by Tim Ross, president, Mudlick Mail
With visits to repair shops on the decline, building customer loyalty is more important than ever. Developing a large and stable database of regular customers can help eliminate the constant need to acquire new customers. Your loyal customers can also serve as a great referral source for your shop. According to the research firm The Gartner Group, 20% of a business’ existing customers generate 80% of that business’ profits.
While providing good repair work is an essential component of customer satisfaction, perhaps even more important when it comes to cultivating loyalty is delivering exceptional customer service. After all, customers expect us to fix their cars. What they don’t expect is a convenient, easy and enjoyable experience.
If you can excel in the customer service area, you will give customers a reason to return.
Making A Good Impression
You may not realize that a customer’s interaction with your shop starts before they even walk in the door. A consumer is going to form opinions about your business based on your advertising materials, website, Yelp reviews and even the causes you support. Having a user-friendly website that features testimonials, photos of your shop and the benefits you offer customers is a great way to build trust with potential new customers.
When it comes to advertising, make sure your offers are clear, easy-to-understand and easy to redeem. Your first conversation with a customer shouldn’t involve you explaining a confusing promotion. And don’t forget to monitor your online reputation. Addressing bad reviews will show your willingness to discuss concerns.
So, what happens when a customer finally visits your shop? He or she should encounter a clean facility, staffed by friendly, articulate, well-groomed employees. If your lobby is packed with people, potential customers may fear a long wait and walk out. Avoid that scenario by processing customers quickly and offering conveniences, such as shuttles, so customers can get back to their busy lives. Remember, you have only a few seconds to provide a perception of integrity and superior service.
Separating Yourself From The Pack
Serving customers well is tricky because the definition of what is considered excellent customer service keeps changing. Benefits that were once considered unusual, such as customer shuttles, repair warranties and extended hours on weekends, are now becoming the norm.
To distinguish yourself, you need to focus on making the car repair process as easy as possible. When customers call about making an appointment, ask when the most convenient time is for them to come in, instead of scheduling appointments around when your technicians think they can squeeze in the repair. If necessary, you can move big repair jobs to accommodate less-intensive maintenance services and keep your shop running more efficiently.
Don’t be afraid to tap technology to improve convenience and communication. You can incorporate an online booking form on your website to allow clients to communicate their appointment preference without them ever picking up the phone. Instead of having customers call you to receive updates on the status of their repairs, keep them informed via text or e-mail. New applications also allow you to send photos of needed repairs, inspection reports and estimates directly to customers’ smartphones and tablets.
Efficiently managing the flow of cars through your shop and effectively communicating with customers will help you establish a reputation for strong customer service. But there is also an array of little things that you can do to push your shop into the “exceptional” category of customer service.
Opening the door for customers is a nice touch, as is greeting customers by name (an easy trick for remembering names is to scan license plates when customers arrive and match plate numbers with names in your database). Providing free Wi-Fi if a customer chooses to work in your waiting room can make a difference. Using your shuttle to accommodate an unscheduled stop for a customer will allow that person to accomplish essential tasks and build goodwill for your shop.
Just going above and beyond whether that means washing cars after they have been repaired or sending thank you notes will resonate with customers who usually have low expectations when it comes to car repair. Above all, don’t forget to say thank you to every customer every day.
You can have the best intentions of delivering unparalleled customer service, but if you fail to train your employees on how to treat customers, you’ll fall short. Unfortunately, this is where a lot of shop owners drop the ball because they either don’t have the time or don’t make the time to establish customer service procedures. Don’t make that mistake.
Create written standards outlining how you want your shop to look, how to handle customer inquiries and how to communicate during the repair process. Train employees on those standards and let them know you’ll regularly review their performance. Communicate often about changes in promotions and policies, so employees have the proper information when talking to customers.
If you create a customer-focused culture, and then reinforce that culture through training and evaluations, you’ll give customers a reason to stay loyal for life.
Tim Ross is president of Mudlick Mail, a leading provider of direct mail campaigns to the automotive repair industry. Mudlick Mail has worked with close to 1,000 automotive repair and transmission shops across the U.S. and Canada, helping them improve their car count and increase sales. The company teaches its clients how to understand consumer-buying habits and shows them how to create effective systems to maximize the value of their marketing campaigns.
Article courtesy of Shop Owner magazine.