If your reaction to this question is, “Of course, I’m striving to be the best,” let’s do a quick reality check to see if this is true. As a result of Covid-19 last year, a lot of us were scrambling to invent new marketing processes to keep cars coming in, to make sure we were on top of our game and not leaving sales dollars on the table, to cut any expenses we could to make sure we weren’t “going into the red,” and anything else that could help keep us afloat.
Now that most of us are in locales where things have mostly bounced back to normal, did you also go back to normal with the processes you had pre-Covid? Or did you learn that you have to be on your toes when it comes to expecting the unexpected?
Many success stories from last year showed that the automotive repair field would persevere if faced with dire situations provided we put our best foot forward. We elevated our game to an all-new high; the data shows many repair facilities produced record sales and profits in 2020. How did we do it, and how do we continue? Let’s see what brought us to the promised land.
Non-ATI Members: Discover valuable tips and strategies to elevate your service, attract and retain customers, and improve your bottom-line in ATI’s shop owner events. Register at www.atievent.com.
Getting the Vehicle in the Shop
For those of us who weren’t already in the selling service by time vs. mileage intervals found it to be a tough uphill battle. It took some sales retraining and a new way to look at things, but we knew what was at stake if we didn’t change for the better. First, we had to emphasize that manufacturers included time intervals in owners’ manuals and their maintenance schedules. Then, we had to make our customers understand that although their cars may not have been driven, those fluids still needed attention. Finally, once the vehicle was in our possession, we had a clear opportunity to perform an inspection, relay the results, and keep our business moving.
Speaking of getting the vehicle in, this was another hurdle. Our customers didn’t want to leave home, interact with others, and a slew of other reasons that kept those vehicles from driving into our bays. Solutions? Being Covid ready. A promise to disinfect vehicles before and after service, making sure your employees had safety glasses and protective gloves, and abiding by local regulations stating how many people could be in your showrooms at one time.
How did we convert all this inconvenience into being convenient? Picking up and dropping off customers was a new process that some of us hadn’t tried before. Don’t forget: we took building rapport with customers to a high level because we know that other shops aren’t our only competition from a service standpoint. We are compared to everyone in the service industry. Better effort equals the ability to save everyone’s livelihoods.
Once we had possession of the vehicle, we didn’t just repair what was broken. Instead, we made sure maintenance was up to date, the rest of the vehicle checked out okay, and maybe even recommended services we didn’t typically perform in-house. We did this for the sake of customer convenience, worked with local shops that did those types of jobs, and ramped up our sublet in the meantime.
What other changes did we take on to remain in business? New non-contact pay methods crept into our businesses, hopefully, ones that simultaneously reduced merchant fees. Having newer loaner cars, or maybe offering loaner cars for the first time, giving our customers a reason to stay with us due to a higher convenience factor. New shop management software allowed for a higher level of inspections, but now in digital form. At the same time, that same software allowed electronic scheduling, better efficiency tracking, multiple parts, and labor matrices, among other improvements over what we used before.
The biggest improvements we had to make? Marketing. Hopefully, the right shop management software we just spoke of tied into improvement functionality for marketing via email and text for services previously declined, marketing based on customer visit frequency (or infrequency), and confirming appointments.
Many of us also made changes to our software and website to allow customers to book their appointments. The outcome? The highest level of convenience we could provide for our customers, to give them reasons to visit us, not stay away.
To increase the chance of a visit from a potential new customer, we made sure our online presence was impeccable, including responding to every online review, good or bad, from multiple websites, with thankful and diplomatic responses. While we were at it, we posted engaging photos of our team, wrote blogs, maybe even posted videos to social media of what our staff was working on to be on the cutting edge.
Stop-Gap Measures or Improvements for the Long Haul?
How was any of this doable? We didn’t have a choice. We got uncomfortable because we had to.
But now times are different. The general population is driving again, and we see vehicles coming back close to the same numbers as pre-Covid times.
So the reality check is this—did you keep all these new ploys going in your shop, so you’re prepared for tough times if they come back? Or did you go back to the same old same old due to laziness?
Non-ATI Members: For more tips on how to effectively lead a productive, profitable shop, check out our shop owner events at www.atievent.com.