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Gift Certificates are Potential Customers!

October 31, 2016

I’ve seen it time and time again…..Businesses sell gift certificates but staff tend to treat them as if they are not nearly as important as paying customers!

From a business owner, I know it may be simple to assume and hope that by selling the services in advance, that some people will not take advantage of the services at all. And, while that may be a good bonus revenue stream, it’s not going to produce long-term or lucrative results.

One morning, I walked into the nail salon that I had never been to before. My friend had purchased a gift certificate for me for my birthday.  The sign in the window said  “Walk -ins welcome”. When I walked in and told them what services I wanted and showed them the gift certificate. He started talking to his co-workers. I couldn’t understand or hear what he was saying, and then he turned to me and said “Do you have an appointment?” It’s important to note that there were 5 workers in the salon and 2 customers. Doing the math, there were 3 staff members sitting on their phones of all things and doing nothing.  After they yelled at each other for a moment, making me feel about 2 inches tall. I said “I'm sorry, do I need an appointment? The sign in the window says walk-ins welcome?” The “manager” immediately told me to come in and go ahead and sit down. The man that was assisting me, however, was not pleased. The experience was one of the worst I have ever encountered.  After I observed the interaction with "paying" customers and the staff, I concluded that if I was a paying customer, I would have been treated differently. There was a visual and glaring difference.

The salon already had my money, or my friend’s money.  And, their attitude was just that.  But, as far as the owners of the salon would know, I am a POTENTIAL customer that they cast aside and made me feel as if they HAD to service my needs since I had a gift certificate. What if they upsold me to other services and they would have made additional revenue on my visit?  They made NO attempt to service me as a potential customer who might just spend hundreds of dollars there in the future. They made no attempt to WOW me with their services and what they are about.  They made no attempt to upsell services or tell me about "next time".  The salon I usually go to is always trying to upsell me on additional services or "add-on's" as we like to call them.  

Gift certificates are a “Free pass” for a sales pitch. It’s an opportunity to give a guest – who might not ever come into your business a chance to gain them as a long term customer. In the other event, where they are already a long term customer, it’s an opportunity to show them how much you appreciate their business.  And, it works in ANY business.  

Train your staff to understand that a gift certificate is just as important as a regular customer. Think about a hotel, which the guest has a free room night. Isn’t there opportunity to sell them on food and beverage, amenities, and added extras? Sure there is, and the chances of them taking those are even greater than regular guests because the value for them is greater, since their room is already paid for.

Consider re-labeling your gift certificates as VIP PASSES – to remind your staff and guests and whomever your customer is that it is just that. A customer that has a FREE PASS – but the opportunity is there for the business to make that guest a customer for life. Half of the sales battle is already done – they are there and waiting – the opportunities are endless Your job is to win the customer and keep them coming back!  

-Shannon May