Turning Customers into Friends

Growing up in my part of the Canadian Prairies there weren’t any Hutterite colonies in the area. There were some further away. Therefore I was aware of Hutterites but didn’t know that much about them. For those of you who are not familiar with Hutterites, they are a communal people, living on hundreds of scattered colonies throughout the Canadian Prairies and the upper Great Plains of the United States. On average, fifteen families live and work on the typical Hutterite colony, where they farm, raise livestock and produce manufactured goods for sustenance. To learn more about Hutterites check out this website.

Through my current agricultural work I had a recent encounter with a wonderful young Hutterite woman. Many colonies on the Prairies farm and therefore they are customers of my work. This past summer myself and a few coworkers reached out to a colony, who are customers of ours, requesting a tour of their colony. They agreed. So on a hot summer day in July we ventured out to the colony and received a warm welcome and an informative tour.

The farm boss and his daughter were our hosts. At the end of the tour we were invited into their modest colony home. The daughter proceeded to show myself and my female coworkers photos of her fiancé. She excitedly exclaimed that she was engaged to a young man from another colony and getting married in the fall. I distinctly recall her sticking the photo in my face and exclaiming, “Isn’t he handsome?!” It made me smile. She then went on to say that she was sewing all three of her wedding dresses, as well as matching vests for her fiancé. That’s right ladies – THREE wedding dresses. Apparently Hutterites have three days of wedding celebrations and the woman is required to have a different dress for all three days. On the final day – the day of the wedding – the woman is required to wear a blue dress – not white. This was all very interesting to me.

After the tour, we decided to send the farm boss and his daughter a thank you for hosting us on their colony. We gave the daughter a gift certificate to Fabricland so she could buy more fabric for her wedding dresses. Apparently a few times a year the colony women are driven into the big city (only the older men on the colony have a driver’s license) to visit Fabricland to buy the fabric for their clothing.

A few months later, we received a pleasant surprise. The young lady visited us in our big city office and gave us a thank you wedding photo. The small photo shows a happy couple and says: “Thank you for the thoughtful gift.” It was addressed to us, each by name, and signed by the couple. It made me smile.

And I couldn’t help but think that this is a great example of how you turn customers into friends. I’ll remember this young lady and maybe, hopefully, visit her someday on her new colony.

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