Zane’s Cycles: Lessons in maximizing the lifetime value of your customers


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book-coverIn the book, “Reinventing the Wheel – the Science of Creating Lifetime Customers”, Chris Zane outlines the roadmap to reaching this lofty, yet elusive goal.

A 30+ year veteran of the retail bicycle industry, Chris has built Zane’s Cycles of Branford, CT into one of the largest bicycle stores in the nation.

Everyone wants customers for life . . . but how many are willing to pay the price?

chris-zane-portraitDo you know how much each customer is worth over their lifetime? Chris Zane does. He know that each customer of Zane’s has a $12,500 LTV (lifetime value). He sees the whole forest and not just the individual trees. Zane’s doesn’t sell stuff, they provide ‘experiences’ that build relationships. They never sell anything without sharing a story of why its valid for their customers.

Lagniappe – a little something extra

The etymology of Lagniappe stems from the Quechan ‘yapay’ which means ‘to give more’. Zane’s lives by this mantra, leveraging customer service as differentiator. They are committed to giving customers more than they expect. More importantly they then stand behind the sale by giving more service than others seem reasonable (especially competitors).

bowlA Bowlful of Quarters

Zane’s is willing to spend $100 to service a customer. To illustrate the point Chris uses the metaphor of a bowlful of 400 quarters. During presentations he walks around with a bowl and encourages members of the audience to take quarters. Most take a few quarters, but no one ever takes the whole bowl. According to Chris:

“The point is that when you as a customer are presented with more than what seems reasonable, like a bowl of 400 quarters, you will self-regulate….By providing more service than what folks consider reasonable we can build trust and loyalty and remind them how hard we’re working on their behalf.”

Here are the 12 most compelling ways that Zane’s offers ‘little extras’ to maximize lifetime value:

  1. Lifetime Service Guarantee – all parts and service are covered for life. Translation = buy your bike from Zane’s and tune-ups are free.
  2. Flat Tire Insurance – pay a minimal one time fee at purchase and Zane’s will fix your flats (tubes and labor) for life.
  3. Free Trade-In Program for Kids – buy a bike for your child at Zane’s. When they outgrow it, simply bring it back to trade-up. Zane’s gives you a credit for the price of the former bike towards a new one.
  4. Gift Certificates in Water Bottles – Buy a gift certificate and Zane’s will throw in a complimentary branded water bottle that holds the certificate.
  5. The One Dollar Rule – Zane’s doesn’t charge for any parts that cost them one dollar or less. Need a master link for your chain, its on the house. In fact they typically will throw in an extra master link for lagniappe.
  6. 90 Day Price Guarantee – find your bike cheaper somewhere else, they will match the difference plus an additional 10%. No forms to fill out and no credit card processing, Zane’s hands over cash to keep it simple.
  7. Giving Back – Zane’s gives back to the community whether its a helmut purchasing program for inner city kids, sponsoring local teams or creating a college scholarship program.
  8. Coffee Bar – Zane’s has a nice espresso bar in the store encouraging customers to sit down, relax and enjoy a cup of gourmet coffee.
  9. Set of Small Tools – Zane’s provides a complimentary toolkit when shipping bikes to premium recipients.
  10. Webcam – Zane’s has a camera in the repair shop which gives customers the ability to Skype the team.
  11. Personal Notes – each person who buys a bike receives a handwritten ‘thank you’ note
  12. Test Rides – Want to test a bike at Zane’s? You’re free to take it out for a ride. No credit card or drivers license required. Each year they lose a handful of bikes, but the small cost is insignificant compared to the trust gained and hassle avoided.

Any other examples of how you can maximize the LTV of your customers?

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra for good measure) – Here is Chris talking to Inc magazine:

Lagniappe defined: A marketing lagniappe, i.e. purple goldfish, is any time a business goes above and beyond to provide a ‘little something extra’. It’s that unexpected surprise that’s thrown in for good measure.

How do you stand out in the sea of sameness? How do you win repeat customers and influence word of mouth? What’s Your Purple Goldfish?

Download the FREE eBook here

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


  1. As a person involved in customer service and a fan of cycling, this is a great profile of a company that understands the value of going above and beyond. I have never found a bike shop that offers free tune-ups beyond the first year of ownership and this alone would make me want to buy my bike from Zane’s Cycles. Then you add on the other benefits of flat tire insurance, no charges on $1 parts, the free trade-in program for kids, and you’ve got a solid shop that most cyclists would appreciate.

    The bowlful of quarters matches this customer service focus perfectly. Offer more than people expect and they’ll take what they need but have more trust in you as a company.

    Really cool.

  2. Few “walk their talk” when it comes to exceptional customer service, but my past experience with Chris Zane set a new bar when using his services as an incentive provider to my business. Chris always took the time to focus on the correct solution for the end customer and not just my business needs or his – the customer won every time and we both had repeat orders. His video and analogy are spot on.


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