Customer loyalty comes from being brilliant

Customer loyalty_Schulman_HFA blog

If you are an avid reader of my blog – thank you for your loyalty – you’d know that my family went to Switzerland over the Thanksgiving break. Ever been to Switzerland? It’s ludicrously expensive for everything! We bought a pint of water for seven American dollars – Insane. When a glitzy jewelry store window beckoned for the attention of my wife, she stopped to gawk at some earrings in the window.


As a guy with a tarnished and journeyed wedding ring on his finger, this was my cue to take note, and I slightly snapped a picture for the Christmas present file. How amazing am I?

When I got home, I looked at the picture and thought, “NOW WHAT”? I knew what I wanted but wasn’t sure how to get the picture off my telephone screen and make it a reality. In the furniture business, we call this a PROJECT. I don’t buy much jewelry, and I wear an Apple Watch. My wife, fortunately, doesn’t go for the super blingy and expensive adornments, and I had not an “in” in the county. Looking at the picture again, I knew these earrings would not be cheap. I turned every recollection in my mind upside down, and the only place I could think of that I would even consider giving this project to was the store I bought our engagement ring from more than 20 years ago. It’s forty miles from my home, but I felt this was the only place I could trust with this. I figured I’d see a few customers in San Diego and pop into the only jeweler I know for help.

Sure enough, the store was still where I left it and as busy as I remember. The family that ran it was still there, grinding and hustling. I loved it. I showed the picture of the earrings on my phone to the lady behind the counter; she gawked at how beautiful they were and told me they would love to make them for me. She called for the master jeweler in the back, and he came out and looked at the picture, then she shot me the price.

Naturally, my first instinct was to negotiate a little. I’m nobody’s fool. No way do I pay the first price right out of the gate. Then I remembered the reason I went there in the first place. Trust. I drove wayyyyyy out of my way to come to this shop, passing many other jewelry stores. I also doomed myself to traveling back there to pick them up when they were done. WHY? Simple: it was loyalty.

I had no choice! A sense of belonging swept over me; this was the place. What was I gonna do? Ask for a few bucks off? Would that make me feel better about the purchase? They have my trust. I knew that I would be treated fairly, and I trusted the price would be appropriate.

When I went back to pick them up, she showed me the earrings, and they were exactly what I saw on vacation. They nailed it. The shop owner stopped by to look, and he shot me a wink that said, “good job, young man,” and went back to helping someone else. It was a masterful move from an expert in the field that said I did a great job having this made, and he did a great job executing the project, and everyone is now very happy – all with that one little wink.

It got me thinking. Earning loyalty like this really isn’t hard. When I bought the engagement ring in 1999, the store treated me with respect. They knew exactly why I was there, what the occasion was, and the emotions I was experiencing. They took their time to listen to me work out what I thought I wanted in my mind out loud so that I would feel comfortable when they guided me to the best solution. They cautioned me not to blow all the money on the diamond because wedding bands were next. I was sent outside by myself to look at three gemstones in the sun. I was advised that the only way to look at diamonds like the ones in my hand truly was to admire their brilliance in the natural sunlight. All by myself! I had $30K of their 1999 dollars in my hands without supervision and was told to take my time to admire their brilliance. Looking back, this store was the brilliant one because I will never go anywhere else to buy jewelry. That’s loyalty.


  • Nothing reeks of credibility more like a busy showroom. Motion creates emotion, and emotion leads to transactions. Keep your showroom bustling with activity.
  • Be on the floor where the customers are – you know them. The coach is on the field during the game to be in it. Ya gotta feel the energy and lead from the front. If you can’t be there, find a trustworthy proxy and give them the juice to be a difference-maker.
  • Touch every customer you can. Introduce yourself to everyone and let them know you are there, making sure that every commitment will be met and let them know they are in great hands with your staff.
  • Follow up with your customers after the sale to learn how you did. If you fell short, do something about it. Getting a new customer is much more expensive than keeping that customer by simply creating loyalty.
  • You are an expert and make it obvious by how you carry yourself. Have a calming yet exciting cadence in your voice. Show that you legitimately love helping people find just what they are looking for. Find success by being in it for the customer.

P.S.  I wasn’t going to mention this, but what the heck. I had been driving around with a $500 credit from this place in my glove compartment back from 2013 when I replaced my wedding band I thought I had lost. When I found it, I returned the new one, and they gave me credit. Not ideal, but OK. They didn’t hesitate when I walked in there with this handwritten, crusty credit from the Obama administration. I was sure they would look at me with that “really?” face and tell me it’s been too long but not even a blink—absolutely top-notch. Go and be brilliant and build that customer loyalty.

Jonathan Schulman

Jonathan Schulman started in his father’s Los Angeles case goods factory, working the floor during college at Shelves and Cabinets in San Diego, and then owning his own stores that he later parlayed into a few Ashley Homestore locations. For several years, Jonathan was on the road as a furniture rep for the AICO family for his first eight years, then as a multi-line rep. Jonathan is the current President of IHFRA.

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