A real and constant problem repair shops have is losing customers to larger shops and dealers. There are many reasons why this may occur and from our experience in dealing with clients all day, they tell us that people prefer dealerships because they think that behind that counter lies an expert that knows more than you. Whether or not that is case, dealers and larger shops have the upper hand with their big fancy building and guys in ties. People go to the dealer because they think that unlike at the smaller shops, at the dealer they can find anything they need. Don’t take things personally, instead work to convince them that you’re just as good as the dealer if not better. Here’s how:
Communication is Key
If you don’t communicate with your customers on a more personal level, how can they know about all of the great services you offer? Ask yourself this, do my customers know that we do transmission work, diagnostic work and or engine repair? If you answered no to any of those questions, you've probably realized you've been losing money. Signs on the wall do get the point across but i’m one that doesn't visit a repair shop and walk around reading signs, I prefer verbal communication.
Your customers aren’t all experts in the field of auto repair which is why it is important to remind them of services they need done periodically. Example, remind your regulars when they need oil changes and SMOG checks and if you have their personal info, a call/email can go a long way. Also, let them know how much more expensive these services would be at their dealer and how their warranty would still be just as valid if they visit your shop. The key is communication but remember, people dislike pushy salespeople which is why it is important to find a good way to say these things.
A clear example of lack of communication came from one of our clients (a small repair shop located in Bohemia, New York). Will (the person I speak to) mentioned that his shop has been offering transmission repairs for almost a year and had barely received clients for that particular service. Will told JMC he was confused as to what was going on and what was worried that there might have been a client that was not satisfied with the transmission work performed and was possibly spreading rumors of the “bad service” he received. Will actually told us that they only had about 3 transmission repairs in one year and he remembered them specifically. I then asked him how he markets that particular service and i’m pretty sure the long pause that came after was John pulling out a dictionary and looking up “marketing.” Long story short, you need to let customers know of all the services you offer, that way customers will find convenience at your shop.
Properly Train your Staff to Perform Full Inspections
This comes right after step 1 because immediately after proper communication, you’re going to get customers that will give your services a shot and the question here is, is your shop prepared? Offering “12-point vehicle inspection” or a “21-point safety inspection” is a good way to prevent customers from going to a dealership for a service that is significantly cheaper at your shop.
Then, while you are performing the inspection you can bring customers out back and show them why everything is running smoothly (or if there is an irregularity). Customers at this point trust you will be honest with them so if there is a problem, let them know in an appropriate way and make sure they understand why the problem has occurred. This gives you the opportunity to let them know about what you guys can do for them, how long it takes and how you can do their warranty service to keep everything up to date. When you have staff that are fully qualified and personable people, your customer will be glad to come in to your shop.
Look and Act Like a Dealer
When we say this we of course don’t mean you should raise your prices right away but we do mean you need to express yourself and act like there is no better place for customers to get their vehicle serviced. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance but finding a balance will have you and your customers notice changes immediately.
The first way would be to start looking more like dealers, the first example being apperance. We obviously can’t afford a big fancy building but there are certainly a few tips and tricks to look more like dealers. Keep the shop as clean as you can, make sure the parking lot is clean and not sketchy looking, dress a little nicer (especially your front desk staff) and last but not least, a smile and remembering customers’ names goes a long way.
Now that you look like dealers you should now begin to act like them too. For starters, when you walk into a dealer or a bigger repair shop, they tend to have fresh hot coffee or tea out in the waiting room. You can also get creative and analyze the types of people that come into your shop. If they’re parents that usually always take their kids, have something for kids to do, a coloring book for instance and lollipops next to the recently implemented coffee station. Offer rides to work if you get people always in a rush going to and from work. The key is convenience.
I know what you’re thinking, we just spent a whole 3 paragraphs explaining why you should look and act more like dealers and now this? No, we’re not crazy, we believe that you opened the shop for a reason. What ever that reason may have been, you want to make an honest living and put your own philosophy and beliefs into each service you perform. For that reason we encourage you to take the best things from dealers but people come to you because of the more personalized service and because they feel they’re visiting a real person and not a big conglomerate. Be yourself and let your customers know who you are and what you believe a good shop should be like and what it’s all about.
Having customers trust you obviously takes time but when they eventually do it will be a rewarding experience. Not only will you earn more business but who knows, maybe you’ll make a few more friends.
For more self-help marketing articles be sure to visit http://jmcautomotiveequipment.com/ to learn more.
What other methods do you have to win over clients?