Snr VP Business Development
Erratic car count is a situation all too common in many shops. It creates cash flow problems, erratic production problems, not to mention the anxiety it causes for the owner of a shop. Understanding what the causes are is the first step to repairing the problem. Following are nine points for any shop owner or management team to address and fix. These are not short-term solutions but lay the groundwork for long-term stability.
Marketing and PR knowledge
Most shop owners are not in the position to hire a marketing/PR firm to map out a strategy and plan for their business. However, it is the first step to repairing an erratic car count. This means anyone who is responsible for the success of a small business better understand the art of public relations and marketing. They are big subjects with a lot of twists and turns, but they are learnable and must be embraced. Taking a class in the subjects is the first place to start.
Having a marketing plan
There is an old saying that I find to be true: “A bad plan executed is better than a great plan that is left on the shelf.” You must have a plan of action. Who is your audience, and what are the demographics of your shop? What do these people need and want from a vehicle service facility? When they shop for automotive services, how do they do it? Most likely, they shop online. This means you must have a strong internet presence consisting of a professionally-built website with well-managed social media. This has got to be in your plan. Most people in this industry are from a technical background and haven’t a clue as to how the average person thinks or what their needs are. It is so easy to assume you know, which is a terrible mistake. A casual survey with some pointed questions of the business’ existing customers can help in formulating a plan.
Working the shop’s customer data-base
If you forget about your customers, they will forget about you. Part of your marketing plan has to include working your existing customer data-base. This is part of having a good customer retention marketing program. This can be done internally if you have the time or the shop can utilize one of the CRM programs available in the market. Either way, staying in touch with your existing customers and keeping your name and your face in front of them is a critical part of an overall marketing plan.
Anyone who has been in this industry longer than a week knows it is driven by word-of-mouth. Today’s customers rely on social media for advice on where to purchase services. Encouraging customers to leave positive reviews for your shop on one of the social media sites has to be done religiously. Businesses thrive or die on referrals.
There is a technical term used by female customers known as the “yucky” factor. No one expects a repair facility to be a “pristine” show-case, but it has to be clean, orderly, and attractive.
Sales is an intricate part of any marketing plan. A shop can waste a fortune on advertising if the sales aspect of the plan is missed. Advertising’s job is to get the phone to ring and to get people stopping by. Sales’ job is to get the potential customer to commit. Anyone working the front counter and answering the phones has got to be well-trained in communication and sales. The people on the front have to have the right personality and aptitude.
It is fine to have plenty of sizzle created by PR and Marketing, but it will be short-lived if the back does not have the steak. A shop has to have the technical know-how to properly diagnose and fix the vehicle the first time. This requires employing the best practices on inspections from the service writer through to quality control. A shop can do a top-notch job, but if there is no standard process for quality control before the vehicle is delivered back to the customer, the shop can still lose the customer and end up with a bad review.
When it comes to customer service, the delivery of the vehicle is as important as the intake of the vehicle. This is a golden opportunity to leave a great lasting impression. Never just hand the keys to the customer and just thank them. Walk them out to the car, and let them know how much you appreciate their business. This is the time to ensure the customer knows the fine job you performed. It is the time to resell the job and go over warrantees and features of new components. This time also gives the shop an opportunity to schedule any work that is coming up in the future, and this is the time to ask for referrals and reviews. Make the most of this opportunity.
A shop can cut themselves out of the herd by doing the simple action of calling within a couple of days to ensure the customer is happy with the job. If there is a problem, the shop can be pro-active in getting any problem handled quickly. The bottom-line is you have got to be more customer-centric than repair-centric with the modern day customer if you want to repair erratic car count.
If you are not happy with your car count, Management Success! can help. Give us a call at 818 500 9631, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us on-line at www.managementsuccess.com. Wishing you success!