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How do you do that?

Why directions are important in a customer relationship

Let’s take a drive through a part of the country that neither of us are familiar with. We will decide to stop at a gas station and ask for directions to a restaurant. However polite they may be, the person giving the directions is likely to give the directions at a fairly rapid pace. They may even draw on a scrap of paper, some notes that could help us to quickly locate the restaurant. Most likely, we will have to ask them to repeat or further detail their instructions so that we may increase the chances of our getting there with having to stop again and ask for further directions.

When we get to the restaurant, the person waiting on us will probably hand us a menu and then tell us they have several specials today. The wait person will then begin to recite all of the specials. And if our experience is similar to what we have experienced in a lot of other restaurants, we will have to ask them to repeat those specials so that we can take in all of the offerings.

Why is it that we have to ask people to repeat what they are saying? It is not because they mumbled what they said. The problem is likely to have happened because they spoke at a fast pace. Further more, they did so because they are very comfortable and knowledgeable with what they are saying. The problem for us is that we are not able to take in the information as fast as they are able to share it.

What does this frequently occurring problem have to do with what we do in our business? We too, experience people that are asking for directions. They are our customers and the situation with them is often a lot like our experiences at the gas station and restaurant. There is a person that has a sizable amount of knowledge talking with a person that is needing help and information. We experience this every day. Even with the customers that have been a part of the industry for many years, surely there are things that we have learned that can help them.

If we decide to assist our customers, both homeowners and professional landscapers, we are making a very wise investment in our business. With the homeowner, imagine a customer coming to your garden center and purchasing thirty one-gallon plants. Two weeks after they have planted this material, they examine their yard and find that about half of the plants are showing signs of distress. The customer waits another week and an examination at that point and the majority of his purchase has died.

What do you think your chances are of that customer wanting to continue working on the landscaping of their yard? The customer may even decide they don’t want to do any more yard work. Now we are likely to lose that customer due to lack of success.

If the professional learns a new technique that saves his business time and money, he is very pleased. He asks the person that shared the technique where he had learned it. If the answer is your competition, your customer is likely to take the time to visit the competition.

What do all these examples tell us? They explain the value of creating a school to demonstrate your products for your customers. We observed a garden center that sold and serviced small engine equipment. In an effort to promote their sales and services, they created a school to show their customers how to take care of their power equipment.

Their service people initially objected because they thought this would be taking business away from them. Yet quite the opposite was true. When people attended the service school, they did learn how to perform basic maintenance on their power equipment. But they also saw that much of the servicing needs of their equipment would be beyond their abilities. From that the garden center gained much more service business.

In your garden center, you could teach your customers how to take care of a pump up sprayer. What would be the reason for this? After the customer purchases a sprayer and pint or quart of product we hope they would continue to make additional purchases of chemicals for pesticide and herbicide control. However, if the pump up sprayer doesn’t work the customer won’t be too likely to make additional chemical purchases.

Granted, if their pump up sprayer fails they may throw it away and purchase a new one. However, at that point there is a good chance they will go to the competition to make the purchase. If you are the place where they can go to learn how to take care of their purchases, you stand a better chance of having a loyal customer.

To get the most success from creating a school for your customers, this is a good time of year to make your plans. You will want to start the school with the beginning of your best selling season. Make a list of how many topics you will want to cover.

Remember that in creating the school you don’t want any session to be more than 30 minutes. You can’t take that much time from your customer’s day and you want them to spend as much time as possible on your sales floor. You will want to announce the topics to be covered well in advance. With a great title and topic description, you can persuade your customers to make plans well in advance to attend your school.

If you have a mailing list of your customers, sending them a postcard or calling them on the phone can do a lot to increasing attendance at your schools. Let the newspaper know about what you are offering to residents of your community and you may get some free publicity.

Create a school for your customers and you can do a lot for your business and a profitable year.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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