How Freelancers Can Build Customer Loyalty by Providing Outstanding Service

A few months back, my car went temporarily kaput. As a AAA member, I called for roadside assistance, but due to a 24-hour outage in the automated roadside-assistance system, members in the affected areas had to pay for their tows up front and then submit the bill for reimbursement.

A bit of a hassle, but given AAA’s historically tight ship, I didn’t mind. I had a check in hand in a few weeks, and promptly forgot about it.

But They Didn’t Forget

A few weeks later I got a letter in the mail from AAA. After explaining the unfortunate string of events on the day in question, here was the operative paragraph:

Our records indicate you attempted to contact us on January 4 and may have been impacted by this outage. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience the outage may have caused. As a token of our commitment to you, we are automatically renewing your AAA membership for one year at no cost to you.

Wow. Talk about Unexpected, Outstanding Service. As noted, I had forgiven and forgotten, and the incident wouldn’t weighed on me one iota come renewal time. So, this mighty magnanimous gesture was quite the breath of fresh air. They didn’t have to do it, and I wouldn’t have held it against them. And that’s the point — and what made it so unexpected and, by extension, so special.

Sharing the Story

You can guess what I did when I got the letter: I shared the story with several friends and, needless to say, thought enough of their gesture to give them some additional publicity on my own blog.

I have no idea how many AAA members were affected in those states during that period, but I have to imagine it wasn’t a trivial number. But they unhesitatingly took a sizable financial hit in the interest of doing the right thing.

Lesson for Freelancers

So what can we as freelancers learn from this story? Here’s my takeaway: Offering up a similarly impressive and unexpected act of service would likely cost us far less, while still buying us a more-than-healthy measure of goodwill and client loyalty.

Of course, we can’t give away free stuff all the time. But assuming we’re talking about a good client — one that pays well, is easy to work with and provides steady assignments — periodically giving away something of value can go a long way toward strengthening their loyalty to you.

Authored by Peter Bowerman
Veteran commercial freelancer and business coach Peter Bowerman, is the author of the award-winning Well-Fed Writer series — how-to standards on the subject of freelancing for businesses. Subscribe to his ezine and blog at
www.wellfedwriter.com.