A Tale of Two Ice Cream Stands

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Customer Strategy
Customer Service
It was the best of summer, it was the worst of summer. Two ice cream stands, with similar clientele and products, take two divergent paths to serving customers.

It was the best of summer, it was the worst of summer. Two ice cream stands, with similar clientele and products, take two divergent paths to serving customers.Stand #1 -- Twin Cone in Bloomingburg, NY
This place is a staple along the "Quickway" in upstate New York. From April to October, people line up to order their famously large "small" cones. Their pumpkin ice cream in the Fall is legendary. But Twin Cone is squarely focused on products.

My family owns a summer cottage near Twin Cone, and it's a mandatory trip whenever relatives come up for some rest and relaxation. We have asked the owner numerous times about purchasing Twin Cone t-shirts like the employees wear. He always refuses, saying that they don't have any extra. When we explained our history and advocacy, he didn't want to be bothered. He sells ice cream to whomever will buy it, end of story.

Stand #2 -- Dairy Queen in Plainville, CT
My friend Katy is six months pregnant and loves ice cream. She loved it before she was pregnant, but now her cravings are in overdrive. She will sometimes visit the Dairy Queen near her office 4-5 times per week.

Employees at DQ recognize this and have begun to treat Katy differently. They prepare her standing order ahead of time when they see her car pull in the lot or if she gets in line. One day the computers were down and Katy had no cash. No problem, the staff said. Pay us next time. To top it off, "they have the Frequent Blizzard cards where you get a free small Blizzard after buying six, but the owner lets me get a free medium because I always get mediums. They just love me there," Katy told me recently.

It doesn't take a CRM system or a CEO directive for the staff at DQ to act in the best interests of its valuable customers. Such small gestures go a long way to engender Katy's loyalty, even after she has the baby.

Both ice cream stands are doing well this summer season, but which one is poised for long-term success? Even with our history and nostalgia with Twin Cone, a few rude employees or price increases will cause my family to rethink our allegiance. Meanwhile, Katy will always have a special place in her heart (and stomach) for the DQ in Plainville.

All this talk is making me hungry for some soft-serve, with rainbow sprinkles. Happy summer everyone!

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION