Satisfying customers is as easy as finding your flashlight


Share on LinkedIn

In our household, I am famous for having a hard time passing up an opportunity to buy an inexpensive flashlight so we can have it “just in case”. Inevitably, though, what ends up happening is that one of the kids will play with it when there’s a sleepover, or goofing around in the back yard at night, and not put it back where it belongs. Then, when I actually need to use it for something useful, I end up asking the invariable question, “Has anybody seen the flashlight?”

On one of my flashlight-buying occasions, however, I found a small flashlight that also included a holder for it to be mounted on the wall. When I got home, I installed it on the wall right next to the front door so that it would be available whenever needed. What I’ve discovered is that, while the kids are still using it to play with from time to time, it manages to find its way back to the holder on the wall.

Sometimes, my wife or I will walk by and see the holder empty, and we’ll ask, “Who had the flashlight last?” This usually elicits a response from one of the kids: “Oh yeah, I used it to look for my library book in my closet,” or something similar, and it comes back to where it belongs. This is, by far, the longest amount of time we have ever had a flashlight without losing it. I believe it’s due to the holder on the wall.

So, while all of this talk about flashlights may be very interesting, how does this apply to satisfying customers? What it illustrates to me is the fact that customer systems and processes that do not have “place holder” will typically fall into disuse, even if it’s a valid principle.

For example, on our customer team, we determined at several years ago that it would be helpful to have a system in place to confirm with customers a day before a scheduled appointment to ensure everything was still “on track”. While the principle was sound, and it was used with some success, we found that all of the reps were not doing it consistently because they would “forget” during the busy-ness of the previous day, or not have all of the appropriate contact information.

In an attempt to solve this, we began posting a small chart with all of the upcoming appointments and contact info on the front sheet of our weekly meeting agenda. This allowed everyone the visibility to see how many appointments were coming up and who needed to be following up with whom. This was the equivalent of installing the flashlight holder on the wall; this process is now an accepted part and parcel of what we do, and it’s easy to know what needs to happen at any time.

Having a “flashlight holder” in place provides several benefits:

  • Whenever needed, the process is available for use.
  • You instantly know if a process or system is in place or not. You can then intercept any potential lag in time by taking action right away to ensure it is “put back”.
  • Because it has a permanent place, it becomes an accepted practice that eases training of new employees to techniques that are successful.

By installing your own “flashlight holders,” you are taking control of the successful outcome of duties and responsibilities in your area of influence.

As for me, I’m just glad I know that when the power goes out, I can confidently know where to find at least one flashlight in the house.

Now, where did I put my car keys?

Just for fun…

“That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: ‘Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.'” – Dorothy Parker

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Martorano
Steve has been on the front lines with customers for over 25 years. He is currently Director of Customer Services for Polygon Northwest, a real estate developer in both the Seattle and Portland markets. Steve is also the creator of, an online resource designed to provide insights and training to customer professionals across many industries.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here