Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Ali the tuk-tuk driver scores a direct hit

What the tuk-tuk business can teach us about customers - by Promise Phelon, CSO and Founder [from the Phelon Group Blog]

Imagine this… You’re in Cambodia. It’s hot. It’s also the slow season, kind of like your end of quarter. The tourism folks are desperate; they mob you at every turn. Did I mention it’s 90 degrees and 100% humidity? It was our second day in Pnom Penh. Leaving the Royal Palace, we’re swarmed by tuk-tuk drivers, all wearing slippers, all exhausted, all yelling some variation of “I give you cheap price!” I notice a driver who’s standing away from the pack. He’s sporting a clean vest, a tucked shirt and a huge smile. He’s also holding up two icy bottles of water.
My tall, American-looking husband is bargaining with five drivers at once. But I look at Ali. He looks at me. Then he walks over, hands me the water, smiles and bows with arms outstretched toward his wagon.

I think—assumptive close and differentiation. Very nice. My husband follows me; we hop into the tuk-tuk and speed away. Ali says, in pretty good English, “I felt sorry for you and wanted to get you out of there.” We are glad. When we arrive at our next stop, Ali goes for the big close: “I’d like to be your driver while you are in Pnom Penh,” he says. And then he asks us for all the details about our upcoming week—where we’re going, how we’re getting to and fro, and what we’d most like to see. He assembles a perfect itinerary, weaving in hidden spots to watch the best sunrise and sunset, and the best place to try traditional food without “cramplications,” if you know what I mean. He’s at our hotel early to pick us up EVERY day before we can even be distracted by other drivers. And when we leave, he gives us his card and thanks us for helping him get through a rough week with few tourists.

Ali won more than a sale that day—he won a loyal, committed customer who will proactively refer him to others. He also established such value throughout the trip there that we paid a premium and tipped big at the end. Although he doesn’t have a quarterly customer satisfaction survey or a CRM system to log and manage these issues, he knows how to differentiate himself and deliver value throughout our stay. And in doing so, he unknowingly implemented a set of tactics to result in retention, repurchase and referability. The evening we left Pnom Penh for our next destination, I gave Ali’s contact information to at least 20 people who were heading in his direction. I don’t know how it went, but I’m sure at least 50% of them used Ali. And we will arrange in advance to use his services when we return again.

What one action did your company take today to ensure retention, repurchase and referability? What will you do tomorrow? If you’re not treating those three revenue-driving Rs as strategy, you’re still just one of the pack fighting the commoditization of your product or service. What Ali the Tuk-tuk driver can teach us is that winning customers is essential but keeping them with an ever-evolving value proposition—keeping them by engineering value—will keep you well poised and on the road to long lasting success.

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