When I purchased my last car three years ago, the salesman handed me a promotional keychainalong with the key to my new minivan.The simple personalized leather keychain was embossed with the name and phone number of the dealership. I put the new keychain onto my existing one and have carried it ever since. It was small as promotional giveaways go. But that little automotive promotional giveaway, plus the excellent customer service that I received at the dealership made an indelible impression on me.
In fact, the promotional giveaway only helped to solidify the relationship between me and my car dealership. I am certain the promotional keychain would have been far less meaningful if I hadn't experienced such attentive customer service. I probably would have still attached it to my own keychain. I just don't know that I'd have as positive a feeling from that reminder of my car-buying experience if I'd been treated poorly.
My relationship with my car dealership has continued to this day. Someone from the service department phones me regularly to remind me that it's time for an oil change (good thing too, I'm not so attuned to the needs of my van) or simply to ask how the van has been running. They are courteous and caring, and even though I know that getting a sale is their ultimate motive, I still can't help but appreciate true customer service. They never sound phony when they call. Instead they seem to be genuinely interested in my well-being and have never pressured me to buy something or spend more money that I can afford.
It could have been a promotional keychain or a custom license-plate holder or a hitch cover. The type of automotive promotional giveaway wouldn't have mattered. The point is that they recognized that a promotional giveaway is meaningless without good customer service.
Because of my positive experience with this dealership I will likely go to them again the next time I purchase another vehicle. They may not have realized it, but the dealership's practice of distributing automotive promotional giveaways along with providing excellent service doubled their chances of having me remember the name of that business.
The positive feeling that I came away with after I signed the papers and drove home my new van may or may not have made me remember the name. But the genuine interest that they took in me paved the way for me to be receptive to the free gift. Once they handed me that keychain, the name of that business was burned into my brain. (Of course, those periodic telephone calls don't hurt either.)
Promotional giveaways alone will pique a potential customer's interest. They may draw someone to patronize a business once. A promotional giveaway may even lead to a sale. But repeat business and loyal customers are made with the combination of thoughtful promotional giveaways and a true desire to provide attentive customer service. Whether it's a car dealership, mortgage broker, financial planner, housecleaning service or dog walker, give me great service and a free gift and you'll have a loyal customer for life.
Ask personal questions
Get to know what makes your customers tick by asking meaningful questions.
I recommend: Not asking their age or weight. Instead, ask what the customer is looking for and why. Who is it for? How will it be used? What prompted him or her to want to make this purchase? Don't try to sell the customer anything until you really understand what it is he or she is looking for. Trying to push products or services that the customer didn't come looking for is only annoying and inspires mistrust and skepticism about whether you want to meet his or her needs or you just want the customer's cash.
Acknowledge repeat customers
People love to know that you remember them.
I recommend: Working hard at remembering names and faces. This comes easier to some than to others, but anyone can do it with practice and attentiveness. The bulk of your business will probably come from repeat customers, not first time sales. So when someone comes back to see you again, acknowledge that you remember them. A simple "Welcome back! How did that blender work out for you?" is all you need to say to make the customer feel that his business is important to you.
Treat your customers the way you'd want to be treatedEvaluate your interactions with your customers.
I recommend: Remembering the Golden Rule.
Sounds simple, doesn't it? Yet even the most experienced sales or business person may find him or herself falling into bad habits. Always put yourself in your customer's place. Would you want to be handed a line? Would you want to be pushed to buy things you aren't looking for? Always ask yourself, "Am I really interested in what this customer needs and wants?"
Seal the deal with a handshake
Physical contact, no matter how slight, is a powerful communicator.
I recommend: Always closing your transactions (even those that don't result in sales) with a handshake if possible.
Customers are twice as likely to remember the encounter if you include a simple physical gesture, especially if you really provided great service.