Distribution companies talk about “the last mile,” that last step in the delivery process of getting goods to the consumer. Although it may be the shortest distance travelled in the relay of goods from factory to customer, it is often the most difficult, requiring tailored solutions unique to different circumstances. But there’s another “mile” that is worth considering for companies of all types, a mile so important it can make or break a customer experience and determine the future of a business, and that’s “the extra mile”. Going the extra mile has never been more important than it is today. Doing something extra, adding something unexpected to even a simple transaction. is the crucible in which long term relationships are forged.
I remember my father taking me to buy my first pair of running shoes. I was excited at the prospect of taking up track, and even making it to the school team some day, but that’s not what I remember most from that experience. When we went to check out, the owner of the store reached behind the counter and produced two extra sets of laces. “Take these with you,” he said, “they’ll come in handy, especially at the moment you need them”. Weeks later, now competing for a spot on my school squad, my right shoelace broke, and then my left one. Fumbling hurriedly to re-tie them in makeshift fashion, I suddenly realized I’d stuffed a pair of the extra laces into my kit bag. What a relief! I was soon back in action, properly outfitted. Afterwards, I thought about that moment in the store for a long time. The owner didn’t have to add the laces to the transaction. He didn’t need to include them to complete the sale, but he did it anyway, and without being asked. A season or so later when it came time to buy a bigger pair of proper track shoes, where do you think my father and I went? Growing up, I can’t remember going anywhere else for years afterward.
Going the extra mile means adding value. It means putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and thinking of some way to deliver something a little bit extra with the product or experience. It means adding an unexpected element, without being asked. There’s always something you can do, an action you can take that will set you apart from others. It’s the stuff that turns transactions into relationships, and small companies into great enterprises. That extra mile is worth walking, both in business and in life. Next time you’re at a point of service, think of ways you can help your customers, or those people important to you, with the little extra things that can sometimes make such a big difference. Like the young boy I once was, your customers will never forget it.
F. Bruce Sim