AKRON (Aug. 4, 2003)—Saying “thank-you” in a timely manner may be the most effective sales/marketing tool tire dealers and service shop operators possess.
That's why you should never underestimate its importance and why it should be second nature for all employees to thank each and every customer.
You may have heard the expression that the only thing common about common sense is that it's quite uncommon. I could say the same thing about thanking customers. Regular Tire Business readers know I have been traveling extensively for many years. They also know I consider tire dealerships and automotive repair shops to be retailers that happen to sell automotive service and maintenance.
In all my travels, I find precious few retailers or business people who offer reasonably sincere-sounding thank-you's. Those who do offer you thanks often make it sound like it's the toughest part of their jobs. Or they don't go out of their way to make it sound special or the least bit personal. That's unfortunate because it may not be nearly as difficult as you think to make an impression with a timely, personal thank-you.
For example, there's a hotel chain that I patronize because I believe it delivers consistently high value and quality to a traveler like me. When business took me to the New Orleans area last year, I happened to check into one of these hotels in Metairie, La. The chipper young man at the front desk surprised me by exclaiming, “Wow, you're a Diamond VIP guest. Thanks so much for all your business, Mr. Marinucci!”
This clerk's greeting floored me because in all the years of patronizing this hotel, this was the first time I ever remembered anyone taking a moment during check-in to acknowledge all the business I had given them (enough to reach this hotel's highest level of “frequent-stay” status). Not only did he recognize the obvious—that I was spending a lot of money with the company—but he also pronounced my name correctly and made me feel extra important among all those other guests checking in at that time.
Interestingly enough, a similar experience occurred several weeks ago on my favorite airline. I was heading from Greenville, S.C., to Houston on a 40-seat commuter jet. The savvy, personable flight attendant took a moment to visit with the handful of frequent fliers on board, personally extending an extra thank-you to each one. “The business climate is very tough these days, very competitive. I'm very grateful for your business, Mr. Marinucci,” she told me.
Believe it, I'll never forget that little visit because it's the first one that had ever occurred in more than eight years of travel on that airline. No question, the woman exceeded expectations simply by making me feel very appreciated. Furthermore, what did it cost her or her employer to spend a few minutes with her guests?
Meanwhile, back at the store...Let's get back to selling automotive service and maintenance.
When was the last time I was in a customer lounge or waiting area and heard an employee make any kind of fuss whatsoever about a customer's long-term patronage? I'd be very hard-pressed to answer you.
What's more, what does it cost a service writer, service manager—or an owner, for that matter—to spend a little time schmoozing with customers who've put big bucks in the store's coffers?
Consider the impact of coming out from behind the service desk, greeting a customer who's waiting for his or her vehicle and offering a little extra thanks for their business. You might say something like, “It's always great to see you, Mrs. Martin. And although we're grateful for all of our customers, we very much appreciate the patronage of the entire Martin family. You're all very special to us.”
Indeed, giving customers calendars, key chain fobs, pens, mouse mats, hard candy and the rest is great. But it's only human nature for people to enjoy hearing their name and hearing a “thank-you” meant directly for them. Try it and let me know the customer's reaction.
Finally, if your store has a particular way of thanking customers, please let us know.