The Customer Experience: Word-of-Mouth Advertising

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Ken Borg has been in the auto industry since 1979, and is the General Manager of Oakville Tire & Auto, which has been in business since 1946. Photo Jack Kazmierski

If you can build trust with your customers, they’ll recommend you to friends and family for years to come.

In a world where common courtesy is no longer common, and where customer service seems to be out of fashion, you can set your shop apart from other tire retailers by offering the kind of customer experience that will make your store stand out in this sea of mediocrity.

Let me share with you three key strategies that I’ve implemented in my own business, and which have helped me succeed, as well as grow my business over the past 45 years, mostly through word-of-mouth referrals.

Value your customer’s time

One of the gripes I hear quite often from customers is that they were made to sit in a waiting room for hours at another store, just to get a leaky tire fixed or their oil changed. If you want to set yourself apart from the competition, don’t make them wait.

At our store, we schedule appointments with customers. They come in and we get the work done almost immediately with very little wait time. While it’s true that it takes effort to organize and implement a schedule, our customers really appreciate the fact that most of the time (except for the bi-annual tire changeover frenzy), they’re not made to wait.

If the job will take longer to do than anticipated, we have a fleet of 11 courtesy cars we can offer them. While it’s true that there’s a cost associated with keeping these vehicles on the road for our customers, in the long run, the fact that you offer a courtesy car that allows them to run errands or get to where they need to be will pay you back in dividends.

Be transparent and don’t upsell

I can’t tell you how many times a customer has come in upset because he went in for an oil change somewhere else, and was told that he needed a $2,000 brake job. People don’t like to be sold or coerced into spending more money.

Don’t get me wrong. They may need a brake job. However, it’s all about how you break the news to them. We have brake pads behind the counter that we can show customers: This is what a new brake pad looks like, and this is what your brake pads look like. You have 3mm left, which means you’ll likely need new pads in about X miles from now, based on your current driving habits.

Don’t pressure them. Explain, and let them decide. It’s not about making the sale. It’s about building trust. Once they trust you, they’ll sell themselves.

Be genuine and show human interest

No one wants to feel like a number. So when your customers come in, make them feel like they matter. Ask how their day is going, and mean it. Talk to them about their life, their day, and not just about their vehicle.

While it’s true that they’re in your store to buy tires or get something repaired or replaced, you’re dealing with a human being who has a family and a life. If you’re able to make them feel like they matter, then you’ll be creating the kind of bonds and trust that will have them coming back to you time after time, as well as recommending your store to their friends and family for years to come. Now that’s word-of-mouth advertising!



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