How to Keep in Touch with Your CustomersPosted 2/15/2006
Unless you are very lucky and don't have competition, you need to keep in touch with your customers. As soon as your competitors can, they are going to take your customers from you. In this day and age of uncertainty, you can no longer count on customer loyalty. You have to keep your name in front of your customers so they aren't tempted to "try out" your competitor who is trying to lure them in with amazing specials, convenience and fancy coffees.
Even the quick lubes are in hot and heavy competition. They are offering more and more services to outdo each other. The latest convenience to "outdo" the competition is letting you stay in your car while your oil is changed.
What is a shop to do to stay ahead? Be vigilant. Complacency will put you out of business. Here are some suggestions to keep your customers loyal to you:
Appreciate Your Customers - Really
As a shop owner, you of course realize the value of a customer ... but do your employees? Have you been in a store recently? Did the person taking your hard-earned cash seem genuinely appreciative that you chose them to do business with? Did they say thank you sincerely or just mumble it as a habit? Did they say thank you at all? Make sure your frontline employees understand the importance of each and every customer and that they show sincere appreciation.
Don't Hide the Technician
When your customers come in to pick up their vehicles, have the technician spare a moment to greet the customer, explain the work that was done and thank them for their business.
Encourage repeat business with frequent-buyer cards.
Do like the dentists do. Pre-set your customer's next appointment. It is so easy to do! Give the customer a small card with the next "service due" appointment. Tell them you will call them ahead to make sure the time is still convenient. It works for the dentist, and it will work for you!
How do you know how your shop measures up and is meeting the needs of your customers? Ask them! Most won't tell you if they aren't happy...but they will tell others. Ask them what you are doing right and what could be improved. This will let your customers know you appreciate and value their business.
Keep in touch by a quarterly newsletter, letting your customers know about all of the services you offer. A reminder card program is also an excellent way to keep in touch and don't forget a thank you card or telephone call after service has been performed. This goes a long way and is much more meaningful than a radio, television or newspaper ad.
Training the Staff
You could spend a great deal of money in advertising, give your technicians certification training and still lose the customer because your frontline staff doesn't have a clue how to deal with customers. Help them by doing the following:
This is a real concern and could be the difference between you getting and keeping business. Let me relate a personal experience I had. I had a customer who was new in business and wanted to use a ZIP code list to get customers. I explained that it takes a while to generate business from a ZIP code list and you may need to keep it up for a while before you get a "bite." After one mailing, this customer called me and proceeded to complain that he wasn't getting the business he felt he should be getting from his direct mail. He was genuinely angry. I told him I would do a little research on a "catchy" offer and get back with him although the first offer I suggested should have done the trick. I went back to the drawing board, came up with another great offer idea and called him back. The telephone rang and rang. I tried again later with the same result. After the third time, I sent him a fax and told him the following:
Always have someone answer your telephone. I tried calling three times and it just rang and rang. If a prospective customer receives a mailer and calls and gets no answer, especially someone who has never used you before, they will go elsewhere! It does not inspire confidence when all you get at a business is a ringing telephone during business hours. You can have the greatest offer in the world but if the telephone isn't answered you won't get the opportunity to get the sale.
I also recommended an answering machine - at the very least - to state hours of operation, that each call is important and that as soon as you are finished helping another customer you will call back right away. It is at least a gesture of goodwill.
Some General Guidelines:
Don't Let Your Staff Be Guilty of the Following:
Customer complaints can put your staff on the defensive. That is a human reaction. Help your staff rise above that by appreciating someone taking the time to complain. That usually means they still want to do business with you. Too many times customers don't complain to you, but to others, and then quietly take their business elsewhere. When a customer complains, you have an opportunity to fix the situation and keep the customer's business.
The summation is easy: Treat others the way you want to be treated, then exceed that. That is how to stay in touch and keep them coming back for more!
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