• Attracting and Keeping Loyal Customers: Make It Memorable

    Nov. 1, 2007
    You work hard to make sure your customers are satisfied, right? Yet, despite your hard work, do you sometimes feel like your customers have forgotten all about you the minute you pull out of their driveway? Would you like to create a memorable sales experience, reinforced by lifelong customer loyalty? If you answered “yes” to these questions, then read on. If you answered no, then . . . well, good luck in your next career.

    By Jay Rathbun

    You work hard to make sure your customers are satisfied, right? Yet, despite your hard work, do you sometimes feel like your customers have forgotten all about you the minute you pull out of their driveway? Would you like to create a memorable sales experience, reinforced by lifelong customer loyalty? If you answered “yes” to these questions, then read on. If you answered no, then . . . well, good luck in your next career.

    What’s wrong with satisfying your customers? Nothing, except that a satisfied customer is just that: satisfied. They will continue shopping and buying from anyone, with no loyalty to you or your company whatsoever. On the other hand, loyal customers recognize and appreciate the difference in a company that creates memorable experiences each time they interact.

    Loyal, lifetime customers bring more than just themselves and their business with them; they invite their friends and family to use your services too. Referrals are commonly known as the best form of advertising that exists in marketing, and best of all, they’re free.

    Today’s loyal customers are buying more than just your products and services; they’re buying the benefits of ownership — not just of a comfort system, but of your company as well. While dealers are often focused on selling a product, the loyal customer is focused on buying a relationship.

    One of the keys to building a loyal customer base is building a relationship with each customer and treating them like a member of the family. Customers like to feel that they are a part of something, and that someone will care about, listen to, and appreciate them.

    You’ve heard the old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” However, when it comes to building relationships, it’s all about what you know about who you know. How much do you really know about your customers? Do you know their favorite restaurant or hobby? What about their birthday or anniversary? Can you remember their children’s names? Imagine the surprise and delight of the customer who, after purchasing a new comfort system, receives a dinner certificate to their favorite restaurant or flowers on their anniversary! It’s the little things that turn good customers into amazingly loyal customers for life.

    What Makes it Memorable?
    A good relationship will put a smile on your customer’s face, but you must also be sure that your happy customer will remember you.

    What makes your business memorable? Exceedingly great customer service, your ability to handle customer complaints in a prompt and understanding manner, courteous and energetic dispatchers, and helpful assistance with financing options are just a few of the experiences by which your loyal customers will remember you.

    Creating a sales presentation that stands out from the competition is another vital key to keeping your company etched in the minds of your customers. For starters, you must first change your opinions about customers and strive to understand what it is they’re really looking for in a new comfort system. If it came down to a decision to buy from you or a lower-priced competitor, which would your customer choose? The answer may surprise you.

    Many statistics support the fact that a majority of customers don’t buy on price alone. Instead, today’s consumers are looking for companies whose products and services stand out in their mind, often times, choosing customer service, professionalism, and reliability over low price. And here’s some insight: Value and credibility are not developed though the use of SEER ratings and model numbers, but rather, by clearly communicating the benefits of owning your product and service to your customers.

    Nonetheless, how you communicate your company’s products and services is crucial to creating customer loyalty. While it’s true that customers are looking for a highly-skilled professional to offer them a variety of options for their comfort needs, they don’t want to be confused by unfamiliar acronyms and technical talk, or overwhelmed by a vast variety of products, efficiencies, and manufacturers. A dealer who provides too much information can be just as ineffective as one who provides too little.

    For example, this past winter, I went to the doctor with a headache, sore throat, and a slight fever. The doctor began our visit by asking me questions, based on my symptoms, as well as, my family’s health history. He listened quietly as I described how I was feeling. Next, he checked my blood pressure and temperature, examined my throat, and finished the exam with a throat culture. Using the information he had gathered, he diagnosed me with strep throat and prescribed antibiotics as the best solution.

    This approach of asking questions, listening to my answers, examining me, and providing a solution to my problem brought value and credibility to the doctor’s professionalism. Now imagine if he had walked into the examination room and started naming off a variety of sicknesses, waiting for me to tell him which one I was suffering from. I would have left confused and wondering why I had bothered to come to the doctor in the first place.

    The Approach
    Your approach, as a heating and air-conditioning expert, bears many similarities to a doctor’s visit. You must first differentiate yourself in the eyes of your customers by slowing down, building rapport, and focusing on the most influential buyer in the home, the one who makes up to 85% of all purchasing decisions: the female.1

    Next, you must ask comfort based questions designed to discover the needs of both your male and female customers. Then, you must listen carefully to your customer’s concerns, so that you can accurately diagnose their home’s heating, cooling, and air quality requirements. This method will enable you to effectively tailor a new comfort system, designed to meet your customer’s exact needs, while eliminating the temptation to show them every available product on the market.

    By approaching each sales opportunity this way, not only will you generate increased sales, you will also create loyal customers who will continue to refer new business to you in the future.

    When it comes down to it, each customer is the boss. They can fire everyone, from the CEO on down, by simply choosing to spend their money elsewhere. Just the same, each customer can become your advertising agent, sharing the benefits of doing business with your company with everyone they know.

    From the first phone call to the last step of installation, providing your customers with memorable experiences every step of the way is the key to attracting and maintaining loyal customer relationships.

    The next time you talk with a customer, ask them what was memorable or different about their experience with you. If their answer is “nothing,” it’s time to make an immediate change to become the kind of outstanding company that loyal customers are looking for.

    References: 1) Gary Armstrong and Philip Kotler. Principles of Marketing. Upper Saddle River. Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006.

    Jay Rathbun, of JBResources, LLC, offers coaching and seminars designed to empower HVAC dealers with the skills necessary to improve sales, generate leads, enhance dispatching practices, and boost trade show/home and garden exhibit results. Jay can be reached at 314/882-5489 or by e-mail at jbrathbun@sbcglobal. net. To learn more about Jay and his company, visit his website: www.jbresources.org.

    This article is based on the presentation, Ways to Attract and Keep Customers, which Jay Rathbun gave at HVAC Comfortech 2007, held in St. Louis, MO, Sept. 26-29, 2007. For more information about HVAC Comfortech 2008, which will be held September 10-13, 2008, in Atlanta, GA, call 216/931-9550 or watch for updates on the show website: www.hvaccomfortech.com.