Take Customer Appreciation to the Next Level

The other day I stopped by the grocery store for a few things and I couldn't help but notice the lack of personal service. For starters, there were three self-checkout aisles for every one cashier. It was pretty busy, so I chose the self-check register and got to work scanning my customer loyalty card and ringing up my items.

After the customary few barcode errors and some ad hoc key punching from the attendant, I am guessing that the self-check register did not save me time. Not to mention, there was no one there to say thank you as I picked up my purchase and walked out the door. It became very clear to me that just because I'm part of a customer loyalty program doesn't mean my business is appreciated.

I realize that today's grocery shopping experience is much different than it once was. The personal touch has all but vanished. The rental industry, however, is still very hands-on and each contract requires a lot of personal interaction. The one common denominator between the two is that every customer wants to feel valued, whether they're buying groceries or renting a backhoe.

So, what is the best way to effectively show your customers how much you appreciate their business? Simply start with a sincere thank you. And then thank them again...and again...and again.

Say Thank You Again

When you make a sale, you naturally extend a verbal thank you to your customers. As soon as they leave your store, right then and there, make a note to follow up with another thank you. A few days later, make a personal call, send an email, or if you really want to knock their socks off, pick up a pen, write a personal note and mail it.

Can you remember the last time you received a personal note in the mail? I can't. I can remember, however, how it makes me feel to get a hand-addressed envelope with my name on it. It makes you feel appreciated because someone cared enough to take the time to write you a note.

It's something of a lost art, and that's why it makes such an impact on your customers. Remember, everyone wants to feel valued-and regularly letting your customers know how grateful you are for their business and how much you care about their success goes a long way. It's also a great way to set yourself apart from the competition and leave a positive lasting impression with the customer.

Make it Sincere

Your thank you message need not be long and elaborate, but it must be genuine and sincere. You know many of your clients by name and you personalize your service to meet their specific needs. You may even know about their hobbies or families. When you thank your customer, make sure you address them personally and touch on some shared details. They will be impressed that you listen so intently and that you care enough to remember those fine points.

This doesn't require a huge time commitment. Jot down the following note and see just how long it takes.

Dear Customer Joe,

It was great to see you on Thursday. We always appreciate your business, so I'd like to say thank you again. If you need anything else, please let me know if I can be of assistance. Oh, and by the way, I hope your race went well on Saturday. Until next time!

Sincerely,

Greg

How long did that take you? It took me about four minutes to write the note-and yes, I did hand write it. Add two minutes for the envelope and stamp and you're all set.

No Customer Left Behind

Extending a follow-up thank you is especially powerful when dealing with new customers. That's not to say that your regular customers should be excluded. Existing customers should never be taken for granted and they, too, should periodically receive your personal thank you, whether it's an email, a phone call or a card.

Go One Step Further

After you've extended your heartfelt thank you, go one step further by asking if there's anything else you can do to help the customer. Again, you must be sincere. Offer to help them with future jobs or purchases. You might be asking, who would go to such lengths? If it encourages repeat business, who wouldn't? This is your area of expertise and your chance to guide customers back to your doors without being pushy. Your interest in helping them succeed, just because you care, will surely make them feel appreciated.

The Sweet Reward

Customers who feel appreciated and receive great service will come back again and again. They're also more likely to spread the word, bringing new business to your door. An added bonus that you might not have considered is that your employees will also feel good about a job well done. Just by saying thank you again, they personalized the sale and gained a competitive edge. Most importantly, they've accomplished the goal of making their customers feel appreciated.

So, you see, it doesn't take a lot of effort to take customer appreciation to the next level. For long-term success, however, it has to be a part of your daily operations and culture-something your entire staff reinforces with every customer. To ensure this becomes second nature, many rental stores have included this in their training programs. Rather than focusing solely on technical and operational training, they also invest in customer service and sales training programs. I've worked with many of these businesses that made ongoing training a top priority, helping them significantly improve the customer experience from the initial phone call to closing the rental. The results are hard to ignore-more loyal customers lead to a better bottom line.

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