NASE Blogs

Do You Walk-The-Walk ... Or Just Talk-The-Talk?...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Even if you own your own business, you are a customer too ... and as customers we have a responsibility to let our comrades in business know how we think they are doing. After all, unless we know what's in the minds of our customers, how are we supposed to offer better products and services?

While I have never been shy about offering my opinions … usually when a business has done a nice job or taken especially good care of me … if a business does something that really gets my attention, I make the time to let the top people know.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those complaining paper mills. Like any other entrepreneur there is more day in my schedule then there is time and I have to choose how to spend it carefully. But, when a business does something special (good, bad or ugly) I like to offer a little free marketing advice ... from the trenches if you will!

Below are a couple of letters I wrote to the president or owner of businesses that fit into that "special attention" category. They came about when I was looking for a place to take my car for its 5,000 mile oil and filter change.

You guess which business will get my future business!

Letter #1:  Dear National Auto Do-It-All Outlet,

I recently received your enticing oil change discount advertisement in the mail. As it has been 5,000 miles since my last oil change your discount certificate for an oil and filter change was perfect timing … especially at $14.99 which looked like a pretty good deal considering the economic times we are all challenged with.

But, (there always seems to be a but doesn't there?) after reading past the $14.99 in 3/4 inch high letters, I noticed a few "strings" attached to your offer:

"Environmental disposal fee may apply in some areas. Most vehicles. Newer models may cost extra. Synthetic or diesel oil and filter extra. No other discounts apply. Expires 2/15/10. Additional charge for shop supplies of up to $7.00 may be added."

While you don't mention it, I presume that the $14.99 price also does not include sales tax which will add another couple of dollars to the total cost. My quandary Mr. National auto store president ... just how much would I ultimately end up having to pay for that $14.99 advertised oil change?

By my calculations, in addition to that great price of $14.99, I'll need to pony up another $2.00 for a disposal fee, a $7.00 shop fee and $1.98 for sales tax. So, let's see … $14.99 plus $2.00 plus $7.00 plus $1.98 … that all comes to $25.97!

Of course that's presuming that my vehicle is not diesel and not a premium price model. If either of these applies … well, according to your ad … no one really knows how much that $14.99 oil change will really end up costing.

Gee Mr. National auto store president, I'm thinking I would prefer getting my car serviced at a shop that can tell me up front what an oil change will cost. What it comes down to is that while your ad talks-the-talk, I'm a little concerned that you don’t walk-the-walk.

No, I don't think I'll take you up on your discount offer after all. But, since you probably spent a lot of money to send out tens of thousands of mailers, the least I could do was RSVP and let you know why I won't be attending your party.

Letter #2:  Dear mom-and-pop CarCare,

Thank you for sending me your "welcome new customer" letter. It was a pleasure to read about your business and your commitment to customer satisfaction.

I would like to say that when I had my car serviced at your shop I was very pleased. While I didn't ask at the time, from the appearance, I presume you are a husband and wife team working the business together. Maybe that is why there seemed to be that certain attitude for caring about your customers. Being in business myself I realize that when you have to look your customers in the eye, you generally have a bit more consideration for them than when you have a wall of employees between them and you.

As for the service and attention I received, it was excellent. In every way you seemed to give that extra little attention that told me you appreciated my business … in other words you walked-the-walk when it comes to customer satisfaction.

I would like to note an especially nice surprise about doing business with you. Your sign in the front entrance advertised, "Oil and filter change $25.99". While I was expecting the possibility that there might be some add-ons, like disposal fees and taxes, to my surprise … my entire bill was just what the sign read … $25.99 … everything included! When it comes to truth in advertising this ought to put you at the head of the pack.

This was my first visit to your establishment and as you might have already guessed, you impressed me. While your service was excellent, the high point of my visit was your credibility. For that reason, you have earned my continued patronage and the business I can refer your way.

Thank you for taking care of my needs. And whatever you do, don't get caught up in playing the pricing game other competitors play. In the long term, the credibility you build will keep customers coming back in droves.

There you have it folks, a few words from a real customer. How about you? What do your customers say about your business? Do you have to use fine print in your advertising to get around what you really offer just to "get them in the door"? Or, have you built credibility with your customers?

What it all comes down to is that if all a business does is talk-the-talk they need to get out the checkbook and spend a lot of money on advertising to keep new people coming in the door. But ... if they walk-the-walk a business will only have to get a new customer once because that new customer very quickly becomes a regular and keeps coming back throwing their money at you.

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