You Want Loyal Customers? Try Going Old School

Handwritten notes and old-fashioned courtesy will go a long way toward repeat business that will drive your revenues higher.

You Want Loyal Customers? Try Going Old School

In our fast-paced world, it seems like everyone checks out a company on their smartphones, making snap judgments on which shop or range or gunsmith to visit based on a slick-looking website, a promised low price, or hollow advertising copy that boasts reliability, trustworthiness or a unique level of expertise.

Sifting through all of these sales messages, potential customers eventually call you and have — understandably — high expectations. Now that they’ve chosen you as their go-to, your job is to build customer loyalty for the next time they need a gunsmith or gun expert, and the next time and so forth.

You may have won their business through new technology and great marketing, but engendering customer loyalty may require you to step back and do things the way your parents and grandparents did when they were just starting out in the industry. Slowing down the pace and providing the type of personal attention you don’t see much anymore could be your key to those callbacks year after year.

But, you invested all of that money in the website and Google AdWords, transitioning your marketing infrastructure from phone book advertising to online algorithms. This is what everyone is doing to build the business. Isn’t that enough? I don’t think so. Maintaining old-fashioned tactics for customer retention is even more impactful that it was years ago when that’s all small businesses had going for them. Let me give you an example to illustrate my point.

I’ve had a postcard sitting on my desk for a while. It arrived in my mailbox a few days after I made a small purchase from a local jeweler. The front of the card showed the name of the local shop, and on the back was a handwritten note that stopped me in my tracks as I was tossing the daily load of junk mail.


Tried and True

“Hi James,” the note began. “Thank you for your recent watch battery purchase. Your business is greatly appreciated. Keep us in mind for any future repairs and purchases. Hope to see you soon!”

First of all, when was the last time you received a handwritten thank-you note from a retailer? Heck, the best customers at the biggest department stores get nothing more than piles of impersonal catalogs and 20%-off coupons these days. But this small business took the time to personally thank me for my $20 purchase and invite me back to the store. Will I go return the next time I need a battery … or a new watch? You bet I will.

There are many jewelers in the city where I live. And there may be multiple gun stores where you live. Just like how the handwritten note from the jeweler left a big impression, so can such thoughtful courtesies help you stand out from the crowd of local retail shops. Adopting some old-school customer service tactics is really very easy. I’ll share a few traditional ideas that can get lost in the. Then, if you want more ideas, go and ask someone who was in the firearms industry before Al Gore invented the internet. I’m sure they’ll have additional tips to keep up with your customers that don’t involve an electronic device.


The Phone Isn’t Just for Texting

Just like the handwritten note captures more attention than junk mail, a friendly retailer’s voice is more impressive than a text message. At the end of the workday, call the customers on your gunsmith’s job list and ask if they were happy with the service. Keep track of the last time you heard from customers, and don’t be afraid to call them after a few years and suggest upgrades or maintenance. Randomly call a handful of customers six months after their last service and ask if they have any questions. Keep it up, setting aside a few hours every week to place calls to existing or prospective customers.


Be the Friendly Neighborhood Retailer

It’s probably no coincidence that the rise in technology is leading to the decline in courtesy. Do your sales associates greet customers with a “good morning” and a “yes, ma’am” or “yes, sir?”

Good manners and courtesy take little time and effort, but they make a big difference in how the customer perceives your company. You and a competing company handle tools pretty much the same way. Where you can make a difference is in how you address the customer. You can choose grateful or grumpy, and I would prefer grateful every time.


Don’t Hide Your Fees

Customers appreciate upfront pricing and just don’t see it that much anymore. Have you looked at and tried to understand a phone or medical bill lately? Hidden fees and a lack of transparency — it’s all par for the course. But it doesn’t have to be that way when you own and operate your own small business. You can show a menu of prices for each of your services to the customer and operate by them. Convey the cost to the customer ahead of the service, and make sure they fully understand and accept the charges.


Share Your Knowledge

You are an expert in your field. As such, you should feel a responsibility to make sure customers have all the information necessary to properly care for their new firearms purchase. When you start working for a new customer, you can usually tell what level of experience they have. If they have little background, take the time to explain how their new gun works and how good habits can improve operation. If you just sell them the tool and don’t make sure they know how to clean and maintain it, you’re contributing to the problems they’ll have in the future. Remember, you’re a sales person, but you’re also a teacher.


The Bottom Line

To gain the customer’s loyalty, you must also extend loyalty to the customer. This means providing service after the sale, answering every question or concern, and working hard on the relationship. Sometimes all the newfangled tricks in the small business book can’t improve on good old-fashioned customer service techniques.


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