I have emphasized many times that exceeding expectations creates a positive, memorable buying experience.
From Starbucks Coffee to Nordstrom's department stores, savvy marketers are trying to make spending money a pleasant experience. Because many readers have asked me what defines a good buying experience, I'll describe one that occurred recently.
I was changing the oil in my car when I noticed the tires were due for replacement. I try to keep excellent records on our vehicles. However I couldn't find the paperwork on this existing set of tires in the car's file folder. (I later discovered I'd put it in the wrong folder.) Although we live in a computerized world, you never know if a business has stored your records on its computer system. I've been disappointed more times than I care to remember.
The first way a local tire dealership exceeded my expectations was that when I telephoned it, salesman Tony cheerfully searched his customer database for me. He then verified that my wife had bought those tires at his location almost four years ago. The second way he exceeded expectations was noting that he had in our customer file the car's mileage at the time of the last tire purchase.
Tony may not have realized it at the time I asked for it, but more than anything else that tidbit closed the sale for the next set of tires. I quickly did the math and realized the worn tires had gone 56,000 miles. I don't know about you, readers, but 56K on a set of all-season radials sounds pretty good to me. The tires performed well and lasted a long time, so why change brands now?
The third way Tony exceeded expectations was that he listened to me and didn't try to hustle me the ``flavor of the month'' in tires. I asked him which tire in the current crop was equivalent to or most like my existing tires. He explained that a product I'll call the ``Whizbang''-which the tire maker had released earlier this year-did everything as well as the existing tires. But in several areas, the new Whizbang performed even better and the dealership's experience with this model tire was very positive. So an updated model in the same brand sounded good to me.
This salesman met expectations three ways. He had the quote ready (74 bucks apiece) as well as an ``out-the-door'' price that included mounting, balancing, disposal fee, etc. He confirmed that his technicians tighten wheel nuts with a torque wrench. When I delivered the car that afternoon, they did indeed do the job while I waited.
Tony also exceeded expectations by NOT second-guessing my investment in premium tires on a 1988 car with nearly 300,000 miles on it. As far as I'm concerned, that original engine is almost broken in, and I'm driving this car indefinitely. I hate it when people second-guess me, especially ones who aren't in a position to pass judgment.
When I approached the counter of this dealership, Tony exceeded expectations again by asking, ``You're Dan, right?'' Like most people, I like hearing my name. This guy cheerfully took the initiative in greeting me before I said a word. (Did he recognize me from the picture on this column? I don't know or care-he still took the initiative to greet me, which doesn't happen often enough in any retail sales situation.)
This salesman exceeded expectations yet again when I asked to see the longest valve stems the dealership offered. I always request long valve stems because I'm basically lazy and the longer ones are easier to reach. Tony honored this request without complaint.
It's my habit to put one of those Petoskey Plastics' Slip-n-Grip seat covers, which I've described in a previous column, on the driver's seat before I hand my car to a technician I don't know. When I explained this to Tony, he didn't treat me like some weirdo.
Tony wrapped up the sale by giving me a very informative folder of material on my tires and general tire care. Unbelievably, his business card wasn't in it. When I requested a business card, he hastily wrote ``Tony'' on one of the dealership's nameless cards and handed it to me.
Get with the program, Mr. Tire Dealer! Realize that smart, competent professionals actually have professional-looking business cards with their own names on them. To me, a nameless business card says many things-all of them negative. Don't disrespect Tony's good work by stiffing him on a business card.