Sales & Marketing

Forget the SLA: A Simple, Free Giveaway Can Earn You a Customer for Life

Service contracts can be an important source of revenue, but organizations should also consider what they can give away to customers — for free. Sometimes one of the greatest ways to provide great customer service is to give something of value away for free. It doesn’t have to be anything big or expensive. It can be something small. Really small. It just has to be valuable to the customer.

What prompted me to write about this was an email from Ron Baker, president of Gracey-Backer, who saw me speak several years ago. The short version of the story is that Ron was pulled over by the police one night for having a burnt out brake light. The police officer didn’t give him a ticket because Ron promised that he would get it fixed immediately. He went to the closest full-service station, and the mechanic quickly replaced the bulb. Ron asked, “How much do I owe you?” The mechanic said, “This one’s on me.”

Ron was dumbfounded and at the same time delighted. Ron said, “I wasn’t even his customer, but I am now!  I used to buy gas at the discount gas station a few blocks away and save a penny a gallon – maybe 20 cents on a tank full.  Not anymore.  I now get my gas at the Exxon station.”

Ron’s story reminded me of Chris Zane, who owns a bike store in Connecticut. Known for his amazing customer service, one of Chris’s tactics is to not charge the customer for anything that costs less than a dollar. For example, a customer who needs a master link, which is a small part that holds the chain together, doesn’t have to pay for it.  Zane says, “The cost to me is virtually nothing. We’re not going to chase the pennies — we’re looking at the long-term effect of giving someone a master link. And you should see the look on people’s faces.” It turns out the tactic of free costs Zane less than $100 annually. A small price to pay for loyal customers who are worth thousands of dollars over time. By the way, you can read about Zane’s philosophy about this in his book, available on

What is a free service that you’ve been offered that went a long way toward earning your loyalty as a customer?

This article first appeared on Shep Hyken’s Customer Service Blog and was written by Shep Hyken. You can read the full version here.

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  • ryckd111

    My first field service job with a large fortune 500 company 30 years ago my boss had heard I was giving away some unique little trinkets. He told me to stop dong it because a customer would never remember the gift. He said that the customer would only remember the quality of the service for which they had paid. Nowadays gifts are almost considered bribery. The bottom line is, that customers will have value for something in which you placed enough value on to charge them for it.
    The story related in your article is a completely different situation, in which the attendant provided a service to get someone out of a jam anyone could find themselves in and have compassion for the driver. In today’s world once you have given away something to a customer for free from that point on they are always looking for you to give them something for nothing and will actually resent you charging them.

    • It’s a good point — thanks for the reply!

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