There are more than 62 million Americans between the ages of 27 and 41. These folks are considered to be the “connected generation” and more widely known as Generations X and Y.
What does this generation mean to your business? As we visit automotive repair shops around the country, we hear one common theme. Many feel that today’s customers aren’t as loyal as they used to be. This is a perception, but not always reality. Today’s consumer can be loyal, but for different reasons.
This generation is connected to the world at their fingertips. They’re a much more educated consumer and must be handled that way. They communicate differently and do business with whom they feel comfortable.
By having a world of information at their disposal, they make informed decisions and expect to be treated as knowledgeable consumers. When that phone rings today in your shop, you must be prepared to spend time with them and explain the repair. Those shops that exceed their expectations, versus just meeting them, will gain their loyalty. Do something to get customers talking about your shop after they leave. In today’s competitive market, you must stand out from the crowd.
How can we gain the loyalty of Generations X and Y? Based on the information at our disposal, we find that this generation is very interactive. They want to be involved and feel like they’re part of the solution. They want to see their “name in lights.” They belong to websites such as MySpace and Facebook.
These sites are designed to talk about yourself and to find other people with whom you have a common thread. A recent quote said, “Those who are over 40 get a cup of coffee and read the paper in the morning, and those under 40 get that cup of coffee and go to their MySpace page.” As business owners, you must be the change agent and accept the fact that this is where your future customer base is hanging out.
How can we reach this generation? Following is a list of ideas that we’ve seen work in repair shops across the country in attracting and keeping this customer base coming in.
Digital picture frames displayed in the waiting area of customers and their cars.
MySpace page of your shop with pictures of technicians and services offered.
Personalized ROs for your best customers.
Do-it-yourself activities, like an interactive bay where customers can get involved in their repairs.
Mother/daughter and father/son clinics.
Allow customers to post comments on your website or MySpace page.
Have a process that you follow when giving the car back to your customers. It could be a bottle of water or candy bar in every car, washing each vehicle, etc.
Workshops on the web: How to check oil, what’s involved in a brake job.
Get involved in chat rooms and blogs explaining what your shop offers.
Get involved in raising money for a local charity. Hold a food drive (not just a jar on your counter). This generation loves to help and be involved, and they’re loyal to people who do the same.
Make your website fun and interactive. An example of this was a shop allowing customers to vote for a new name for the business.
Text-message your customers.
In today’s market, we must create change. The above ideas are just a few thoughts that will help create the environment expected by Generations X and Y. We would suggest getting your younger technicians involved and asking them what they would do differently, if he or she were the owner? After he/she tells you that they would give themselves a raise, you may get some new ideas.
By Joe McDonald and Ken Williamson, regional sales vice presidents, Jasper Engines & Transmissions. For more information on Generation X and Y, see “Mind Your X’s and Y’s” by Lisa Johnson.