What Taco Bell Taught Me About Customer Retention

Diane Hughes

Updated · Apr 05, 2002

I didn't plan to get a marketing lesson. I really just wanted a steak chalupa. But as I went through the Taco Bell ordering line, my day took an interesting twist.

I've always been one to give compliments when they were due. So, after receiving repeatedly good service at this location, I decided I'd sing the staff's praises. I asked to see the manager. Fred came over and offered to help me.

I told him how pleased I was with the service, and that — from my experience — not all Taco Bell's were created equal. (I had gotten some pretty rotten service at other restaurants.) Fred
just smiled and said, “Well, I'm not only the manager, but I own all the Taco Bell's in the city. I bet I can tell you which stores left you unhappy.”

I was surprised. I named one location that I'd visited recently and Fred interrupted with, “The manager is not personable and doesn't treat the employees well. I've been trying to find a
replacement but have had no luck so far.”

I named another store to which Fred replied, “That area is full of rich kids who are undependable and don't have any work ethic.”

For each location I named, Fred began to tell me how good (or not so good) the employees were. Never once did he say, “They can't make a taco to save their lives.” In fact, there was no mention
of the food at all. He didn't say, “They pre-make their burritos and let them sit” or “I've told them a hundred times they need to put more cheese on that.” It all revolved around people.

Next Fred made his point. “Ma'am, it all lies with the employees. The food is the same all over, but some stores — even in great locations — have lousy sales because the people don't treat my customers well.”

Fred is right on the money. Your products and services may be the main reason a customer comes to you (I wanted a chalupa). However, if they get unsatisfactory service, they won't stay long at all. (I won't visit a few Taco Bell locations in my city even though the food is all the same.) There is simply too much competition out there for a customer to tolerate impatience, rudeness or unprofessional behavior.

Consider the fact that your customers pay your salary. They have the money you are seeking to earn. They also have a choice — whether to stay with you or move to your competition who offers the same, or a similar, product as your business.

Wise business people keep their customers in mind at every turn. Making people feel welcome and appreciated is a sure fire way to increase customer retention. In fact, in the results of the 1996 White House Office of Consumer Affairs Survey, a lack of attention and caring was the No. 1 reason people stated for leaving a company.

Do your people matter? Absolutely. In fact, you and your employees are the reason you have customers. You and your employees are the reason your customers come back. It all boils down to people.

Keep that fact in mind throughout all your marketing, sales and support efforts and you'll see dramatic improvements in your repeat sales — and ultimately your profits.

Diane Hughes is an accomplished Internet entrepreneur and editor of the ProBizTips Newsletter. You can learn more about Diane and her success in helping many start a home business and make money from home at

Reprinted from internetday.

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