A small gesture can get a big return


Ever wonder why at some restaurants you get a piece of candy with your check? It’s a fact that restaurant servers who leave a piece of candy with the check will get a bigger tip than those who don’t. Moreover, according to studies reported in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, if two pieces of candy are left, the tip is even more! 

Researchers admit they’re not sure why candy equates to bigger tips. But they have concluded that (1) big smiles; (2) squatting to eye level during the initial introduction and (3) light touching of customers will result in bigger tips, too. And, some reportedly speculate that offering “unexpected food treats” has the same effect because it seems to increase the “perceived friendliness” of the server.

There’s also other data that suggests another reason. It involves the age-old, simple principle of reciprocity. When a customer receives something unexpected, something extra and free, he or she is most likely to respond in a similar manner, in this case by giving a larger tip, thus returning the friendly gesture. It’s simply a built-in human response to react favorably to a gesture of kindness and courtesy.

At marine dealerships, we’re not working for tips, of course. But we are always striving to please the customer. And the principle of reciprocity can be applied in a meaningful way by virtually every department. For example, from the sales department, I recall when I was a kid my father bought his first Mathews from Higgs Marine in N.Y.. At delivery, the salesman presented my parents with a gift of a nautical lamp for the new boat. That kindness so endeared my parents to Higgs that there was never a question about where our next boat would come from.

Another example, from a service department: I took my outboards for service at Parma Marine in Cleveland. When I picked up the boat, there was a note saying they had noticed a couple of broken snaps on the cockpit cover and repaired them, free. That kindness (and attention to detail) sold me on always taking the boat back to Parma for service.
Every member of the dealership team should be encouraged to create ways to engage the principle of reciprocity in customer relations. It can be as simple as doing something for nothing while the boat is in for service, or establishing a more personal relationship with a gift or some extended courtesy. Such actions can lift a routine transaction to the level of special in the eye of the customer and that will result in customer loyalty, repeat business and maybe even a customer who becomes an advocate to others for your dealership.


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