How to Be a Good Customer

We’ve written on other companies, impressive events and their service before. As writers and designers working hard to give top service to our clients, and as bloggers giving freelancers lessons on improving their own services to gain clients, these experiences are ones we feel teach well.

So gather ’round, my friends. I have a tale to tell you that teaches you how to be a good customer.

Once Upon A Time…

Once upon a time long ago, I needed special effects to ramp up my design work and stand out from the competition. I was just beginning my career, and I wanted to do more with images than what standard Photoshop plugins allowed. I wanted to chrome and glass effects, I wanted dazzling natural effects, and I wanted stunning artistic textures.

I found Flaming Pear, and they offered some good plugins for designers that I still use today – but it wasn’t enough.

Nine years ago, I stumbled into the realm of Alien Skin and felt like I had struck gold. Alien Skin offered a wide range of plugins and bundles like Eye Candy, a bundle to create fur, fire, water, wood, chrome and a bunch of nice effects, all at the click of a button.

Not a day has gone by since then that I haven’t used Alien Skin plugins. That says something right there.

Customer Loyalty Rewarded

This July, Alien Skin released Blow Up, a plugin that enlarges images without losing clarity. No pixilation, no blurring, just a nice, crisp, large image.

I jumped on the plugin because at the time, I believed I would never see any of the images in my graphics library again and had discovered a way to restore some tiny images stored elsewhere back to full size.

I was happy. The plugin worked well. Naturally, I was pleased when Alien Skin’s free upgrade became available. “Oh joy!” I exclaimed, and I rattled off an email along with my receipt to claim my free upgrade.

Oh. Right. The free upgrade was only available for those who bought Blow Up after July 26th. I bought mine on July 15. *sigh*

Well, I sent a follow-up email telling the good people at Alien Skin to ignore my belated request, thanking them for good products and letting them know that I’d spend the $99 for the upgrade because I liked it so much.

When You Are Heard

An hour later, the phone rang. “Hi, I’m Jim from Alien Skin. You seem like such a nice guy and could have been a jerk with your email, but you weren’t, so we want to offer you the upgrade at half-price. How’s that sound?”

*blink* That had to be the coolest call I ever received from a company. It sounded like a great deal.

Jim and I talked a little while longer. While he processed my order, he told me that the CEO of Alien Skin firmly believes in giving back. Jim said something like, “There’s so much injustice in the world, it’s up to us to change it when we can.”

I told him James and I believe the same. And to give back, I’m writing a post to spread the word that Alien Skin is a great company with a great product.

Nice Guys Finish First

By the end of the conversation, Jim had decided to send me the upgrade free of charge. Why? Because I’m a nice guy.

This is where being a good customer comes into the lesson. I didn’t bitch or complain that I’d missed the upgrade and I didn’t try to weasel Alien Skin into giving me the upgrade through manipulative guilt. That’s not me.

What is me is saying thank you for a good product. I was nice and friendly, and it went a long way.

There are benefits to being a good customer. You feel good. The other person feels good. Two happy people can create a ripple effect. Happy people making a good product might work harder to make more good products to keep getting those compliments, and better products is good for you. Hey, you might even get some free goodies, discounts, extended memberships or bonuses just because you were a nice customer.

So whether you’re on the seller side or the buyer side, take a moment to reward the people who deserve it just because you can. To quote Dave Navarro, “You’ll thank yourself for it.”

Post by Agent X

Agent X is the name many mysterious and intriguing people take on when they guest post at our site. Their mission is to slip in like a thief in the night, leave you with entertaining, valuable and useful content, and slip away again - without getting caught.

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  1. This doesn’t surprise me one bit. That’s why we all adore you both so much – because you’re such nice, awesome, amazing people.

    I try to be the “good customer” in every aspect of my life. I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t – there are so many advantages to it. Not only does the other person like you better than if you were a jerk about it, but this also generally makes the other person happier, which in turn infinitely brightens my day. Selfish of me, perhaps, but this is one kind of selfish that I don’t mind.

    Besides, who doesn’t want the world to be a happier place? 🙂

    Allison Days last blog post..To My Bloggers…

  2. Harry,

    You nailed how to be a good customer, but I can’t say I’m surprised. You are one of the last of a dying breed of gentlemen (and gentlewomen), and it’s obvious in every glimpse into your life that we get.

    When you write a little tip like this, I have hope that the breed can be revived. By your gentle suggestion.

    And kudos to Jim at Alien Skin, who did the right thing not because you’d be blogging it, but because their company culture is encouraging the breed, too. Well-done.

    I love a good Customer Experience story!



  3. I’m experiencing something similar with a boat shop where I bought my jet ski. I have had nothing but problems with the jet ski since day one, and the boat shop has bent over backwards trying to fix it– and I think that comes from being a nice customer. I have yet to see how this will end as they’re still trying to get to the root of the problem, but I’m hoping it ends on a good note.

