Peak Your Profits: Customer commitment makes the difference

Jeff Blackman

Some businesspeople forget the customer is your reason for being in business. This principle was never forgotten at Quill.

Quill became North America’s leading business-to-business, direct marketers of office supplies, business furniture and technology products. It was located in Lincolnshire, Illinois, (a northern Chicago suburb), and it achieved tremendous growth and success since their start in 1956.

Office supplies

Quill’s founder and president, Jack Miller, began the business with a phone in his father’s chicken store and a $2,000 loan from his father-in-law. By 1998, this privately held company had annual sales in excess of $630 million dollars. (In May, 1998, Quill was sold to Staples for $685 million dollars!)

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jack Miller since 1987. And over the years, have also had the opportunity to chat with him numerous times; at his office, at his home, or during an interview for my radio talk-show.

Jack and his brothers Harvey and Arnold identified customer commitment as one of the keys to Quill’s incredible track record. Jack’s office was a testament to this basic business tenet and to his success. He was surrounded by “ideas!” On countless engraved wooden plaques were quotes and slogans focusing on excellence, selling, commitment and service. One declared, “We’re happy, but not satisfied!”

Quill’s dedication to customers was evident when walking through their corporate headquarters, where large framed posters proclaimed, The Quill Customers’ Bill of Rights. It was first published in 1970 when Quill had 32 employees. It was restated, approved and reprinted on April 1, 1987, when Quill had grown to more than 850 employees. It’s still powerful, what we can learn and apply today about service — from a document created almost 50 years ago, by a small company. Here is …

The Quill Customers’ Bill of Rights

The undersigned officers and the more than 850 employees of Quill Corporation express a desire to clearly state the principles and ideals which guide all of us at Quill in our relationship with our customers.
We feel this unusual step is necessary at this time because we find ourselves when we are customers, both as individuals and as a company, frequently dissatisfied with the way we are treated. Disinterest, discourteousness, bad service, late deliveries and just plain bad manners are too common.
We can’t tell others how to run their businesses (except by not buying from them.) But we can and will run Quill as we feel a business should be run. Therefore, the following is a list of what we consider are the inalienable rights of our customers. We expect to be held to account whenever we deny any of these rights to any customer.

  1. As a customer you are entitled to be treated like a real, individual, feeling, human being, with friendliness, honesty and respect.
  2. As a customer, you are entitled to full value for your money. When you buy a product you should feel assured that it was a good buy and that the product is exactly as it was represented to be.
  3. As a customer, you are entitled to a complete guarantee of satisfaction. This is especially true when you buy the product sight unseen through the mail or over the phone.
  4. As a customer, you are entitled to fast delivery. Unless otherwise indicated, the product should be shipped within 8 to 32 hours. In the event of a delay, you are entitled to immediate notification, along with an honest estimate of expected shipping date.
  5. As a customer, you are entitled to speedy, courteous, knowledgeable answers on inquiries. You are entitled to all the help we can give in finding exactly the product or information needed.
  6. As a customer, you are entitled to the privilege of being an individual and of dealing with individuals. If there is a question on your account, you are entitled to talk with or correspond with another individual so the question can be resolved immediately on the most mutually satisfactory basis possible.
  7. As a customer, you are entitled to be treated exactly as we want to be treated when we are someone else’s customer.

How will you create the equivalent of a Bill of Rights for your company and customers?

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Jeff Blackman is a Hall of Fame speaker, author, success coach, broadcaster and lawyer. His clients call him a “business-growth specialist.” If you hire speakers, contact Jeff at 847-998-0688 or And visit to learn more about his other business-growth tools and to subscribe to Jeff’s free e-letter, The Results Report. Jeff’s books include “Stop Whining! Start Selling!” (an Amazon Bestseller) and the revised 4th edition of the best-selling “Peak Your Profits.” You can also stay connected with Jeff via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter: @BlackmanResults.