“The winner ain’t the one with the fastest car; it’s the one who refuses to lose.” – Dale Earnhardt
From products and services offered to pricing and promotions, there is no question that the auto-repair industry can be dog-eat-dog. The reason it is so competitive is that it fulfills a valuable and essential need in consumer’s everyday lives.
In the U.S. alone there are around 250 million passenger vehicles on the roads. Those cars regularly need maintenance and repair work done. The challenge local auto repair shop owners face is how to ensure those consumers choose to entrust their vehicle’s performance, repairs and future operation to them. Ultimately, you want to make sure the local car-owners come to your business for all of their auto needs.
This essentially breaks down into two important activities. Just like growing a restaurant business, building relationships with your current customers to keep them coming back and developing powerful brand awareness and marketing campaigns to attract new customers to your shop should be the key cornerstone efforts in your business growth strategy.
Different industries mean a different approach, though, of course! This week we’ll be concentrating on how to keep your customers coming back.
PART 1 – Keep ‘Em Coming Back For More
The great news for auto repair shops is earning loyalty pays by the boatload. When consumers find a shop with good service and fair pricing, they tend to stick around for a long time. Often, that is because the average driver doesn’t understand how his or her vehicle really works. This is why they rely on the friendly people at their local auto repair shop to be knowledgeable and trustworthy.
In the shop
The best activity you and your employees can engage in to keep customers coming back is to demonstrate that you are, in fact, knowledgeable and trustworthy to each person who walks through your door. Here are a few ways to do this:
- Take the time to explain to customers what work you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
- When a repair will take a few days, keep the customer up to date on the progress.
- If there is a delay or an unexpected problem, call the customer as soon as possible to let them know the estimated timeline for their car repair has changed. Explain why there is a delay and if it will affect the final price.
From the simple maintenance, like an oil change, to the complex, like an engine repair, customers will feel better when the bill comes if they understood the work process. When it is time for the customer to pay, walk through the bill with your customer to keep your work, pricing and fees transparent. Taking the time to sit down with them and explain the bill line by line will go a long way in showing that you are worth that customer’s trust (and repeat business!). Customers will appreciate that you took the time out of your busy schedule and remember that in the future.
After the repair
Your work speaks for itself, so a great repair job and stellar customer service throughout the process means your customer leaves your shop with a running vehicle and a good impression of how you do business. At this point, they’re likely to come back, but it is important to stay top of mind to ensure repeat business. Here are a few things you can do:
- Send a “thank you” follow up in the mail or via email. Let your customers know how much you appreciate their business by sending them something to thank them for bringing their car to your shop. You could even include a discount on a future service provided to show your appreciation and incentivize a return.
- Offer loyalty cards. The U.S. Census estimates that 14% of auto repair work comes from scheduled/preventative maintenance. Make sure that business comes to you by providing customers with “Buy 3 Oil changes, Get the 4th One Free” type loyalty cards.
- Keep up with the seasons. Send your customers reminders of good maintenance practices as it relates to the seasonal changes. For example, send them a flyer at the beginning of spring for a free A/C inspection.
Keep in mind that customers think and talk about their experiences long after they leave your shop. If they’ve had a great experience, this is a good thing! Use online tools to monitor what people say about your business. A great way to do this is by claiming any online presence, such as review sites and social media. Thank consumers for any kind reviews or comments, and don’t forget to leave them a reminder to stop in soon!
How do you keep your customers coming back to your repair shop? Keep an eye out for Building Your Auto Business Part 2, where we’ll discuss creative and effective ways for you to attract new customers to your auto repair business.