5 Things to Give Customers for Free

Published by Nadeem Muaddi on September 7th, 2011

You didn’t open an auto trim shop to give your services away for free. But there are five things that you can offer your customers – free of charge – that would improve your customer service and encourage them to keep coming back. Best of all, it’ll cost you next to nothing.

1. Cup of Joe

You drink coffee all day, right? So why not brew a few extra cups for your customers? Being hospitable can go a long in building rapport.

“Hey, let me grab you a cup of coffee while you look through those swatches of fabric. How do you like it?”

Best of all, offering customers a refreshing cup of Joe can help lower their guard. They may have walked in fearing a rip off, but quickly found a friend. Plus it’s a lot harder for a customer to play hardball after you’ve been so nice.

Just make sure your coffee is good. You don’t want to be known as the shop that serves its customers sludge.

2. Tips & Advice

As a professional trimmer, you not only know how to upholster cars, but protect their interiors as well. That knowledge is invaluable to your customers. Passing it along will help them see that you’ve got their best interests at heart.

“I noticed that the leather on your seats is starting to harden. You should condition them before they crack. Because once they’re ruined, it’s expensive to fix.”

You could even use this opportunity to hock any products you sell – like leather conditioner.

3. Quick Wipe Down

The number one rule of auto service is to never return a customer’s car dirtier than when it arrived. But what if you returned it a tad bit cleaner?

Detailing a customer’s car can be costly and time consuming, but giving its cabin a quick vacuum and wipe down isn’t. And because most of our shops smell like cigarettes and exhaust fume, a dash of air freshener couldn’t hurt either.

The whole process shouldn’t take longer than five minutes or cost you much. However, it’ll show customers that their cars are in good hands.

4. Company Swag

Plenty of businesses give away t-shirts or baseball caps marked with their company’s logo – but that can be expensive. A cheaper alternative is pens, magnets or key chains. In fact, if you buy them in bulk, they only cost pennies on the dollar.

Before returning a car, my father always attached a company keychain to customers’ keys. It was a little red car that had the name of his shop and phone number on it. Customers loved it. And because it was on their keys, they basically carried his business card everywhere they went.

Other shops splurge on calendars – which is a fine option. Just be careful not to fall into the trap of bikini-calendars. It looks unprofessional and can be offensive.

5. A Reason to Return

If you do quality work, customers will return. But sometimes they need a little prodding. The best way to ensure that customers come back is to give them a reason to – like a future discount.

“While fixing your headliner, I noticed a cigarette burn on the base of your front passenger seat. If you come back to have it fixed before the end of next month, I’ll give you 10% off.”

Write it down too. A coupon or certificate makes your offer official and serves as a reminder to your customer that the offer stands.

Your Input: Have anything else to add to the list? Write it in the comments section below and let’s talk about it.




6 Responses

  1. John says:

    Nice tips. I agree.

    • Nadeem says:

      Thanks John! Some additional ideas that our readers contributed include:

      Mike8560 – “If someone comes to me with a small, simple restitch…I’ll sew it and hand it to them. …Most come back later with a real job.”

      fragged8 – “I used to give mugs away like the one Mike got but now give pens with a light in one end, only because they are far cheaper. Usually if i write the canopy measurements etc up with the nice snuggtopz pen and then hand it to them, they love the pen so much they give me the job without too much work on my part. :-)”

      Mojo – This year I am going to start sending out Christmas cards thanking them for their business and simply wishing them a great holiday season. … I have two customers who have given me tons of referrals and subsequent business. I will probably give them a gift subscription to an RV magazine. They are very important customers and I sure do not mind spending the $ 20 a piece for them. They have sent me thousands of dollars in referrals not to mention their own work and are heavy hitters in the RV business.

      I have read studies which said personal communication is far more effective then handing out pens and such. A personalized thank you card one month after the sale or a Christmas card during the holidays is an effective personal touch. […]

      One other thing I do that I should mention. I call my customers who placed big orders with me 30 days after they get their awnings or solar screens and check to see how their install went. I have never had a complaint but they have really appreciated that extra personal touch. […]

      Speaking of dealers I will be making my rounds this Christmas to the dealers who have supported me. I will be taking some homemade Christmas cookies with me and a card to their entire staff for their card wall that many have. I have on dealer / manager who I will be giving a gift certificate to Ruby Tuesdays because he has sent me a ton of referrals.”

      Peppy – “Like Mike, give a little stitching or a snap or two. Give the guy with the new Convertible top a bottle of 303 for his old travel cover. Replace his little swim ladder strap do-ies. Vinyl cleaner.”

      Great tips everyone! Keep them coming!

  2. Naseem Muaddi says:

    Great article Nadeem!

  3. EDWARD says:

    JUST DOING GOOD WORK AT RESONABLE PRICES KEPT OURS COMING BACK , AND WITH GRADATUDE. WHEN ASKED ABOUT GUARANTEES,WE SAID YES TO THE WORK BUT NO TO THE MATERIALS YOU WILL HAVE TO CONTACT THE MANUFACTURE WHICH IN NORTH CAROLINA WAS USUALLY JUST UP THE ROAD. SOME BUT NOT ALL SALEMEN WOULD TELL YOU ANYTHING TO UNLOAD WHAT WAS ON THERE TRUCK

  4. larry arnold says:

    Give them a roll of toilet paper. Wrap around it a bumper sticker that says, “When your seat needs a little attention, give us a call.” (add your company logo, and contact information) No one refuses a roll of toilet paper, except one guy, and I didnt shake his hand. Typically that roll with your logo will stay on top of a desk and act as a conversation starter. It works.

    San Leandro Auto Upholstery, California
    (510) 483-7841
    Larry Arnold


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