Staying in touch with customers can be a very pleasant experience if all it means is saying “hello” and checking in with them from time to time. However, sometimes staying in touch means having to possibly listen to something the customer doesn’t like about the product they bought from you or the service they’re experiencing. Now we’re into a whole new ballgame of communication. They’re the ones calling YOU. If an issue surfaces that is a problem for your customers, this is no longer a courtesy “keeping in touch” communication matter. Now we’re talking about the potential loss of future business if this is mishandled.
I had a simple philosophy about how to handle unhappy customers. Whatever it took, I was going to turn their lemon into a peach. That’s right. Sometimes this meant spending some of my own money (tax deductible, of course) to cover the cost of an item in service. For one customer, I think I spent less than $30 out of my pocket to cover the parts cost for a radiator hose and some clamps to keep them happy. My message to him was clear: “Although the truck you purchased from me was out of warranty, my desire to please you was not.” In Girard’s book, that’s a lifetime warranty! Not only did that calm him down, but he came back four months later to purchase a new car for his wife. Thirty dollars well spent I’d say.
Why did I spend my own money? I saw it as an inexpensive “investment” opportunity to surprise them by turning a negative experience into a positive one. They were not expecting this level of care and thoughtfulness. Customers knew I wanted them to be happy. So when they called ME, they did it for a reason. They trusted ME enough to know I would help them with their problem. It didn’t happen very often that a customer was unhappy with their vehicle or service, but this is the time when I knew I had to “give a little” to retain them.
Think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate your sincerity and gratitude for the business they’ve already given you. When you take this approach, you’re giving them one more reason to stay with you in the future. It’s a commercial—YOUR commercial. I wanted them to stay in this marriage for better or worse, in good times and bad, forever. No divorce here. No reason for it. I had the price, the product, and the service. Nobody could touch me because of the way I took care of my customers, and they knew it. That’s why more than 75 percent of them came back to me time after time. Staying in touch with your customers means servicing them to death, not just talking to them. Get that into your head. Whenever you’re in touch with them, nobody else has their attention but you.
If you’re going to build relationships with your customers, you may find yourself turning into a sounding board or counselor to some of them. You’re going to hear about lost jobs, divorces, kids with problems, and so on. Do it! They’re simply telling you that they trust you. This is your opportunity to show them you’re caring, compassionate, and a sensitive person. Listen, I’m not a certified psychiatrist or counselor, but I can listen and show compassion with the best of them. You don’t have to have all the answers. Just learn to be a good listener, service your customers and good things will follow!