In November I wrote a post on how to avoid the slow slump season during the winter months. Now, we’re at the time of year when car count starts to ramp up regardless of what geographical area we’re in. This will be due to college kids coming back home, winterized classic and sports cars coming out of hibernation, preparation for road trips, and more.
With this influx, we sometimes make the mistake of not focusing on marketing any longer due to being satisfied with what’s in front of us, or being overrun and don’t have time to concentrate as much on marketing as we once did. This can be detrimental to business, which will throw us right back into the old peaks and valleys we’ve seen before regarding car count.
Here’s what you should be doing year-round, regardless of how busy you are:
1. Document and Record-Keep
First, let’s make sure documentation and record keeping are impeccable. Every vehicle serviced, regardless of repair, needs names, addresses, contact information (including email addresses), VIN numbers, mileages, and plate numbers. If we have circumstances where we’re not properly record-keeping due to the simplicity of a repair (wipers, flat repairs, etc.), we can’t effectively market to those customers through mailers or email and text blasts. If we never see those customers again, we’ll never know if we’re not recording their visit.
2. Routine Courtesy Checks
Next, it’s imperative that courtesy checks are done uniformly for each car regardless of the time pinch we’re in. What a disservice it would be if a customer had impending doom concerning an area of their vehicle that we didn’t pay attention to, since we’re simply trying to satisfy their and our completion times. If they end up having an emergency two weeks after a visit with us, they’d be inconvenienced to a high degree, and the scenario can shoot us in the foot if they express that they just visited us, and why didn’t we make them aware of an upcoming situation?
In addition to looking out for our customer’s well-being, uniform courtesy checks also make it so we’re driving sales whether we can fit it in today, or schedule it for down the road. Picture it’s August leading up to back-to-school, and because past years have taught us some lessons, we reflect stating “that time of year” is going to cause a slowdown. However, this year is different. We were advising customers that came to us mid to late July of problems they had that we couldn’t immediately tend to but could book appointments four weeks out (back-to-school time). Now we have guaranteed cars returning and the related business that comes with them.
3. Engage with the Community
Ask customers for referrals year-round and promptly respond to reviews (positive and negative). Be sure to answer questions across different online sites, conduct events that draw attention to the business, and consistently promote in-house financing. This will ensure we control sales trends over the course of the year, instead of the yearly timing controlling us.
Consistent work order audits, using a marketing calendar to plan events, and making all employees follow processes that are known to be good for us and our customers are the only way to go to business. If there are gaps, let’s fill them now. If we’re not scheduling, let’s plan. If we’re managing people, let’s manage the processes instead. For more ways to keep consistent car count, read this post.
This isn’t the economy to make concessions and reduce the perceived value we bring to our customers. But when we do, tracking is imperative. It may be a shocker for some when we accurately report discounts and then research what it costs us over time. We may think, “What could we have paid for if we didn’t discount this much?” It could be employee benefits, a much-needed piece of equipment, or the top trim level on the RV we wanted. So let’s get to business the right way every day.
Non-ATI Members: Want to learn more about today’s best practices for marketing, selling, improving profit, and growing your bottom line? Start with a shop owner event at www.atievent.com. We offer virtual and in-person events, fee-based and free, for both auto repair and collision repair shop owners. Find one near you today!