Focus on Your Customer - June 2002

Customers Just Bring Me More!
By Joseph Rosales

I have a friend who runs a small retail business that is not doing as well as it could. He often blames the mall in which the business is located for not advertising enough, the overall condition of his marketplace, or his customers for not wanting to spend any money. However, having been a friend and customer of his for many years, I can see that these conditions are not the primary reasons for his limited success; the solutions are much more involved than simply bringing more customers to the counter.

When you ask the question, "What area of my business would I most like to
improve?" the typical answer is, "Just bring me more customers!" You don't find yourself thinking, "I would like to improve my ability to properly train my employees, so they can better serve our customers," or, "I would like to improve the look and effectiveness of
my facility from a merchandising standpoint." And you typically do not look at improving customer service and communications. It is always just more customers.

In the consulting side of our business, this is the improvement operators most often request during an initial consultation: Just bring me more customers. While this would certainly improve that month's cash flow, the issue really should be looked at with the question: How are existing customers being handled? Bringing more customers to a business that doesn't properly handle and develop the customers it currently has only serves to process customers through a business transaction. The simple fact that a transaction occurs does not assure the customer will ever return for future products or services. So is "bring more customers" really the answer? Let's look at some other issues that need to be addressed, before we bring more customers to the business.

Looking at how customers are being handled and developed when they come to a business involves three primary elements: the employees they are served by, the facility they come to, and the service they
receive.

FIRST: THE EMPLOYEES
Who are they? Are they the best you could find? Are they clean cut and do they appear to be motivated to help the customer? Are they friendly and engaging with the customer? Are they well-trained and do they have a thorough understanding of their job and how to best accomplish the objectives for each and every customer?

SECOND: THE FACILITY
Is the facility clean and well-merchandised? Does the appearance and cleanliness of the facility speak of quality and organization? Is the customer restroom spotless? Is the facility comfortable for the customer and are the proper amenities available? What printed messages are the customers exposed to, and do those messages support informing and educating the customers? When it comes to the service side, are the correct levels of inventory available so the service can be properly and completely done and so that a
customer wishing to make a purchase can do so?

THIRD: THE SERVICE
The components related to service are certainly the most important and the most challenging. This includes not just the types of services you have available and how well you provide the physical service, but also how customers feel while they are receiving the service.

Here are some specific questions to ponder: How are the customers greeted? What is the presentation of your business and the primary service you offer? Again, does "friendly and engaging" describe how your customer is approached? Once the customer's car is in service, what
happens to make the customer feel welcomed in the business? What opportunities are presented to customers allowing them to purchase additional products and services they may need? Are additional products and services viewed by you and your employees as an opportunity to "sell" something, or are they viewed as an opportunity to help customers properly care for their car? Are these add-ons properly "presented"?

My friend, and often our clients, tells me about how much his customers complain and how you can never please customers. For those of you who know my feeling on the subject of customer complaints, I need not say anything more than, "complaints are gifts." Statistics indicate that 80 percent of customers will not complain openly. Instead, they will just take their business elsewhere and never tell you why. This is a very scary thought to any retailer. The vast majority of customers who do complain do so because they would like to see you improve upon the thing they are complaining about so they can continue to be a customer. They believe that you care and want to see results in return. Complaints should be viewed as an opportunity to improve an aspect of the business. Having a customer complaint is much more productive than the customer just not ever coming back, wouldn't you agree? If customers are complaining, don't take it as a personal attack; think of it as someone taking his or her time to provide you with valuable feedback you can use to make your business better.

While bringing more customers to your business may be the ultimate goal of a marketing initiative, it may not be the place to start when you are trying to improve your overall business performance. Look at all the components of your business and make sure that the customers who are already coming to your business are receiving the proper level of care. In doing so you will assure that you retain a high level of loyal customers. You will also find that new customers who are added to your customer base will come back for more - and will tell their friends.

Joseph Rosales is the founder and president of Performance Resources Inc., a full-service consulting and training company specializing in the care car industry. To contact Joseph, or to learn more about the services that PRI offers, call (800) 268-9899, e-mail info@performancepros.com, or visit the company's web site at www.performancepros.com.

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