I model railroads in my spare time. It's a fun way to relax, and I enjoy the attention to detail that it requires.
Recently, I had a small issue when building a particular model - I was missing a couple of small, but important, parts.
Now, usually, the pervading wisdom is that the contract is between the purchaser and the shop. However, you can't really ask a shop to take back a partially built model - normally they won't even take back a box that's been opened.
So, I emailed the manufacturer direct. To make a long story short, they agreed (actually, they offered) to send me the missing bits. Two, lightweight, bits of plastic was what I was expecting, and that's what I got.
Plus a catalog of new releases. And a newsletter (paper) which has introduced me to some interesting developments that I wasn't aware of. And a letter, visiting card, and associated advertising flyer.
In fact (and I've checked!) the paper weighed more than the plastic, and no doubt contributed to the postage cost which was around 1/3 of the price of the model in the first place...
On the other hand, I now want to do more business with them. Despite the fact that I was irritated when it went wrong (missing pieces) I want to do more business (buy more stuff) with them.
If I'd just received the plastic bits, I would have been happy. But, by putting some bits and pieces of information in the package, they've made me loyal. I feel loyalty to someone for making the effort to inform me.
That's a powerful lesson, but it could have been improved.
What They Did Right
They fixed the problem. They sent me a letter, and they put a good mix of valuable content and advertising in the package.
What to take away : whenever you have contact with a client, always use it as an opportunity to provide them with additional content of value, and remind them why they bought from you in the first place, and why they should do so again.
What They Did Wrong
The letter was in German, but all our communication up to then had been in English.
What to take away : make all follow-up communication relevant to the needs of the customer. They've very nearly alienated me by this oversight.
What The Could Have Done More (or Better)
There was no encouragement to buy more from them. I have reason to, thanks to the information, but I don't have the additional push that makes it worthwhile. Other retailers have included money-off offers, vouchers, and so forth.
What to take away : it's not enough to give a reason to buy from you; even prospective repeat customers need a push!
All of the above applies to online and offline businesses. Every email, every delivery, every apologetic letter after a complaint deserves to be treated as an opportunity to build trust and loyalty with your customer base.