How to Lose a Good Customer or How to Create a Lifelong Customer


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I was in the bank Saturday morning, waiting in line behind the cutest 4-year-old and his mommy I’ve seen in a long while. It was a long line, and Junior was getting restless.

“Mommy, I have to go.”

“Go where, honey?” (mommy was distracted)

“I have to pee, mommy.”

“In a few minutes, sweetie, we’re almost done”.

“Mommy I can’t wait, I reaaaaallllyyyy have to pee pee.”

“Honey you’re going to have to wait. They don’t have a bathroom here.”

“I can’t wait mommy, I need to pee RIGHT NOW.”

Junior really had to pee. He couldn’t wait. You know how it is. When you gotta go, you gotta go. Just ask any new mother, post childbirth give or take 3 years. There is no gray area, and it’s no different for a 4-year-old who’s just getting it down in the first place.

I, of course not minding my own business, and not wanting to be used as a fire hydrant (I was wearing red… who knew how he’d been potty trained) sidled up to the mom and quietly said, “I’ll wait on line with him if you want to go up and ask if you can use their restroom.”

After being sized up and down, the mom nodded gratefully and left Junior with me holding my hand with one hand and his whatsis in the other, and proceeded to jump up and down. I noted that he was starting to turn red.

About 10 seconds later the mom was back in line, shaking her head. No luck.

“They said it’s not for public use.”

“Really?” I asked. “Did you point out your little guy jumping up and down and holding his whatsis?”

“Yup. The teller repeated herself twice — the restroom’s not for public use.”

If you’ve been reading my blogs for awhile you won’t think it’s odd that I now tried to take matters into my own hands. ‘No’ is not my friend.

“I’ll be right back.” The woman looked at me gratefully if not somewhat quizzically.

“Thanks… good luck!”

I sidled up to the teller bank and asked quietly if there was a manager I could have a moment with. There was. In my nicest, most demure yet firm voice I asked the bank manager for mercy. I pointed out the little guy who was now beginning to hyperventilate and explained that the 4-year-old didn’t understand public vs. private restroom, and if they didn’t agree to let him use the restroom they were about to have a bigger mess than they’d planned on in line at their bank on Saturday morning at 11:45 when all anyone wanted to do was get through their business and go home… “if you know what I mean.”

It was as though I’d mentioned the pleasant temperature outdoors. I was looked through benignly and with a definite internal eye roll (I know, I have a teenager; they’re subtle but definitely visible), told that there was nothing to be done. If they went a few doors down the Burger King had a public restroom.

Can I just say that there are a few times in our lives when justice is served in such a sweet and organic way that the skies seem to open up and the angels sing. This was one of those moments. Just as I was getting the eyeroll, the heavens opened up alright. And it was sweet. So satisfyingly sweet if not a bit messy. The heavens opened up 3 customers back in line at the _______ Bank of _________, and yet another natural disaster plagued our shores.

Mom was mortified, the line moaned and parted like the Red Sea, pun intended, and Junior had his moment, all over the commercially cleaned carpets — a teensy twinge of fear in his eyes but thankfully no tears, just relief.

The rest is glorious history.

What’s the take away here? Customer Service, of course. Going the extra mile… of course. Humanity, anyone?

In a case like this, what harm beyond the bending of a rule would have come in allowing this little guy and his mom into the employee restroom to take care of ther business. Rules schmules! There are times when rules are meant to be broken, or just a little bent. Had the conversation instead been one of “it’s normally for employees but I see that your little guy is about to burst, so come on with me”… shown graciousness… and caring… that manager would have, instead of giving the bank some really bad PR and losing a customer, earned big points in the “we aim to please” department, possibly cementing a relationship and creating a life long customer. Instead, as I helped the freaked out mother out the door as she held her drenched guy out in front of her with outstretched arms, she wasted no time in telling me how that was the last straw with said bank, and that next week she was switching to a ‘kinder and friendlier’ bank down the street. Apparently there had been some prior issues, but this badly executed and oh so avoidable experience was the straw that broke the camel’s back for her.

We all have choices these days — many, many choices — in where we choose to do business. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again because this is the deal in today’s frenzied world of choices: It’s the business that goes the extra mile that wins your business. A bank is a bank is a bank. Rates are pretty much even no matter where you go, and all have similar services with not many differentiators. What’s the difference in where you choose to place your money? Customer service. Being treated really well, and as though you matter.

To that end, I was sitting in the waiting area at Firestone in Brookfield this morning getting my emissions tested, when a guy walked in and needed to have service done that would require him to leave his car there for the day. I overheard him ask the technician if he could get a ride home.

Guy behind counter: “Where do you live?”

Customer: “New Fairfield.”

Guy behind counter: “Sure. We’ll have someone out to give you a ride home in just a few minutes. Have a seat.”

New Fairfield… a good 15 miles away.

That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Suzen Pettit
I am principal at Omaginarium and Omagine Health, an online marketing and SEO solutions provider. With my small business experience, combined with expertise in communications and marketing, I guide small businesses through the maze of technology to help them grow their online presence with successful SEO.


  1. Wow! Can you imagine how this story would have ended if only the bank employee would have bent the rules and let the little boy use the restroom? I know this is a HUGE deal for banks however. It is a security issue much larger than using a restroom in a retail setting. However, it still could have been done by simply supervising the restroom visit by an employee standing guard.

    It is so important to empower your employees to use common sense and go the extra mile for the customer.

  2. Hi Kathy,
    Yes, I’ve gotten a few comments talking about bank regs and security, and that is all true. But really, at the end of the day you hit the nail on the head when you talk about empowering your employees to use common sense and go the extra mile for the customer.
    Right on!

  3. Come on.

    You can tell us the name of the bank. We’re all friends here. A name. All we need is a name…..

  4. ha ha ha…Ed, so sorry. I live in a small town and need to be here for a few more years!!!


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