Yesterday I needed to get my oil changed, so I planned on heading to my usual Tire Kingdom location, which is right across the street from my parents, who I would then have breakfast with. I got into the parking lot and noticed that there were an unusually high number of vehicles parked there for such an early time on a Sunday (8:15 AM to be exact), but I proceeded to drop off my keys anyway since it needed to be done, and with my discount card, not many other places would be as wallet-friendly as Tire Kingdom. In my haste, I forgot to tell them that I would like to have my tires rotated, which they gladly do at no charge if asked. When I returned a few hours later to pick up my car and continue about my business for the day, the gentleman behind the counter (who was not the man in charge, by the way) showed me on the receipt that he had gone ahead and ordered the rotation for me even though I hadnt specifically asked for it since he noticed that I usually get it done each time when he looked up the account. Needless to say, I was pretty much astounded and mentioned this to everyone I spoke to throughout the day.
In this day and age, when businesses are crying about dwindling customer bases very little are willing to go out of their way to do anything real in order to draw in new customers, let alone retain their current ones. Sure, some companies publish discount coupons and offer special sales, but how many of them come with strings, such as not applying discounts to certain groups of items (ie: the way Office Depot excludes technology items from coupons), or offering such specials to new customers only (ie: the way drugstore.com applies this practice)? The simple fact of the matter is that not many businesses go far enough to really make consumers stop and tell people about their experiences. In fact, Im willing to argue that most businesses instruct their employees not to even reveal any free offers unless the customer brings it up in the first place! But hey, I can understand that some companies would rather sell a product or service than give it away for free. I do wonder, though, what kind of word of mouth marketing they would receive if they did just throw in a little something here and there.
All of the small business owners out there should take this as a lesson. Im not the type of person to be surprised very often, and am rather cynical when it comes to the quality of service from national chains, and my pessimism is tempered compared to many from what I hear and read. For me to react the way I did, and recommend this particular store to others is a very big deal, at least to me. So, imagine if you went above and beyond what was expected of you, and had people talking your business up to their friends, family, and in this case even complete strangers on a blog that will appear on twitter and facebook among other outlets. How could you possibly go wrong by doing something that could possibly get you that kind of exposure and good publicity? And what would you have to do, give something away that you would normally do anyway if asked? Delivered earlier than promised? Maybe did a little bit more without being asked or charging more just to provide value?
Its a widely known fact that without customers, you could not possibly survive in a business, let alone thrive and grow. Its about time you started to think about ways to take care of your current customers to not only ensure that they remain your customers (and not run off to a competitor), but also to possibly gain the attention and loyalty to an entirely new customer base. As I stated earlier, it doesnt take much to show customers that you appreciate them and their business, but by showing even a little bit of appreciation you are both doing the right thing by them and giving them a reason to recommend you to others in the future as well.