As I’m walking through the mall trying to decide what to buy my wife for her birthday, I noticed a Victoria’s Secret store with large posters in the window. Wow, they would have some great items for her birthday. Selfishly I must confess, not only would she love these, so would I — much like as a young boy I would buy my mother chocolate candy knowing that she would leave most of the candy for me.
As I walked through the store looking at the different intimate and sexy items, I found myself becoming very nervous. I was actually afraid to touch the items, let alone pick them up in front of the other customers who were mostly women and teenage girls. Somehow it just didn’t seem right for this old man to be in that store. Just as I turned to walk out, a young lady with a Victoria’s Secret name badge on asked if she could help. Recognizing I appeared uneasy and even a little anxious, she asked whom I was shopping for. I quickly told her I was shopping for a birthday present for my wife. She asked if I wanted anything in particular. As the perspiration started to build on my forehead, I found I just couldn’t get the words out. How do you ask a sales clerk to show you sexy undies?
This was obviously not her first experience with a nervous husband shopping for his wife as she suggested looking at the table in the center of the store. Now I am standing in the center of the store, surrounded by female shoppers, looking at a very sexy bra display. She picks out a few and hands them to me — yikes, now I am holding bras in the center of the store surrounded by women and young girls. I was just thinking a few of these would make a nice present, when I was asked what size my wife would need. Of course, I had no idea. I started to gesture using my hands to demonstrate her size and quickly realized that was not working. I pointed to a shopper across the store and blurted out, “Her size.” Again, she demonstrated with her experience (with great tact and diplomacy I might add) helping a man who has no idea how to purchase the items by assuring me that I could return my purchases if they were the wrong size.
With her skills and knowledge of their wide variety of items, I ended up purchasing more than I planned. After all, these were for me, too. I walked out of the store feeling satisfied I had picked some great selections and my wife would love them.
Be honest; you know you’ve had a similar experience. Now, imagine how the average woman feels driving into your automotive shop.
Shelby in a Man’s World
The following is a fictional individual made from a composite of interviews with many female quick lube customers about their experiences over the past years. We’ll call her Shelby.
Shelby is away from home attending college. Before leaving home, her father instructed her to have her vehicle’s oil changed twice a year. Like many others, she kept putting off the visit since it was not the most exciting way for a teenage girl to spend her time. Finally, after being reminded by her dad every time she called home asking for money, she decided to get it done. She went online to search for the closest shop and found a quick lube just a mile away that promised to take only 30 minutes. Shelby could handle that, as she was heading to the mall right after making daddy happy.
As she drove up to the facility she noticed the three bays, two of which had cars in them but they were facing out, where do you enter? She wasn’t sure where to go when she noticed a sign that seemed to direct her to the rear of the shop. As she pulled up to the rear of the store, a rather large man slowly approached her. She was a little nervous since she really wasn’t sure why he was coming out to her. She rolled the window down and started to say something, but really didn’t know what to ask for when he asked if she was there for an oil change. She took a deep breath and said, “Yes.” He opened the car door and pointed to the waiting room. She headed toward the entrance while looking around at the other technicians and the facility itself. Overall, the staff and the facility looked like they both could use a good cleaning. By this time, she found herself wishing for a female, as it appeared that the staff was all male. She had a few questions about the service, with price being the most important one, and thought it would be easier talking with another woman. As she walked into the waiting room, it seemed to be in disarray, with automotive magazines laying on the table and chairs. She picked up a hot rod magazine and quickly realized she would not be interested. Now someone was pulling her car into the empty stall to begin the oil change. She was still wondering how much her service was going to cost when a different individual asked her to step outside with him. Since it was almost 100 F (38 C) outside, she was reluctant to follow. According to Shelby, humidity and hair make for a very bad day.
The technician asked her what type of oil she wanted. The technician then told her there were many different types of oil: conventional, synthetic and even one that was a combination of the two. Since she had no idea, she asked what he would recommend. At this point he stated her vehicle’s manufacturer recommended she use synthetic oil. Shelby asked what the difference in the price was. Upon hearing the answer, she quickly choose the conventional oil, so she would have a few dollars for her mall visit later in the day. Now, he was telling her about other recommended services and showing her two different dirty filters, both of which she knew nothing about. Since all of these would take her shopping dollars away, she declined them. She would ask her dad about those sometime later. Entering the waiting room for the second time, she went over and opened the restroom door only to quickly back up at the sight of the oily and greasy sink, trash can overflowing and, worse, a toilet that looked like it had not been attended to in several days.
Shelby’s car was pulled out front, and she was asked to step over to the cashier. She now had sticker shock, as the total came to just over $50. She wanted to ask why it was so high and what those additional charges were, but did not want to appear unknowledgeable. She made a decision to tell her dad the next time she needed her car serviced, he would have to handle it.
Improving Female Customer Retention
As the above stories point out, we all can be uncomfortable certain situations. John Gray’s bestselling book, “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” was designed for couples to develop a more satisfying relationship. Isn’t a satisfying relationship what you want with your customers? Especially since women are becoming the majority of your customers.
Want to improve your female customer retention? Consider these 10 action items:
· Add women team members to your staff
· Clean the exterior and interior of your store — and keep it clean
· Empty the trash often throughout the day
· The restroom must be spotless all day, every day
· Your male team members must be as clean and neat as possible
· Speak to female customers as you would your own wife or mother, don’t use technical terms
· Have a few coloring books for young children
· Implement an ongoing sensitivity training customer service program targeted toward women customers
· Always be polite; treat all customers with dignity and respect
· Open the car door for her upon arrival and departure
Remember, your shop is most likely not her environment. It’s not in her comfort zone, just as Victoria’s Secret is not in mine. Respect the differences, and watch your female customers return again and again.