They say it’s easier to sell to an existing customer vs. acquire a new one.

So, how can you create a solid base of loyal customers who’ll become raving fans of your company? Shock the hell out of them and do something your competition won’t.Loyal Customers

Last week, a huge company, Apple, shocked and wowed the hell out of me.

A Facebook friend posted that Apple was having a recall on 1st Generation iPod nano’s.  The battery has a remote chance of overheating. Apple’s not taking any chances. They have loyal customers because they provide quality products and services.

I went to the Apple site, gave them a call, and sure enough, my potentially defective unit was eligible for the program. I was pumped!

“There must be a catch.” I thought. There always is.

Two days later, as promised, they sent a box to ship back my old device. This was not your typical box. This was a special box though the exterior looked average.

The box measured 8”L x 5”W x 3″H and weighed less than a pound. There was nothing in it except metallic grey foam padding, a prepaid two day FedEx return label, and a letter with instructions.

I was instructed to place the nano only (“please don’t send ear phones, power supply, etc. because we won’t return them to you”) inside the cut out foam insert, close the box, and tape the package shut.

You might be saying, “Steve, where are you going with this?!”

Get this. Apple included a single piece of industrial tape to secure the package! 

I was stupefied!!!

FedEx picked up the “special box” which was delivered to Apple in two days. C’mon, it’s FedEx. “When it absolutely positively has to be there…” You can take their word to the bank. That’s why they have loyal customers.

I still wasn’t convinced I’d be getting something for nothing so I’m still looking for the catch. Random thoughts: I’ll get the new unit in six weeks. Or, they’ll send a refurbished unit. Or, I’ll have to fill out a lengthy online customer feedback marketing questionnaire.

Two days later, I received an email from Apple saying they received my package. The very next day, the replacement department sends me another email, along with a FedEx tracking number, saying my replacement nano would arrive in two business days.

Sure enough, I received the new device on the day they promised. I opened the box to my very own new iPod nano: 6th Generation, FM radio, Multi-Touch screen, with 8GB of capacity. Sa weet!

Apple did what they said they were going to do with no strings attached. At that moment, I became a loyal customer.

What are you doing to create loyal customers? What will you do to differentiate and render the competition irrelevant?

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