Everyone likes a warm welcome…especially in new surroundings. Research has clearly demonstrated that a customer who has an exceptional experience with a company’s product and services during their initial visit is much more likely to return and to recommend the business to friends.
A lot of younger folks might not even know what the name ‘Welcome Wagon’ means. At one time, when people would move into a new home, the Welcome Wagon lady would pay a visit with all kinds of welcoming goodies. She would bring coupons for free dinners, movie tickets, and discounts on everything from dry cleaners to baby formula. The Welcome Wagon lady would answer questions about the neighborhood, recommend restaurants and bring invitations to the ‘ladies club’ or a local church. I remember the Welcome Wagon lady coming to our home on several of the moves my family made.
Over the past 20 some odd years I’ve written countless articles on marketing strategies for maximizing retention of your best customer. By best customer I mean your most loyal customer who has purchased numerous vehicles and enthusiastically refers friends, co-workers and family. But there is also tremendous value in creating a marketing program to identify ‘new’ members of your dealership ‘family’ and not only give them a proper welcome, but conduct research to find out just what it was that brought those customers on board.
“…I was half expecting the dealer to invite these newfound customers and friends to a church social! But he did something even better…”
Mike S., a friend of mine who runs a family restaurant in a nearby small town knows just about every local customer that comes in the door. He also has the email address of most of his loyal customers and customer relations software that lets them know when he is serving their favorite special, as well as sending out an invite for a treat on a birthday or anniversary. But Mike does something else. Whenever a waitress spies a new customer visiting the restaurant, they let Mike or his wife know and one of them makes it a point of stopping by the ‘new’ customer’s table to say hello…and welcome them! Mike says he has built an impressive following of customers even from neighboring towns 20 miles away with a local, friendly welcome.
He always makes it a point to ask how that new customer discovered his restaurant. Was it on the Internet or just a chance visit from the signage outside? And of course Mike asks them to leave their email address if they’d like to know about specials and events. Some of these customers who are welcomed in this way have made Mike’s restaurant a mandatory annual pilgrimage when they visit his town for their vacations.
Once I ordered some flowers for a funeral in a city several hundred miles away. The florist was recommended by the funeral home. In the ordering conversation the shop owner discovered that I had relatives in this city. She gave me a ‘Welcome Wagon’ welcome telling me she’d love to help me with any gift I might need. She told me she had regular customers from all over the U.S. and even Europe. Her cell phone and email went into my iPhone and over the past several years I’ve used this florist to deliver flowers, candy and balloons for special occasions. She has even gone as far as pick up Godiva chocolates for me from another store. Why would I order something online when I can deal directly with the owner of a shop who customizes every order, sends me pictures of the arrangements, and will deliver on a Sunday afternoon if I want her to?
I know car dealers who will pick up the phone and thank long-time repeat customers for their most recent purchase. I know dealers who will take a walk in the service drive and give a hug, handshake and conversation to customers who always bring their vehicles in for service. And I know true ‘Welcome Wagon’ dealers who will seek out a newfound customer taking delivery of their very first vehicle from the dealership.
In fact, I was sitting in a dealership customer service lounge recently when the dealer introduced himself to a couple that had just purchased a mini-van. They had just moved into the area. The dealer sat with the couple and told them about the history of the dealership. Of how his grandpa had opened the dealership in the height of the depression, and how the dealership has been run by his family ever since. The couple had lots of questions about the new area. I was half expecting the dealer to invite these newfound customers and friends to a church social! But he did something even better. He gave them a business card with his direct line on it and told them if they needed advice on anything in town…where to shop…where to eat… to just give him a call. By the way, this is not some little dealership. They sold over 3,000 vehicles this year!
You might not be in a position to personally greet every new customer but consider these ideas for a ‘Welcome Wagon’ welcome!
- When a customer is identified as a first-time buyer, a ‘Welcome Wagon’ greeting from the owner or senior management is appropriate at any time, however it actually has more impact after the sale has been completed, lest it be construed as part of the sales process. It’s the perfect time to reinforce the new customer’s buying decision and drive home the message that ‘service and commitment’ after the sale is a dealership vanguard.
- Consider a package of goodies including items of real value such as a home first aid kit, flashlight, car blanket, movie tickets, etc. Avoid the ‘10% off’ run of the mill coupons that anyone can obtain online. You might be surprised to find out your local area merchants will be willing to provide some very substantial valued gifts in return for being part of such a distribution.
- Be sure to ascertain as much information as possible on your new customer’s media habits. The best way is through a one-page media habits questionnaire. This research has special added value since it may represent ‘conquer market’ attributes of customers not exposed to your traditional advertising programs. Be sure to ask questions regarding perception of your dealership, both prior to shopping, and after the actual buying experience. How do they compare? What experiences had the greatest influence in the final buying decision?