Our weekly Tuesday business tips over the past month have focused on customer experience. It is as important an ingredient to your shop’s success as anything else you can do. To wrap this series up, we’ll focus on follow up and how staying in touch with your customers impacts your relationship with them and how they feel about your shop. [level-members]
A few years ago, my wife bought a brand-new Mini Cooper convertible. (Bright red, but it was not a mid-life crisis. I repeat – it was not a mid-life crisis …) Almost as soon as we got it home, we began getting mail and email from Mini. The salesperson at the dealership also chimed in – and she’s still great about staying in touch without being pushy more than 4 years later – but mostly it was Mini, the car company itself, who emailed about ways to use their website or about local “Mini motoring” clubs or other fun things. They also sent stuff in the mail – a smiley face thingie for the top of the antenna, a stencil to make a “Mini Parking Only” sign for your garage, and so on.
This went on for months, not weeks, and it solidified their brand and reputation as a fun, quirky company building cars with personality. And that helps them not only strengthen the great feeling we have toward the brand – it helps that the car is easy to love, too – but it’s also unexpected and pleasant in a way that had us talking about the experience to friends and neighbors. (It also helps them charge a premium. Minis are relatively inexpensive in comparison to cars and SUVs in general, but they command prices that are well above other compact cars similarly equipped.)
How does this relate to you and your shop? The same concepts can and should be applied to your customer relationships. If you can remember each of your regulars and what they’ve bought well enough to ask them how they liked a particular bottle the next time they’re in, great. Make a point of using that information to wow them. If you can’t keep all of that in your head, you still need to wow them. This is where a system comes in. But first, how do you gather the info you need to make a system work?
Pay attention and get involved. Interact closely enough with your customers to know their names and perhaps even get their email addresses or phone numbers. Imagine if you called a customer few days after they purchase something notable – or even just new – to ask how they liked it, what they ate along with it, etc. Talk about unexpected! You will have won a fan whether they liked the wine or not. (And most especially if they didn’t like it.)
If you can discretely call that information up the next time they’re in, and casually remark that “since you liked that Italian red you tried when you were in last month, you should try …” Now you’re not just selling wine. You’re not even selling to them. You’re paying attention to their preferences and guiding them in the right direction.
In the business-to-business world, this is the moment where a firm makes the leap from vendor to trusted advisor. It’s a hackneyed concept at this point, but there’s still underlying truths. Vendors compete on price and convenience and being in the right place at the right time. Trusted advisors are sought out for guidance to help not only fulfill a need, but to help define what that need really is. Clearly, gaining your clients’ trust has value.
So the real lesson here is to engage with your customers and be organized about the information you gather. Create profiles, stay in touch with folks both in a general way – social media, email marketing – but also on a personal level, as when they come in every May for a bottle of bubbly to celebrate their anniversary. Maybe an email a week or two ahead with a suggestion.
Actually, the real lesson is in thinking from your customers’ perspective – it’s not about what you’re selling, but about why they’re buying.