Remember this: customers are human, like you and like everyone else. Your customers always avoid things or situations that cause them pain and they are attracted toward those things or situations that give them pleasure.
If you want customers to be happy with you and your detail service, there are three simple things they must believe about you and your detail business:
- That you are honest;
- That your detail services are customized and designed especially for them and their vehicle; and
- That you truly appreciate them and their business.
If a customer believes you lack integrity, you won’t get their business. How does the customer perceive you have integrity?
- You are consistent providing the same quality detail service every time;
- You are reliable;
- You always tell the truth; and
- You can be trusted.
Always do what you promise. This is part of being reliable. If you promise the vehicle will be done at a certain time, you must do whatever it takes to be sure it is done when you promised, no excuses. The safest approach is always to under-promise and over-deliver.
Customers are smart and they appreciate it if you resist the temptation to exaggerate or “fudge” the facts. Even bad news is better received than a lie later discovered. For example, if you damage the car during the detail process, call them immediately explaining the situation and how you plan to fix it.
Consider how a customer would perceive you and your business if they knew you paid employees under the table or that you asked to be paid in cash to avoid taxes. Allowing these kinds of activities in your business will make customers conclude that you, as a business owner, think nothing wrong with lying, cheating and stealing. Would you do business with someone you knew lied and cheated?
Justifying these practices by saying “everyone else does it” means you are not extraordinary; rather you are average. Average is not good enough for your customers because they want to do business with the best.
Customized detail & services
Each customer wants to feel the detail service they purchase from you is designed for him and his vehicle. This means they want to believe your detail service is the best possible solution to their problem and the most cost effective available.
They want to know that you have total and complete insight into their needs, wants and desires. If you don’t give them this feeling, your competition will.
Never forget this fact: your customers are exactly like you. They always do what they believe is best for them. They don’t care about you or what you do for your other customers, they only care about themselves. They are always right, and they buy from the detail business that serves them best. Customers, like you, are self-centered, demanding, opportunistic and disloyal.
Customers want to feel appreciated. When a customer feels you don’t appreciate them, they become uncomfortable because they feel they don’t have any leverage over you. On the other hand, when you express appreciation, they have a feeling of control because now they have something you value — their business.
You can express appreciation to customers by telling them you enjoy and look forward to serving them. Now they know you value their future business. Now they feel in control because they have something they can take away from you if they wish. They can decide not to purchase your detail services in the future.
This gives them leverage over you, motivating you to give them your very best.
Put your customers in “Pleasantville” and you’ll knock the socks off the competition. You can do it if you have:
- Your detail service is customized for them; and
- You truly appreciate their business.
Any one or two of these three requirements by themselves is not enough to make your customers happy. For example, if you have integrity and you always express your appreciation to your customers, they will not be happy if they perceive that your detail service is not exactly what they want or need.
Remember, if you don’t have a plan to make and keep your customers happy, your competition does.
There are some specific things you can do to help your customers on their way to “Pleasantville:”
First, generate a sense of high integrity in all the people who work for you. Instruct them verbally, in writing and especially by example that integrity is the foundation of your business.
Second, do your best to give your customers exactly what they want. The easiest way to do this is to ask them what they want and then listen to them. Use every opportunity to ask customers both verbally and with survey cards, to express their feelings about your detail service.
The best way to achieve this understanding is to ask the customer questions and then listen to their answers with empathy and genuine interest. Use it to find out the customer’s real needs and get on top of the relationship with the customer. If you’re not asking your customers exactly what they want, you can be sure the competition is.
Third, be committed to always expressing your appreciation to your customers. For example, write each of them a thank-you note. Thank them for their business and encourage them to contact you if they have any questions or concerns about your detail service.
The thank-you note does not need to be groveling or overdone. It can be a simple expression of your genuine appreciation. Customers will be so pleased with your expressions of gratitude they will refer you to their friends and relatives indicating how much they like you and your business.
Use every opportunity to thank your customers for their business and thank walk-ins or callers for their interest in your detail service. Even if they don’t buy immediately, they will buy later if you impress them.
Keeping them in Pleasantville
Suppose you have provided all three happiness requirements and your customers are resting securely in Pleasantville. How do you make them stay there? Once customers are happy with you and your business, you can keep them happy by giving them unexpected little rewards. These rewards should be delivered at random points in time and should come as a complete surprise to the customer.
Stay within ethical bounds. Rewards could include special discounts, like free washes, small gifts (e.g. flowers), or free upgrades. There are many little things you can do for your best customers from time to time that will cost you very little. These small rewards retain your best customers, continue buying from you, and recommending your business to others.
R.L. “Bud” Abraham is president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, Portland, OR, and a nearly 40-year member of the car-care industry. He is also a member of the International Carwash Association, Western Carwash Association Board of Directors and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org