Earning Return Business, part three

In the last year, we’ve experienced the joy of moving. Twice.

Yes, twice on purpose.

Apparently our lives are in such dire need of adventure that one move wasn’t enough.

Census you asked

Why do I bring up these moves?

According to U.S. Census data from 2010, Americans move about 12 times in their lives – and younger generations are trending toward moving even more often.

Moving is not an inexpensive or easy affair. It can stress families heavily at a time when they are already under substantial pressure. Since we do it about a dozen times in our lives, it would seem obvious that there’s lots of incentive to create an experience that encourages repeat business and good word of mouth.

Let’s talk about a few examples.

U-Haul vs. Penske

I’ve rented from Penske once, 16 years ago. I had to drive their truck from Missoula to Cheyenne to return it. In retrospect, this was not the most time and cost efficient plan, but a prior U-Haul experience had me avoiding them.

Despite the crazy return location, I’d rent from them again tomorrow – if they had a local store in the places I was moving from and moving to. Why? 16 years later, I still have good vibes from that move, the rig I received and how they handled the process on both ends.

I’ve since used U-Haul twice. As they were 16 years ago, the trucks are spartan in features, still use gas (less power, lower mileage) rather than diesel and often give you the idea that you’re the last person to drive it before they sell it off.

I’ve used them twice is because they were the only local choice at both ends of a move.

Confidence earns repeat business

Despite my issues with their trucks, the people who work for U-Haul  (and their dealers) have proven to be friendly and service-oriented.

As with many other large businesses, there are roses and thorns with each experience, and once in a while you’re fortunate to meet unique people who set the standard for everyone else you deal with in a particular market, such as Hungry Horse Montana’s Kasey Faulk and her crew.

The thorns usually relate to little issues that point to management’s attention to detail. A recent example is the truck I picked up. The windshield appeared that it hadn’t been cleaned. It was covered with bugs.

Thing is, the bugs weren’t whole like someone hadn’t touched the windshield at all. Instead, it looked like they’d been “sort of” cleaned but hadn’t finished the job.  I suspect U-Haul has someone clean the windshields in every truck at check-in time (or before it goes out), but that they don’t have their people hop in the truck to check their work when the cleaning is done or when the truck is rented.

Yes, these are little things

Little things. Trivial things. But they make you wonder about the attention paid to other little things, like oil, lube, u-joints and wheel bearings.

You see, after you’ve paid a crew to load a truck, the last thing you want to do is find yourself stranded in the middle of Eden on a broiling hot day in the sun.

Actually, that’s the next to last thing you want.

The last thing you want is to have to unload the truck and load your stuff onto its replacement – particularly if it was loaded by a crew as good as Kasey’s. You don’t really want to do that even if it wasn’t loaded by her crew.

Fortunately this wasn’t part of our experience and there was no mechanical issue on either trip, despite the ill-cared-for appearance of the rig.

Earning return business requires creating the right memories

While nothing went wrong for us, these kinds of things are on your clients’ minds when they ponder coming back to you.

  • Have they cleaned the truck / bedspread / bathrooms since the last time I was here?
  • Am I going to have to deal with grease on this and that and that again?
  • Will the tub be dirty again?
  • Will they track in dirt and not clean up the sawdust and drywall dust again?
  • Is that guy behind the counter going to ogle my daughter again?

If these are the memories you’re creating, how likely is it that they’ll return?

Depend on being the best game in town, not the only one.

Mining shoeboxes for customers

Prospector
Creative Commons License photo credit: ToOliver2

In these days of oil spills and mine disasters, it might seem a little off-base to ask about mining, but I think you need to become an expert at it – and do it regularly.

It’s a critical skill if you’re concerned about keeping your business pump primed with new and returning customers – especially returning ones.

When I say mining, I mean mining your customer/order database.

Yellow pads and shoeboxes

No matter what you use to keep track of this stuff; a yellow pad, QuickBooks, a ledger book, your CRM (customer relationship management system) if you’re using that tool like a shoebox, you’re likely making a five or six figure mistake.

What I mean is by shoebox is stuffing receipts and sales data and similar info into it all year long and never referencing it again until it’s time to do your taxes.

That shoebox is your gold mine. It’s the asset that many businesses ignore – often at their own risk.

Missing out

Let’s talk about Mary. She owns her own business and has 14 employees.

You would typically know this because you saw a profile of her business in the paper. How do you remember that fact?

You put it into your CRM (again, customer relationship management system), tickler file or *something* that organizes your data so that you can search for it later (I’ll get back to that).

Out of nothing more than gut feel, you know that she visits your restaurant 3 times a month and you also see her occasionally at events you cater.

What you may not know is that Mary’s business entertains clients twice a month and has an in-office staff appreciation lunch every other Friday.

Have you ever catered those events?

If not, does she know that you cater? She should, because she attends events you’ve catered – so why doesn’t she use you once in awhile?

Have you asked her?

It’s possible that her current caterer rocks the house *so well* that you might not ever get a chance to show your stuff.

One thing is certain – if you don’t ask, you won’t likely get a shot. Tantamount to that is *knowing that you should ask*.

The who

A message that is in context to the proper person is miles ahead of a generic message to everyone.

Have you made any effort to let your regular customers know that you offer catering for their special events? More importantly, do you know exactly which regulars would have a use for those services?

Do you know how to get in contact with them? Do you know when they last visited your restaurant? Do you know what kind of experience they had during their last visit?

Your customer / order tracking system should allow you to store info that lets you find out such things. If yours doesn’t, get a new one or at the very least, find a way to export the data into something that allows you to search this info.

Things you’d like to know:

  • Who has reservations this weekend who also owns a business?
  • Who has reservations this weekend who hasn’t visited in two or three times their normal visit frequency?
  • What regulars have we not seen in a month or more?

The answers to these questions will yield info about your customers and more importantly, about what you’re doing, how well you’re doing it and best of all – what customers you should have a catering conversation with.

If they do, who else does?

Here’s where the mining comes in handy…

If your catering gig database is sorted by “What do the businesses do?” and then you ask to see only those businesses that use you monthly, what do you ask for next?

Let’s sort them by what they do. Maybe the top 3 types of businesses are architects, real estate brokers and luxury home builders.  You can guess, but you won’t know until actually you collect this data.

Now take a look at your entire restaurant database of regulars. How many of them are in those 3 lines of work?

Hmmm. Wonder if any of them need catering?

PS: If you don’t have a restaurant, look at this through the lens / terminology of what you do. The same concepts apply no matter what.