Coffee, Tires and Cadillacs – The Three Basics to Customer Loyalty

Coffee, Tires and Cadillacs – The Three Basics to Customer Loyalty

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Although at the surface coffee, tires, and Cadillacs seem completely unrelated, on a recent Monday morning I was struck by their similarity.  That week started like most of my days with the alarm at 5:30 followed by 2 hours of attempting to direct and control chaos. One child thinks getting up early is one step away from capital punishment and the other, my four year old, trying to “help” with everything… leaving a trail of “help” behind her for me to clean up. The mornings are punctuated with work emergencies and the occasional hair crisis. Once the kids are dropped off to school then my other workday begins…in comes the coffee.

Coffee, Tires and Cadillacs - The Three Basics to Customer LoyaltyFirst stop, Starbucks. I go there most mornings, not for the coffee  (I have great coffee at home) but for the experience. I call it my reset button. The nearest one is conveniently located one block away from my daughter’s preschool. I pull into the drive thru and magically leave the chaos behind as I enter my grown up world.  I am welcomed by the aroma of coffee and greeted by a smiling face that always seems glad to see me. Then I get my magic cup of happiness and am ready to start the day.

That particular day I needed to get my tires rotated. Not looking forward to this necessary errand, I head off to Discount Tire. Although this is not my ideal way to start of my workweek, I can’t but help but be amazed how organized and clean this auto shop is. It really is quite remarkable. I sit there and wonder how they can work on tires, and not have a wrinkle or piece of dirt of them. The shop is always bright and orderly. The employees are always professional, and the waiting room spacious and comfortable. And, perhaps most importantly, they are an efficient machine. While I do not have to go there often, I realize that they are the only tire shop I have gone to for over 2 decades. I call that customer loyalty.

As I was checking out at Discount Tire, they informed me that I only had a little wear left on my tires. I made an off-handed remark that it was a good thing I was about to trade in my car. This seemed to surprise the young man as I have completely good Cadillac. I explained to him that I Iove my car, but the warranty was about to expire.  With a husband who travels extensively, two kids and career, I placed a high value on convenience and my time. Side note… several years ago when I was shopping for a new car, a Cadillac was one of the last cars I thought I would get. I perceived it as an unnecessary luxury. However, as I did my research I came to appreciate the quality, value and service they had to offer. For the five years since, they have never let me down. If my car would be in service for longer than 45 minutes, I had a similar car waiting for me when I drove up. When I had an issue with a trim piece, that was not officially covered by warranty, but should not have broken, they did the right thing and repaired it at no charge. This level of service and convenience turned me into a loyal customer. Next time I am ready to purchase a car, I am not thinking about anywhere else.

That is the Kind of Loyalty all Businesses Strive For

To break it down it is very simple.


Your business may not be on every corner like Starbucks, but do you make it easy for your customers to do business with you? Do you anticipate problems and challenges? Do you continually evaluate how you conduct your business and strive for new ways to simplify the process and do business the way your customers want? If not, your customers will eventually go to someone who does.


While I love an adventure or the unknown when traveling or trying out new restaurants, most purchases I want to know what I am going to get.  Customers won’t put up with a guessing game. Set the expectations and meet them…every time. If you don’t deliver what they expect, then that is a door for the competitor to walk in. Even one bad experience can change the game.


How many old adages are there similar to “if you do not have something nice to say, say nothing at all” or “people like doing business with their friends” I could go on and on. But it is the truth and customers deserve total respect. People want to do business with people they like. So if you want your customers to like you, do what your mom always taught you, “Be nice.”



Melanie Reed

Vice President of Business Operations




Alford Media