The auto repair and maintenance industry had a tremendous year in 2022. We saw increases over pre-covid levels. Most of the shops I talk to had record-breaking sales in the first half of the year, and indications are it will continue. As predicted, however, 2023 has seen a slowdown in that demand. What does that mean to the auto repair shop owner and service advisor of today?
It means we need to keep the front door wide open and get that back door closed, deadbolted, and welded shut. The back door refers to the people that leave us — both customers and employees. They leave for a variety of reasons, but a lot of those reasons are in your control to overcome. If your phone isn’t ringing off the hook, or your car count is not what you want it to be, it may mean that your back door is wide open. You spend a lot of money to get those customers in the front door. Let’s keep them!
How do you do that? I’m glad you asked!
If you are the cheapest shop in town and don’t want to change, you will lose people over service and price. You will never be cheap enough, and when you cut corners, you will not be able to provide the kind of service experience that closes the back door. To hire great people, have financial health and freedom for yourself and your staff, and provide customers with exceptional service, you must charge appropriately and build value in your services.
It comes down to what customers want and what they don’t know they want yet. For example, your customers may not know they want digital health inspections yet because they haven’t seen one before.
Here are the Top 4 Areas to focus on the Close The Back Door when it comes to customers:
1. Customer Service Experience
Your front counter is the #1 impactor on getting customers in the door and closing the back door (retaining them).
- Training, training, training… Your Customer Service Reps, Service Advisors, Service Managers and you should be taking sales and customer service classes.
- Practice, practice, practice… After a class, review what was learned and practice it with your front counter personnel over and over.
- Process, process, process… You can teach your front counter best practices on handling the telephone, the welcoming drop-off, presenting the estimate, the kiss goodbye, follow-up actions, etc. but unless you make what they learn standard operating procedure it won’t happen.
Make it very convenient to do business with you. Here are some Ideas:
- Online appointment setting,
- After-hours drop-off and pick up (night owl box, after-hours key lockers),
- Vehicle pick up and drop off service,
- Shuttle service,
- $1 rental cars,
- Ability to approve work via text or email,
- Notifications and updates via text/email…
3. Build Value
What else do they get above and behind the repair? Some Ideas:
- Digital Vehicle Health Inspections
- Educate them on maintenance and help them plan for future services.
- A fantastic parts and labor warranty (no less than 24M/24K but longer is better),
- Market your technician’s certifications and experience to show the high level of expertise being performed.
You can do everything right the first time and drop the ball in just one of these areas the second time and they will be out the back door. If you set the bar high, your customers will expect it next time. If you implement these measures, you are on the way to closing that back door and keeping your customers long-term. Next time, we will talk about closing the back door when it comes to your employees.
Non-ATI members: At ATI, we make sure our members understand effective practices for getting customers and keeping them. Curious about what we can do to help you and your shop grow, increase profits, and be the best in your area? Get started with one of our shop owner events.