A decade ago, I was a very fast man on the banked oval tracks known as velodromes. At one time, velodrome and track bicycle racing were the most popular spectator sports in America and the top racers held the land speed records of the day. Now, there are only a couple dozen velodromes in operation in the U.S. and few people ever watch a track bicycle race outside of some random Olympic viewing. Trust me, it’s quite exciting!

While I only visit my nearby velodrome a few times a year rather than a few times a week these days, I still like to ride around on a fixed gear bicycle. I appreciate their simplicity and serviceability. Recently, I picked up a new (old) French track bike from a guy on Craigslist who had no idea what he had. I’m pretty sure someone had just abandoned this bike in the basement of his rental property.

I brought it home, cleaned it up, and decided to swap on a higher quality rear wheel I had hanging in my garage rafters. This is usually a very simple process, taking a couple 15mm axle nuts and swapping the cog (gear) from one wheel’s hub to the other. Problem? This cog was seized onto the hub of the old wheel. After putting considerable force on it with my chain whip tool and intermittently spraying PB Blaster on it, the damn thing wouldn’t budge. Somehow the “persuader” pipe I had used for extension leverage in these scenarios didn’t make my last move, which resulted in a trip to the local bike shop.

At the shop, they were able to remove the stubborn cog in a few minutes and the service guy walked me to the register. “That will be $17.64,” he said. Hmmm, I thought. It was a bit more than I expected, but certainly worth the time and effort I saved not fighting this with a vice, torch, and other Medieval devices. “Really?” I asked him, wanting to confirm that was the correct amount. The line item in the receipt read FREEWHEEL REMOVAL – and my project was a cog removal. He confirmed. I shook my head, paid and left.

While I was satisfied with the result and accepting of the service, this was a chump change ticket for this shop and cost them $0. They had no parts cost, they had no marketing cost, they had no sales or service expense, and the wrench that spent the two minutes on this work was spinning on a stool before I arrived.

What was the opportunity? For $17.64, this shop could have wowed a customer. The next time I don’t really feel like doing my own work, I’d have been much more likely to take my project in and pay the $85/hr service rate. In addition, I have two young boys ages 4 and 6. In the next 10 years, I will probably buy at minimum 6 bicycles plus helmets, gloves, tubes, tires, chains, lights, locks, and other accessories.

This little bike shop is a high-tech business with multiple locations and detailed customer information. I’m certain my purchase volume or some customer rating metric was on their point of sale screen. These days, every item in a bike shop today can be purchased online for at least 20% less. All that exists to make up this difference in price is the customer experience.

Why am I sharing this story? Because I want you to get this right. When you have an opportunity to wow someone for a small investment or by passing up a paltry sum of revenue, do it. An investment in a customer (and their word of mouth promotion) is a better investment than your great new marketing idea or discount or customer loyalty program. Make sure your entire staff knows this and is empowered to make it happen.

You can either spend a fortune continuously looking for new customers or you can create a loyal following of promoters that will do this work for you (and better than you could ever do it), simply by leaving the nickels and dimes out of your register and in your customers’ pockets. Let them keep the change, and you’ll stack the paper.