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As America starts to gradually reopen, what an extraordinary opportunity to re-boot your business in a fundamental way — by truly putting the customer at the center of your culture. This starts by asking yourself a simple question: Do you have a high-touch culture or a transactional, low-touch culture? That might seem like an odd question to ask during this time of social distancing.

What I’m really talking about is how your team connects with your customers by doing the small, simple things better than anyone else.

Think about your last trip to the DMV to renew your driver’s license. Not exactly a warm and welcoming experience, was it? Is your dealership treating customers that way? Do you know your repeat customers by name? Does your team greet everyone that comes to your dealership with a friendly smile and a warm welcome? Do you make your customers feel special and appreciated?

If so, that is awesome! I suspect your customers recognize this, which is one reason why they keep coming back to you. But if you honestly can’t can answer “yes” to those questions, this is an opportunity to make a change that won’t require a big investment but will pay off in a big way.  Here are three simple ideas:

Say thank you the old-fashioned way. In a low-touch world, everything is email and text messages. It’s fast, easy and so impersonal. News flash: People’s inboxes are overflowing. They probably don’t have time to read one more darn email. I suggest you go “old school” and start sending some good, hand-written thank you notes for certain key customers each month. To guard your time, be selective and just commit to writing 10 letters a month. And start by thanking the folks who stayed with you during the COVID-19 crisis. Let them know in a personal way that you appreciate their loyalty and trust during these uncertain times. Just a hand-written note to say, “Thank you. I appreciate your business,” is powerful. You could even drop in a few discount cards — maybe for 15% off their next oil change or new set of tires, or even one for them and one to “refer a friend.” If you track the redemption rate, I suspect it will be worth your time and effort.

Low-touch doesn’t have to be low-tech. Another idea to reach out to customers in a personal way is it send them a “video thank you.” Just get out your smart phone, record a short, thoughtful video and send it to your customer in an email with a link to the video. (You you can store these on YouTube, Vimeo or a number of services.) The video should be about 20 seconds or so. The script might say, “Hi Joe! I just wanted to say thank you for your business and the trust you showed in us by bringing your vehicle in for service during the COVID-19 crisis. We are so grateful for your business. Also, this email includes a digital coupon for 15% off your next oil change. Take care and we’ll see you soon.” Short, sweet and personal.

Set a high standard. The companies that excel in high-touch customer service — think Nordstrom’s, Chick-fil-A, or Apple — don’t leave it to chance. They don’t just tell their employees to provide good customer service. They define it and train their employees on specific behaviors. These include greeting each customer with a smile and a warm hello, listening closely to their needs, asking about their day, making eye contact and always saying thank you. Simple stuff, right? Don’t assume your employees know this. Tell your employees exactly how you expect them to treat every customer.

Finally, always remember that you set the tone. When you see an employee display great, high-touch customer service, make sure you celebrate it. Even better, provide instant recognition and hand that employee a $10 Starbucks card or another reward in front of the whole team. You may even write that employee an old-fashioned thank you note for taking such good care of your customers.     ■

Dan MacDonald is a freelance writer and former public relations director for Bridgestone Americas Inc. He founded MacDonald Communications, which focuses on public relations and digital marketing. MacDonald can be reached at (615) 681-5381 or dan@maccomm.net, website: www.maccomm.net.

 

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