  4. I worked it a flower shop for twelve years. Our best customers always worked hard to stay our best customers. And we worked hard in turn.

    It was always, “No, you’re the best.”

    “NO, you’re the best.”

    And so on.

    Writer Dads last blog post..Deja Vu

  5. Karen,

    That’s how I felt about TypePad, before I moved my blog to WordPress. They weren’t fixing everything, but they were fixing what they could, they made me feel very much “in the loop,” and they were so nice about it I loved them anyway.

    Well, until I ditched them because they weren’t able to fix everything. 😉



    Kellys last blog post..Inspiration Points: Bill Gates on Bad Experience

  6. So Harry, are you taking us out for drinks with your $100? 😀

    Thanks for the info on the company, I have a few designer friends who might be interested in Alien Skin. One positive post from the Pen Men could turn into a landslide of revenue for Alien Skin, maybe they should give you free stuff for life in return for the promotion.

    Jamies last blog post..9 Steps to Clearer Writing

  7. I once wrote a letter to the local phone company exclaiming how excellent their customer service was because I had some trouble with my line and went to visit their headquarters to see what could be done.

    Their courtesy, level of respect and friendliness was outstanding to the point where I was bowled over. It’s sad that when we get good customer service, it’s a cause for major celebration. It shouldn’t be that way – it should be the norm.

    Well, anyway, I wrote a letter specifically naming these people who gave such exemplary service to the CEO.

    Within a week I heard from them, wanting to know if I’d be interested in being hired to speak in front of the entire company! I charged my normal fee too. Amazing.

    Yes, it does pay to be a good customer. Businesses appreciate having good customers too. It works both ways.

  8. Urban Panther says:

    Honesty begets honesty. Accountability begets accountability. You missed the deadline, so you didn’t whine or whinge about it. It’s definitely how to be an excellent customer, but is also how to be an excellent human being.

    Urban Panthers last blog post..Food, friends, and life lessons

  9. Graham Strong says:

    Great story Harry — and love the happy ending.

    It occurs to me that it is a good lesson for companies too, to treat their best customers with respect. After all, how many new sales will be made now because of the 2,400 subscribers (according to your Feedburner stats) learned about Alien Skin through this blog?

    In general, I think that there is a strange dynamic happening in the marketplace today, at least in North America. Everyone waits for things to go on sale, everyone expects lots of products and services for little or no money. And companies are stumbling over each other to deliver.

    It’s refreshing to see both a customer recognize the value of the software, and the company to recognize the value of its customer.


  10. I believe customers should be civil. Should be courteous. Otherwise it shows bad character.

    Bamboo Forests last blog post..How to Get Your Act Together and Accomplish Your Goals

  11. There are far too many people in this world complaining just to complain. And there is a lot of lousy customer service too. If we all did our part, we’d all get what we want, wouldn’t we? Looks like you sure did Harry. Bravo.

    I’m always polite to servers in restaurants. They work hard and it’s a job I sure as heck wouldn’t want. (Plus they are handling the food I’m about to eat).

    It amazes me when people treat them horribly for no reason! Like it’s their right or something. Yeah, *real* smart buddy…enjoy your meal. 🙂

    Karen JLs last blog post..Back to School Wisdom and A Few Labeling Tips

  12. You know who I’m nice to? Cops. Man, cops have the worst job with everyone complaining about them. Me, I sit there and say, “Thank you.” Because that cop did his job (though honestly, the ticket didn’t HAVE to be written…). I didn’t give him shit that he should’ve been doing something else or argue to get a lighter fee. I say, “Thank you.” End of story.

    (But I *have* politely pointed out to an officer that there was *no* way I could’ve seen that sign in plain view that said no U-turns and that he’s quite kind to point it out and did he know the way to Tim Hortons and ended up only getting a warning…)

  13. @Allison: That’s not selfish at all. You’re paying that happiness forward

    @Kelly: It all comes down to common courtesy. I’ll give everyone that chance to start with. Like Allison said, each person has the opportunity to set the tone, why not make it good right from the start?

    @Karen: Mechanics are a group of people I feel need to be treated well just like waitstaff. It’s not easy dealing with the public and mechanics especially have a nasty stereotype to overcome. When I find a good one, I let them know and spread the word around.

    @WriterDad: Amen on that one.

    @Jamie: I think Alien Skin is doing quite well, they’ve been around for a while, but hey, if it brings them more business so they can keep cranking out a great product, I’m all for it!

    @Stephen: You’re right, it should be the norm, but unfortunately the scumbags looking for the latest get rich quick scheme ruin it for the rest of us.

    @Panther: Thanks, yes, that’s what it’s all about.

