By Jeff Stankard
What could be worse than the sight of that recent customer driving back into your parking lot? I’m sure the thoughts start running through your head about the uncomfortable conversation that is going to take place between you and the customer, and between you and the technician who worked on the car. Nobody is happy, and you need to change this negative situation into a positive one to keep the customer coming back for many more years.
What is worse than this bad comeback situation is when the customer doesn’t give you a second chance to make things right and takes their business to the other shop down the road. I’m sure you’ve read that it’s 10 times more expensive to obtain a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer. You have to put the effort into keeping your existing customers, as well as attracting new ones. When you run a promotion or sale, your intent is to capture new, incremental business, not to discount the business that would have come through the door anyway.
When you get this new business, you must actively work to cultivate it. At the same time, you need to analyze your customer data to find those who have not returned. Were they price shoppers who came in for the discounted oil change? If so, you probably don’t want to work too hard to retain them. Or, were they long-term customers who had $600 worth of service? I think a phone call is in order to find out what’s going on there. Maybe they moved to another town, sold the car, or maybe they didn’t have such a great experience.
Look closely at the work that was performed and the type of parts that were installed. Did the customer buy the premium stuff or the low-end product? If they bought a low-end product, was it explained to them that this item would not perform like the premium product you have available? Have you managed their expectations so they are in line with the service?
Making follow-up phone calls with customers takes a lot of time, but it can be an easy step in the effort to retain a customer and build on the relationship. Also, calling a regular customer who you have not seen in nine months may reveal that your service writer is not fully explaining the work order, or that offering that low-end product is more trouble than it’s worth. Customer feedback both the good and especially the bad is critical to running a successful business.