"Whoa! Look out! Whoooooooooo!"

What makes a Geico customer go on TV to praise their car insurance, with Little Richard? What creates word of mouth? Since I'm now a card-carrying member of the Society for Word of Mouth on Ning, I started thinking about products, businesses, organizations, etc. which I learned of through WOM.I think it may be interesting to post about these "True WOM Hollywood Stories", and set off a decent meme in the process. I will contain my discussions to entities or products that to my knowledge, don't do any advertising.

Here is my first one. I'll give a synopses and then break down the details.

I take my car to a shop called The Car Place for service here in Raleigh. After a really frustrating experience at the dealership, I called a friend's father, who does paint and auto body work, to ask where to take it for repairs. He immediately said "Pat and Ronnie" (two of the owners). They're so personable, few people I know ever refer to the shop as by its name,The Car Place just "call Pat and Ronnie." I took his advice, and haven't taken my car anywhere else since.

Why I like them is, you just feel at home and among friends when you are there - in short they sincerely care. I guess it is my small-town upbringing, but I like to do business where people know my name, ask about my family, etc. These guys could give a clinic on how to treat customers. They have state of the art equipment, and are highly skilled mechanics, yet they never lose the personal touch. I can recall a few times when I've had an early morning appointment, whoever was going to get breakfast and coffee for the crew, would ask me what I wanted as well and bring it back. (NOTE: This isn't a company policy, so don't go rolling in there expecting a free chicken biscuit with your oil change; I think WOM is also a relationship built over time between seller and customer.)

When I've had an unexpected problem, they bring me out into the shop to look at the car on the rack and show me in detail what's wrong and why. I've never once felt they were juking me for unnecessary repairs. In summary they've earned my business by earning my trust and respect, and I gladly "evangelize" for them if someone asks.

Now, I want to examine if there is a process to this. How did I become an evangelist for The Car Place?
  • I had a customer need - service on my car.
  • I had a bad experience with another business.
  • Someone I considered an expert in auto repair who's opinion I trusted recommended them.
  • I had a positive experience first time out.
  • Over time, and that phrase can't be stressed enough, my positive initial experience was confirmed by my subsequent ongoing relationship with the shop.
  • I don't feel I will lose credibility by giving them a recommendation.
As I read it, the power in this construct is the next to last bullet. There are no shortcuts to customer relationships. It's like romantic love; you can't make or coerce someone into falling in love with you -they either do or they don't on their own.

Okay, I now tag Andy, Lynne, Spike, Peter, Jeremiah, the SWOMand Angela. Comment and tell me how you came to evangelize for a product.

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