A few months ago, I wrote a blog concerning marketing that would help make an impact on keeping customer visit count consistent regardless of weather, holidays, or any other type of pattern. However, since some of us didn’t market right, we’re in the aftermath — the car count slowed down, and we’re fretting about how we’re going to make ends meet. It’s true that proper marketing techniques take over a month to see results and make an impact, but there are still items we can do today to turn this ship around.
Retarget Your Customers
For starters, we can reach out to those customers who didn’t get necessary repairs in the past, to come back in and visit us. Unless we made the mistake of not formally estimating everything we recommended, retaining those recommended repairs in our system, and then resourcing those recommendations to drive business year-round (especially during the slow times), this is a great place to start. We have the customer’s contact information, their vehicle’s info, and what repairs they need. This information is priceless — we would pay to get these details if we didn’t have them already, so let’s make sure we’re utilizing them. If our current process isn’t bulletproof in making it easy to reach out, let’s fix it.
Provide Your Staff with a Script
When we reach out to these customers, we have to conduct conversations with leading questions and statements, and not leave the door open to someone turning down a necessary repair a second time. Statements like “It’s been 30 days since we saw those leaking shocks, and we know it’s only going to get worse, so let’s put in that appointment for this Thursday to get it done.” The opposite and less-successful approach would be to ask a yes / no question, where saying yes is interpreted as having a cost, which would conclude with the customer giving us a no. Get a script together for your staff to use in making their phone calls successful which will take some roleplaying, and probably listening to recorded calls.
Source Your Customers’ Frequency
Next, most shop management software programs will allow us to view the visit frequency of our customers. If we dive into whom we haven’t seen for nine months or more, we can reach out to those customers via email, text, or phone call to invite them back in. Since we’ll lose a certain percentage of customers each year to attrition, sourcing our frequency report is imperative. It’s a great way to get feedback if the last visit didn’t go as planned or wake our customers up to the fact that we’re here for them and again bring up previously declined work.
Turn Your Customers into Marketers
We need customers we would label “promoters” who will go out in our community touting we’re the place to do business with. They will only do that if we give them a “Wow” experience, exceed their expectations, and separate ourselves from our competition — inside and outside of the automotive industry. If we don’t have the perks and benefits that a leading hotel, airline, or dog groomer would have, let’s do what we can do to bring those ideas on board. Then when someone asks our customers where to go — the answer will be a resounding referral.
Stick to a Scheduling Process
At this point, it’s self-explanatory how much value a future-scheduling process would’ve helped the situation we’re in. If we had advised customers 30 days ago to come back and get service repairs done, our schedule would look better. If we advised customers in August to come back for their next maintenance visit, we would keep the hills and valleys of car count more consistent. Once we get the perceived awkwardness of making an appointment in the future (like dentists do) out of the way, we can reap the benefits for all eternity.
Let’s make a change and use the pain we’re feeling right now to commit to never allowing it to happen again. We should never again say “it’s that time when business drops” because we’re at fault for letting it happen. Do we know that post-holidays people would be financially constrained for a given period of time? Yes. Do we know that families are making tough decisions in their budgets due to the economy right now? Yes. What are we doing to ensure our customers spend their tax refunds with us as opposed to buying a new vacuum? Get these practices in place to fix what we’re already behind with, and never allow it to repeat.
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!