I have always felt that the very best marketing lessons are learned by observing others’ reactions to firms not in my field. As an example, recently I was having a conversation with my twenty eight year old daughter regarding her having some service work done on her vehicle. She was relating to me how nice it was to patronize a business that kept their appointed time. They explained to her what they would be doing and why it was important to have the work performed sooner rather than later. They advised her of the costs before they began working. The vehicle was ready for pickup – freshly washed – at the agreed upon time. Her exact words to me were, “Dad, I hope that he is in business for as long as I own a car”. At her age, hopefully that will be quite some time.
You may be asking yourself what has any of this to do with me or my flooring business? Actually I think that there are many lessons to be gleaned from this story. Let’s see what they may be.
My daughter is in most ways very typical. She is finishing a second college degree. She has the potential to make a nice living in the future, but today every dollar is important to her. She was a female entering a predominantly male oriented business – not always the most comforting of positions. In her mind the prospect of getting taken advantage of was real because she was purchasing both products and services that she didn’t really understand. She had to spend money on very necessary items that were not exactly on the top of her wish list! I don’t know anyone, regardless of income, that enjoys spending money on unplanned repairs or maintenance. This is especially true when money is tight, as it is for many people today.
She is a full time student who is doing both an internship and working a part time job while going to school. Her time is valuable to her. In her eyes 8 am Tuesday means 8 am Tuesday, not sometime between Monday and Wednesday!
All of these challenges would seem to be a recipe for disappointment. Quite the opposite actually occurred. This establishment developed a loyal customer for years to come by recognizing what was important to her. They did this by personalizing their work. They established the “what’s in it for me?” that every good service provider knows to be critical to a customer’s happiness. They did not try to educate her on the products. Trying to convince her that they were going to use the strongest bolts or the slickest grease would have only served to intimidate her.
Knowing that her car would ride better, and that her tires would last longer, was important to her. Understanding how they were going to accomplish this was not. Properly quoting the work, and honoring the quote, was important. Hearing some baffling story about finding additional work that needed doing once the project commenced would not have helped to win her confidence. Having the work done in a timely fashion was critical to her. Hearing some lame excuse about being shorthanded surely wouldn’t have won her over.
I feel that the real key to this experience for her though was having a clean car to drive away. This was an unexpected treat. It made her smile. It made her tell this story to anyone who would listen. And it cost the service garage a very few dollars to accomplish.
Think of the dollars that the average business spends on advertising trying to attract a new customer. Now think of the relatively few dollars that it took to keep a satisfied client. Many would think of the car wash as an added cost. On the contrary, this was a very wise use of marketing dollars indeed.
Reflect on how your most recent installations were performed. Was this a purchase that the customer had anticipated, or was it made unexpectedly? Were they performed in a timely fashion? Were they on budget? Did you have the customer’s trust? And most importantly, what condition was the jobsite left in? Did it cause a joyful reaction or something less? Remember that your installers’ last actions become your customers’ first impression. Did they cause an unexpected smile?
Always encourage you employees to be constantly aware of how they are being treated when spending their personal money. By paying careful attention to the actions of others, your staff will begin building advocates of your business, not just a customer list. Remember that reorders are so much more enjoyable, and profitable, for all involved.
PS: I found this article while looking through the archives recently. It was originally written in 2007 and I thought that a follow up would be interesting. My daughter is now a 40 year old woman with advanced degrees in the neo-natal health care field. Today she makes a fifty mile round trip from a neighboring town to this same establishment to have a much nicer car serviced – usually with a plate of homemade cookies for the mechanics in the seat beside her - all because of receiving good customer service skills and a car wash many years ago. Little things meant a lot in 2007, and they still do today. She is obviously a lifetime customer of this repair facility. What little things are you doing to create lifetime customers for your business?