Extra efforts can mean customer retention


It’s often said these days that customer loyalty is long gone amid big box stores, online buying and impersonal sales clerks. But is it? Not necessarily.

I was going fishing last week so I called ahead to the Harborage Hi & Dry in St. Petersburg to have my boat launched. It was floating dockside when I arrived and it looking particularly clean. As I was loading gear one of the employees came over and said: “I just wanted you to know your boat seemed a little dusty this morning so I gave it a quick wash down for you.” To say I was impressed and pleased is an understatement.

It reminded me of something I’d heard long ago. Namely, the more a company’s employees go that extra mile to serve its customers, the more satisfied those customers will be. Moreover, satisfied customers become loyal customers and, in these tough times for our industry, customer retention should be among every dealer’s highest priorities.

Here are two critical points in this example. First, finding ways to go beyond a customer’s expectations must be part of the dealership’s culture. For example, every employee should be required to examine his job to determine how he can provide more value to customers in his department. A great team-building exercise might be to ask each employee to write down how he adds value (go the extra mile) for his customers and share them in a team meeting. Employees need to know how critical customer retention is to the dealership’s continued success.

Second, and very important, make sure the customers know what employees have done for them. Sure, I observed my boat looked clean. But until the employee let me know he’d washed it down, I admit I just assumed that’s the way I left it. Developing ways to let customers know what’s been done for them is central. It can be as easy as a card left on the boat on which an employee writes: “Washed off your boat for you. Have a great day!” Or, itemize on a customer’s invoice any extra free service you’ve given.

For internal purposes, ask employees to carry a pocket-sized note pad and jot down anything they did that they believe can help retain a customer. Then, from time-to-time, these notes can be shared at a meeting and recognized by all employees.

Just doing what’s expected is not enough to build customer loyalty these days. The extra efforts of all employees, however, can be the measure of success in your quest to retain customers.