|Just as there are many methods of communication for dealing with your spouse, there are also lots of ways we can communicate with customers, all of which are important, but some are more effective than others.
E-mail. If you haven’t already done so, start collecting e-mail addresses along with any other contact information. We have quickly developed a database of over 10,000 customers with e-mail addresses. The prime chance for BHPH dealers to acquire e-mail addresses is when taking the credit application. However, people sometimes seem to change e-mail addresses more than their underwear, so it would be a good idea to confirm their address as they make each payment as well.
You might also want to have a place on the home page of your Web site where visitors can “opt-in” to receive a monthly specials e-newsletter by submitting their e-mail address. Interestingly, I read recently that the youngest buyers (Generation Y) in the market use texting and instant messaging more than e-mail, so even if we can get e-mail mastered, there will be other challenges after that!
Mail. Even though e-mail is more in-vogue right now, effectively using good old fashioned mail can still benefit our companies. Personalized mail can be especially effective. I think most people would rather receive a handwritten love note than just getting a pre-printed card signed, “Love, Me.” Now, I’m not suggesting that you need to write a two-page letter to each of your customers, but I do recommend you take time to add a personalized handwritten comment to every piece of mail you send, including those automatically generated by your CRM system. It can be as a simple P.S. at the bottom that makes reference to something personal about them that you know because you are their friend in the car business.
Another tip (for your sales department, NOT your collections department) that can increase the effectiveness of your mailings would be to convert to postcards. Send the biggest postcard you can send that still qualifies for postcard rates, and you will reduce your mailing and supplies costs and increase the likelihood that your piece will be looked at by the customer, instead of being tossed in the trash in an unopened envelope.
Phone. Has an innocent comment in an e-mail you sent ever been completely misinterpreted? Why is that? It’s because the words we choose make up only seven percent of communication. The remainder of what you want to communicate is done by non-verbal cues, such as voice inflection, hand and facial gestures, and body language. That is one reason most Internet experts will tell you the goal is to get the customer on the phone as soon as possible. It’s much easier to have a productive two-way conversation over the phone than it is via e-mail because you can immediately react to what they are saying. You can also accurately convey your tone without having to rely on excessive punctuation marks and emoticons.
Face-to-Face. This is probably the most costly form of communication because it takes a lot of your most valuable asset: your time. However, it also should be the most effective way to communicate as it allows you to incorporate all verbal and non-verbal cues. There is a reason door-to-door salespeople sell more products than telemarketers do. If you do an effective job of being likeable, respectable and trustworthy and you make the buying process an entertaining and enjoyable experience, then talking to a customer face-to-face should generate spectacular results. Why not take the time to drive to the home or workplace of that approved customer you can’t get ahold of and take the car to them to try to close the deal? If there is no traffic coming to your lot these days, why not go to the town gathering places and strike up some conversations to proactively look for business?
Gifts. Has your wife ever told you, “If you can’t make it, just send a big box of chocolates”? (Um … yeah, neither has mine.) But the point is, everyone likes to get a gift every now and then, especially for no reason, and your customers are no exception. It doesn’t have to be expensive. You might work a deal with a local car wash or fast food restaurant to give you coupons (or sell them to you at a discount) for a free meal or car wash that you could send to your customers “for no reason” or if you want to lay on a little guilt trip “just as thanks for being my loyal customer.”
Maybe for your better customers, you want to send something even more lavish like fruit baskets or tins of nuts or cookies. When it comes to making your customers feel special, I’m not sure if there is such a thing as too much, and I definitely feel that these investments are more likely to generate sales for us than just sticking another ad in the newspaper.
So whether dealing with your spouse or your customers, I encourage you to utilize all of the methods of communication. Then, find whichever one is most effective for each customer and use it.
Vol 6, Issue 2