    @Graham: People are painfully aware of the cost of everything from groceries to gas, it’s no surprise to me that we’re all looking for the best deals around. The thing is though, if I had to choose between buying an item from a place that had crappy customer service and the same item that cost a little more from a company that cared about their customers, I’m more than happy to buy from the second company – because who knows, if you ask, they may just give you a discount?

    @Bamboo: Absolutely

    @Karen JL: I agree. Some people are so miserable they’re not happy unless everyone around them is miserable too.

    @James: Yes, be nice to cops, and firefighters and postmen. Especially the postmen.

  14. @Harry – What you said about setting the tone reminds me of something that happened to me. A few weeks ago, I was out buying something for lunch. When I was waiting for my order to be ready, the man who had been in front of me in line starts talking to me.

    Him: How is your day, miss?
    Me: Pretty good, yours?
    Him: I’m having a very good day. I woke up this morning and said to myself, I’m going to be happy today. And I am! You know, the other day, I woke up and God asked me if I wanted to be happy or miserable that day. I picked miserable, and I was. So today, I picked happy, and I’m having a wonderful day.

    Talk about setting the tone for his day, and for his life!

    On a related note, I know people who would have been completely weirded out by the man, and therefore would have ignored him or been rude to him. By being friendly in return and open to what he had to say, I ended up grinning the rest of the day. I don’t know if I made his day any better, but he certainly brightened mine.

    Allison Days last blog post..To My Bloggers…

  15. Hey, I’m quotable AND I get to have the last word! You’re too kind!

    And the funny thing about it … these Alien Skin guys are like 10 miles away from me. 🙂

    Dave Navarros last blog post..The Second Law Of Action: Everyday Accountability Gives You Ten Times The Results

  16. James,

    Yes, the police. They have a job to do, it pretty much bites when it’s the hard part of the job, and they get crap for the easy parts like giving tickets, too. That’s heroic. I always treat them well, and teach the little one to do so.

    We’ve seen their heroism in action, and fortunately I’m not one to get tickets, so that makes it a little easier for her to maintain that image of them. I hope it will make a difference in her respect for law enforcement later.


    Postal service folks—oh have I seen them dealing with some bad customers! They should get combat pay. It’s just a package, people…. relax.

    (I’m surprised no Aliens Skins landed here today.)



  17. @Allison: I do that sometimes too, but the only problem is, weirdos seem to gravitate towards me and want to tell me their life stories. Times like that (like being trapped in the line at the DMV) I just take in the story and figure out where I can use it on ER.

    @Dave: Dude! Yes, you are quotable. “Quotable Dave”. Sounds like a talking action figure. Hey, there’s a marketing plan. Make yourself into an action figure that says “Rock your day!”

    But I want the first one. Signed.

    @Kelly: Oh yes, I used to have friends in the postal service. In addition to combat pay, some should be nominated for sainthood.

  18. @Dave: Go check it! Your blog made WP Premium!

    That’s the second time one of our designs made that site. Woo hoo!

  19. Harry,

    Congrats! I have to ask, how did you know? Do you check it now and then or do you somehow have an alert?

  20. @Kelly: I check it regularly, it’s in my feed reader. 😉

  21. Whoa, I didn’t know it had a feed. I just go to have a peek now and then to see what’s cool. Thanks!

  22. I want to comment, but coming late to the game, all I can really say is “ditto to everyone else’s comments!”

    You are a real class act Harry!

    Alex Fayle | Someday Syndromes last blog post..Life’s Not Fair – Get Over It

  23. Thanks Alex. At the end of the day, that’s good to hear.

  24. Such a nice post. I just called my internet provider and thanked them for the uninterrupted service these 4 months now. I could sense a warm feeling from the customer care person also. I’ll write them a mail also.
    I am gonna do this everyday. I’m liking this.
    Thank you, Harry. Have a great day.

  25. @ Prabu – Aw, hey, that’s so cool of you! I bet you made someone smile and feel good, and feelings like that get passed along to the next person that individual deals with.

    Wow. Good for you, seriously.

  26. One of the great things about being at Alien Skin Software is the philosophy of our CEO, Jeff Butterworth. We firmly believe that nice people should be rewarded, while rude discourteous people should get nothing . As some of the previous posts have pointed out, many people today get their way via ranting, rude and demanding behavior and consequently it has become somewhat de rigueur .
    On the day Harry and I talked, I had already been the target of several phone and email attacks by others who had missed the upgrade deadline, many by months rather than mere days like Harry. When I saw his email there was only one thing to do and consequently I gave him the “gentleman’s” discount. We were so pleased with Harry’s post that we linked it in our latest newsletter in hopes it will catch on.

  27. @Jim: I just got the newsletter! I had to do a double take. There I was, casually reading through it when I realized that happy customer was me!

    Thank you for including us in your newsletter and I hope the goodness catches on. You guys have an excellent product and are a shining example of what it takes to make a successful business.


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