What are your customers really thinking? What’s working for them, and what isn’t? What do they really think about your company vs. your competition? That can be tough information to draw out of people, but Four Seasons Greenhouse and Nursery of Dolores, CO, has found a very effective way of doing so.
A profile of the company in the May issue of Today’s Garden Center discusses Four Seasons’ “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” program. Last year, owner Gail Vanik added her photo at the bottom of every monthly enewsletter, along with an invitation to readers to “Tell me ‘Something I Don’t Know’ about Four Seasons at my personal email address” along with an email link. (For an example, scroll down the bottom of one of Four Seasons’ archived newsletters.)
The program has generated as many as 25 to 30 responses per month, not bad for a $1 million nursery. Says Vanik: “I might ask ‘Tell me something I don’t know about my staff, or about a new product you tried this year. We can’t trial every product on the shelf. If someone tries something and it doesn’t work, I want to know about it.” Asking customers to tell her about any problems via email allows her to address them without having problems broadcast to the world on social media.
There are undoubtedly several reasons why the program generates so much more response – and valuable feedback – than the obligatory stand-alone email address:
• Vanik’s attitude comes across. Customers know she really wants and appreciates feedback.
• Having her photo next to the request for feedback personalizes the experience. Customers feel they’re talking directly to the owner.
• Respondents may remain anonymous, making it more comfortable to give less-than-positive comments
Whether you’re a small company or large … a retail store or a catalog or online merchant … it’s important to foster a two-way conversation with your customers. Personal relationships and customer service are the primary way we can distinguish ourselves from the big box stores. So don’t consider emails and phone calls a nuisance to discourage, but rather a means to generate ongoing loyalty, something to be nurtured.