What's in a name? For tire dealers who treat people's names with care and respect, there's a big boost in customer loyalty and respect. Plus, playing the name game effectively is one promotional program that costs dealers nothing!
Basically, a tire dealership is a retail sales operation much like the dry cleaners, burger stand, quick-copy center or supermarket. Consumers roll in, buy what they need or want and leave.
You needn't be a marketing guru conducting massive surveys to recognize most retailers share one trait: impersonal service.
I'll restate something I've said before in this column. In a world dominated by lackluster, impersonal service, all dealers have to do to distinguish themselves from the competition is provide decent, reasonably personal service.
Politely asking for a name and calling customers by name should be the cornerstone of that personal service.
In fact, the more I travel and the more businesses I visit, the more convinced I am that retailers are losing the ``name game.''
I realized I usually remember businesses and places where people addressed me by name. They stand out in my mind-and that of colleagues working with me-because they attempted to pronounce our names, asked for the correct pronunciation and then called us by name.
What's more, we all sensed the same basic emotions: ``Wow, we're important because they called us by name. Boy, it was courteous of them to learn how to say the names correctly-no one else ever does that!''
In retrospect, by winning the name game, these retailers accomplished two major goals: First, they created a warmer, more-positive selling situation. Second, they instantly made themselves more memorable than other businesses.
On the other hand, retailers doing their usual impersonal brand of business tend to fade from memory. For example, I know I ate breakfast at a diner in Galveston, Texas, but I'll be darned if I can tell you anything else about that establishment.
How important is winning the name game? In one major city, a bank that's trying to reverse a reputation for rude, indifferent service now requires tellers to address each customer by name at least once per transaction.
Customers who catch a teller failing to address them by name win a prize.
The irony of competing in the name game is that it's one of the easiest-sounding plans but one of the toughest to implement. If mastering names was so easy, every retailer would have done it already. But they haven't.
Your goal should be to patiently coach all sales and service personnel to instinctively ask for every customer's name, repeat the name, and then always address that customer by name.
Brace yourself, because working the name game will quickly reveal who in your shop is and who isn't people friendly.
You'll discover some self-absorbed workers have never been asked to relate to customers before, so the name exercise may seem painfully awkward for them at first. I've seen employees literally pause before greeting people because they're trying to recall what the boss told them to do!
I've worked the service desk, so I know that sooner or later you need to get a name for a work order or warranty form. Why not get that name and get it right up front?
When the name appears to be a tongue-twister, it only takes a moment to say, ``Sir, did I pronounce that correctly?'' Or, ``Pardon me, how do you pronounce your name?''
Many consumers are so used to hearing their names mispronounced they take it in stride. Others quietly suffer every time a hotel clerk, service writer or restaurant hostess butchers their name.
Nothing is nearer and dearer to us than our names. That's why you can make that consumer's transaction so memorable and pleasant by saying his name-and saying it correctly.
Sales and marketing experts continually carp that exceeding expectations is critical to winning and keeping customers. When your name is almost always mispronounced, your expectations for a proper pronunciation are very low. Consequently, the service person who makes the effort to get the name right instantly exceeds expectations by a mile.
Encourage service personnel to use creative memory tools on tough names. For example, some of the best name-gamers I know routinely spell tough names phonetically on the person's work order or business card.
Finally, remember that winning the name game builds a positive sales atmosphere and consumer trust another way. Consumers are likely to think, ``If these people are this serious about respecting my name, they're probably equally serious about fixing my car honestly and properly.''
O.K., practice: Marr-anoo-chee. See how easy that was?