Little things to enhance your customer service – and your bottom line

Graham McGregor is a marketing adviser. You can get his free marketing guide ‘The Plan B Sales Solution’ at

One of my favourite entrepreneurs is Derek Sivers.

He started an online business called CD Baby in 1997. CD Baby sold music for independent musicians.

He did some very simple things in CD Baby and it became wildly successful. (Sivers sold CD Baby in 2008 for US$22 million.)

You can read the full story about CD Baby in his wonderful book, Anything You Want – 40 Lessons for a new kind of entrepreneur.

* How to get positive media publicity
* Where is your ‘acres of diamonds’ marketing niche?
* Simple steps to follow through and make your business unforgettable

I really like this book because it’s packed full of practical ideas. And best of all, you can read the whole book in less than an hour.

Here is a small sample of one of the ideas in Anything You Want. It’s about how little things make all the difference.

Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby.

Derek Sivers/Wikipedia

Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby.

Little things make all the difference

“If you find even the smallest way to make people smile, they’ll remember you more for that smile than for all your other fancy business-model stuff.

Here are some things that made a huge difference on the CD Baby website:

Because we shipped FedEx at 5pm each day, customers would often call and ask, “What time is it there? Do I still have time to get it sent today?”

So I added two little lines of programming code that counted how many hours and minutes remained until 5pm and then showed the result by the shipping options. “You have 5 hours, 18 minutes until our next FedEx shipment.”

Customers loved this.

We answered our phone within two rings, always – 7am to 10pm, seven days a week. Phones were everywhere, so even if the customer service rep was busy, someone in the warehouse could pick up. All anyone had to do was say “CD Baby!”

Customers loved this.

Someone actually picking up the phone at a company is so rare that musicians would often tell me later at conferences that it was the main reason they decided to go with CD Baby – they could always talk to a real person immediately.

All employees knew that as long as we weren’t completely swamped, they should take a minute and get to know the caller a bit. Ask about her music. Ask how it’s going. Yes, it would lead to 20-minute conversations sometimes, but those people became lifelong fans.

Every outgoing email has a “From:” name, right?

Why not use that to make people smile, too? With one line of code, I made it so that every outgoing email customised the “From:” field to be “CD Baby loves {firstname}.”

So if the customer’s name was Susan, every email she got from us would say it was from “CD Baby loves Susan”.

Customers loved this.

Sometimes, after we had done the 45 minutes of work to add a new album to the store, the musician would change his mind and ask us to do it over again with a different album cover or different audio clips.

Marketing adviser Graham McGregor.


Marketing adviser Graham McGregor.

I wanted to say yes, but let him know that this was really hard to do, so I made a policy that made us both smile: “We’ll do anything for a pizza.” If you needed a big special favour, we’d give you the number of our local pizza delivery place.

If you bought us a pizza, we’d do any favour you wanted. When we’d tell people about this on the phone, they’d often laugh, not believing we were serious. But we’d get a pizza every few weeks. I’d often hear from musicians later that this was the moment they fell in love with us.

At the end of each order, the last page of the website would ask: “Where did you hear of this artist? We’ll pass them any message you write here.”

Customers would often take the time to write things like, “Heard your song on WBEZ radio last night. Searched the web. Found it here. I’d love to have you play at our school!”

The musicians absolutely loved getting this information, and it always led to the customer and musician getting in touch directly.

This is something that big stores like Amazon would never do.

Also, at the end of each order there was a box that would ask, “Any special requests?” One time, someone said, “I’d love some cinnamon gum.” Since one of the guys in the warehouse was going to the store anyway, he picked up some cinnamon gum and included it in the package.

One time, someone said, “If you could include a small, rubber squid, I would appreciate it. If this is unobtainable, a real squid would do.” Just by chance, a customer from Korea had sent us a packaged fillet of squid. So the shipping guys included it in the box with the other customer’s CDs.

Even if you want to be big someday, remember that you never need to act like a big, boring company.

Over 10 years, it seemed like every time someone raved about how much he loved CD Baby, it was because of one of these little fun human touches.”

I love what Sivers did at CD Baby.

It’s a great example that little things can make all the difference in any business.

Take action

What “little things that make a big difference” could you experiment with in your own business?

Read More: Little things to enhance your customer service – and your bottom line

2022-09-19 10:00:00

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