David Dirks Director, Global Market Development Satin Fine Foods, Inc.
In my last blog posting I shared with you how my father in the era of no personal computers, no smart phones and no CRM – developed a simple system for categorizing data on his customers. As a butcher with a small grocery store – his 3x5 card system was a simple but effective way to capture key information. He captured not only their product preferences but also included personal information like their contact information, birthdays, what they did for a living, and other nuances.
So the question is, how did he use this information in his business? Here are a few ways that I witnessed over the years working in the store:
- Loyalty is a powerful and profitable tool. At any one time my father employed at least 2 to 3 other full-time butchers and had between 3 and 4 deli counter people. It was a busy little store. As a part of their training as new employees, he instructed them to become familiar with each of those customer cards. To back his requirement up, he would quiz them on how much they would recall about each customer. Over time his employees have excellent customer knowledge and would often refer back to those cards and even add information on them as they gained it.
- People care that you care. If he didn’t see a customer for an extended period of time, he’d call and check in on them to see if they were ok. Just the call would often be enough to get a customer back into the store – even if they had switched to buying their meats and groceries at another store. I’d say in at least 40% of the cases when he made those calls, it resulted in a grocery order on the spot.
- Word-of-mouth (WOM) drives business. When customers felt special one way they rewarded my father was by recommending his store to their friends and neighbors. Outside of signage on the store and his delivery trucks, my father didn’t spend a nickel on marketing & advertising. He didn’t need to because he and his team understood that power that positive WOM provides.
- You customer data can help you become more efficient. One area that my father used this data was his buying – especially seasonal buying. Every quarter he would review his customer cards (literally hundreds of them) to gauge what their key preferences would be for certain cuts of meat and other products and he would order accordingly. This without the help of spreadsheets – they weren’t invented yet!
- Your data has real value – now and later. Years later when he was looking to sell the store, one of the key factors in getting the highest price he could obtain for the store was his customer data. The prospective new owner understood the value that treasure trove of customer data that my father owned. It played a large factor in the overall price he received for his business.
Customers loved it because it just seemed amazing to them how attentive and knowledgeable his employees were. It made them feel like they were family when they came to the store.
The morale of the story is this: collect customer data as you learn more about your customers and keep it updated. Spend some time and effort understanding what data you have on your customers now and how you can close the gap on any lapses of information.