Every tire store employee has seen it many times. You have a regular customer (let’s call him Bob) who you feel is like family. You think he is loyal enough to give you all of his business. Then it happens. One day you are changing his oil and rotating his tires, and your service tech comes to you to let you know Bob had already purchased, tires, brakes or another product/service from a big box store down the road from you.
What happened? Was it price? Or was it that you failed to be intentional in your customer engagement process with Bob? Or did you fail to measure on a regular interval the loyalty of Bob to your business?
Is customer loyalty possible? Yes. Let’s look at what defines the “loyal customer.”
- They are likely to send you customers on a regular basis.
- They are likely to buy from you as long as they have a need.
- Most are not actively looking for another supplier.
- They are not swayed by a sales pitch from any of your competitors.
- They are always open to recommendations for other products and services you offer.
- Some are likely to give you feedback on how you can improve.
- They trust you and forgive you even when you don’t get it right.
Of course all of the above sound good, but when applied to all the moving parts in a retail tire store, the dream of creating loyal customers can sometimes elude us. Let’s break down each of them and define what must happen in these challenging times of what I call the “Customer Experience Process.”
They are likely to send you customers on a regular basis. If this is not happening in your store, you are most likely falling short on how you are making Bob feel when he visits your store even for a routine service. One of the biggest challenges is to be intentional about making Bob feel special every time he comes to your store.
They are likely to buy from you as long as they have a need. I have seen many stores send as many sales dollars down the road as they actually put into the cash drawer because the customer isn’t made aware of the need. How does this happen? Either the cars are not inspected, or they are not inspected properly.
This can also happen if the results of a proper inspection are presented in a way that causes Bob to lose trust in the business.
Most are not actively looking for another supplier. Many sales associates assume this and as a result, fail to engage a loyal customer. When engaging a loyal customer like Bob, you must make him feel the same way you make a customer who is a relatively new customer.
It has been said that trust is earned slowly, like water dripping into a bucket, but lost suddenly, like dumping the water out of the bucket all at once. I have witnessed this when a dealer fails to give a customer like Bob something he would typically give a newer customer. When Bob feels like he is not appreciated as much as he used to be, and sees an ad from a big box store….
They are not swayed by a sales pitch from any of your competitors. Some tire retailers can be afraid of competitors. Some of your loyal customers are being swayed with fancy ads, gimmicks, etc.
We recently engaged a customer on behalf of a dealer in the Atlanta metro area and were able to earn the customer’s loyalty on the phone against a “Buy 3 get one FREE” tire offer. We were about $91 more than the competition but made the potential customer “feel” the value of doing business with an independent.
They are always open to recommendations for other products and services you offer. This can be true as long as you continue to build trust. Remember the bucket issue? If the bucket is full, then start filling another bucket. If you continue to build trust with your loyal customers and connect with them often, they will continue to be loyal.
Some are likely to give you feedback on how you can improve. Loyal customers like Bob are always the best ones to ask to find out how to get better. Unfortunately, many are never asked either in person or in an electronic survey (highly recommended).
They trust you and will forgive you even when you don’t get it right. Mistakes happen. As long as you have maintained trust with your customers, you can usually fix problems and retain their loyalty. The challenge many dealers face is making sure they fix the problem in a similar fashion to the way they would fix it for a new customer, because Bob will notice. This is typically when he can be wooed away by your competitor.
Let’s face it, finding a customer should be harder than keeping a customer. Make sure you have a defined Customer Experience Process for engaging all of them. This will not only build trust with customers like Bob, but also encourage Bob to send you even more customers, who will send you even more customers….