive lasting impression while doing so. I would say that was a great $86 investment.

The other good move is offering a 90-day price protection guarantee. On one hand you don't feel you're being nickel and dimed, on the other you're reassured you're getting the lowest possible price for that model.

Making better customer promises comes with lifetime service including fixing flat tires and lifetime parts guarantees.

When you’re looking at the lifetime value of a customer, or $12,500, a $6 tube is nothing.

How many CEOs do you know who post their personal email address right under their product/service guarantees? This is the true meaning of priceless.

How much is a lifetime customer worth to your business?


Culture seems like such a soft word, doesn't it? Because it's something you are (or become) as a result of what you do, it is what creates the context for the exceptional customer experience Zane describes.

Zane’s Cycles is a $15 million dollar bicycle business in Connecticut.

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