June 20, 2014 – There are plenty of places to rent tools and equipment in any town, anywhere. When people need to rent a post-hole auger or a trencher, many go to the local, family-owned equipment rental shop because of the experience. It is not a sparkling clean place. In fact, it looks a bit like a glorified tool shed, with all the grease and dust one might expect. They haven’t built their business and retained their customers for decades because of the décor; their regulars return because of the staff-customer relationship that makes renting at their business an enjoyable, personal experience. They appreciate that when they walk through those dusty doors, the employees know their names and their needs.
We all have our own shopping styles and preferences. No
matter how you slice it, shopping and buying comes down to basic pain
and pleasure stimuli and responses—we are subject to conditioning.
Places and actions that we associate with pleasure we seek to experience
again, and we seek to avoid experiences that cause us pain. Your
customers go through this process during every contact they have with
you, and it’s paramount that when they leave your establishment, they
leave glowing with a desire to return.
The key to making
customers want to return is to craft a customer-centric culture: focus
on their experience from point-of-entry to point-of-sale to increase
growth and retention.
There are five touchstones to establishing
a customer-centric culture, and putting them into practice will give
you a leg up on your competition.
1. Audit your customer’s experience
experience audit aids in identifying your customer type, and allows you
to model your business based on their needs. When you put yourself in
your customer’s shoes, you know best how to serve them – and build a
profitable business in the process.
Put yourself in the mind of
your customer by conducting a simple audit of the pains and pleasures
involved in your business. Make two columns on a piece of paper and
title one “pain” and the other “pleasure” and then walk through the
entire process your customer walks through while dealing with you. Track
each individual perception of pain or pleasure. You may be surprised at
the number of negatives. Do the pains and pleasures correspond with the
type of business or service you provide and with the types of customers
2. Learn your regulars
owned equipment shops have become a staple because the owners and staff
create relationships with their regulars. They build a culture and
environment of “the neighborhood rental shop,” where their customers
know they can go for their equipment needs, but also friendly
conversation, teasing and jokes from the staff. Customers know they’re
expected to engage in the banter and give it right back – and they enjoy
Your regulars become your mouthpiece in the market:
recruiting new business and customers simply by word-of-mouth praise.
When you form longstanding relationships with your regulars and
recognize their individual likes and dislikes, you can tailor an
experience that feels distinctly personalized and negates any inherent
pain that accompanies your industry. This will generate business success
with increased customer growth.
3. Hire staff that mirror your culture
the time and effort that you exert to make your business a
one-of-a-kind, individualized experience is negated if your staff do not
mirror these values and ideals. Your employees are the keepers of your
culture, the ones who maintain your operating standards,
customer-service practices and the atmosphere that distinguishes you
from a similar shop down the street.
You must be meticulous with
your hiring practices to ensure you’re bringing the correct people
onboard. Reject candidates that do not parallel your customer-centric
model. Instill in your new hires the magnitude of your business
4. Don’t overcomplicate and trust in feedback
are occasions when business owners actually diminish their customer’s
experience in an attempt to overcomplicate their service practices. A
prime example of this occurred at a local grocery store during their
first year in business. Customers would often leave their carts
throughout the parking lot. The owners and staff did not have return
racks for carts because they did not want to convey an obligation for
their customers to return them to the store. They wanted customers to
leave the carts in the lot for the employees to collect. While a nice
sentiment in theory, in practice they were creating a parking lot
situation full of obstacles and potential damage to their customers’
After receiving feedback throughout the year, the
store decided to install permanent return racks in the parking lot.
While it requires a bit more effort on the part of their customers, they
no longer have to navigate a minefield of carts or risk damage when
they come to shop.
Considering any and all feedback is a
paramount component to running a thriving business. Your experience
audit will assist in determining the validity of feedback, but you
should always take heed to what your customers are saying. Your customer
service practices should be organic and seamless and never
overcomplicate the shopping experience.
5. The product and service parallel
the product you sell or the service you provide does not live up to
your customer service, your patrons will not return. All of the perks of
choosing your business over your competition go out the window when
what you offer fails to live up to expectations.
There must be a
direct parallel between the way you treat your customers and what you
provide them. If there isn’t, your base will begin to dwindle. Customers
may head to the shop down the road that doesn’t nail the customer
service aspect, but where they always receive the service or product
Shopping or conducting business should not feel
like a chore best avoided. It should be an enjoyable experience, one
that your customers desire to repeat. A customer-centric culture defines
you and will carve out your share in the market as the place to go –
and put you ahead of the competition.
Tron Jordheim is the
CMO of StorageMart, one of the world's largest privately held
self-storage companies with locations across the U.S. and Canada. He has
helped lead the company to double-digit revenue growth for the last
four years by embracing digital marketing and call center support.
Jordheim has consulted for companies and spoken at trade events in the
U.S., Canada, the U.K., Spain and Mexico. Prior to StorageMart, Jordheim
managed one of Culligan Water's top U.S. bottled water franchises. With
over 40 years of experience in sales, marketing and training, he
continues to be sought after as a public speaker, sales trainer and
consultant. For more information, please visit http://www.storage-mart.com/blog/author/tron-jordheim.
Craft a customer-centric culture
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