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Comparison Shopping Can Keep Customers from Walking

They bought their last car from the wrong dealership. I’m just making sure they don’t make the same mistake again.” I was talking with my friend, Todd Ouellette last weekend. He owns numerous automobile dealerships (as well as motorsports and boats) across the southeast. In a time when auto retailers are failing in unprecedented numbers, his business continues to thrive. In fact, he owns the number one Ford Dealership in customer service. So when he talks business strategy, I listen. He was making the point that the policy for many auto/boat/motorcycle dealers is to not provide service for customers who’ve purchased their vehicle from a competitor. These businesses will not work on a vehicle that wasn’t purchased at their store. He says that attitude is actually prevalent in these industries. His approach is different. He rolls out the red carpet for these customers. He wants them to feel so welcome at his business that they want to come back. He actually thinks of ways he can go overboard to let these prospective customers know how happy he is to have them in his service department. He wants their next purchase to be at his store. Todd has succeeded by realizing that he can attract and retain customers: • How does this steak compare to my favorite steak restaurant? • Did you like the movie? Was the sequel better than the original? • How did this waiter perform? How much should I tip him? • There’s a better price for this type of product at the competitor’s. Do I like this item enough to pay a little more for it? Do a little “self-evaluation.” How does your in-store experience compare to your competitor’s? Are you giving your customers a reason not to buy from you? • Are there enough sales people on your sales floor to take care of shoppers? • Are your sales people knowledgeable about your product? Are they enthusiastic? • Do your sales people move toward your customers? Do they want to get involved? • Are your products beautifully displayed? Well lit? • Can a new customer understand your store layout? Can they find their way around?

He wants them to feel so welcome at his business that they want to come back.

If you haven’t done so in a while, it would be well worth your time to do some shopping at your competitor’s store. Would your customers find them to be a better alternative to you? Are they doing something better than you? Pay attention to how well are you treated. Perhaps you have not done a recent comparison of your in-store experience to other stores in your area — but you can bet your customer has! It is a mistake for you to rest on your laurels and assume that your customer would never consider an alternative. We must be diligent in offering the best customer experience possible. That is what attracts and retains customers. Back to Todd for a second. The reason his dealership is number one in customer service is because he insists on it. Todd – the owner – makes it important in his actions. • He regularly records the phone calls his service center receives, listens to them, reviews them and rewards the winners. • He sends a mystery shopper into his dealership (both service and sales) to evaluate the experience — every week. • He requires each sales person to evaluate their own performance after every sale — whether they make the sale or not. • He monitors the activities that make for happy customers. It’s simple to monitor the results we want (sales per hour, UPTs, etc.), but the real opportunity for improvement exits in the activities. “We can’t always control the results, but we can always control the activities,” Todd says. For example: • Practicing to improve • Thank you notes • Number of customers assisted each day • Appointments set A great customer In-Store Experience is a direct reflection of the owner. It’s almost as if the owner’s personality is reflected in manager and staff and that directly translates to the customer’s experience. During these challenging economic times, don’t let a potential customer walk out the door of your store disappointed with their experience. I encourage you to adopt Todd’s winning attitude. They may have made their last purchase from the wrong business, but today I will make sure that doesn’t happen again. ! Dan Mann is the founder and president of The Mann Group, a retail consulting firm that helps retailers with sales training and strategies. Mann, the former president of Bachrach, the men’s specialty retailer, frequently speaks at Formula4 Media events. September/October 2011 ~ Sports Insight • 13

Comparison Shopping Can Keep Customers from Walking