Winning Women CustomersPosted 9/10/2009
By Margie Seyfer, AAM
Here are some great strategies and pointers on how you can increase your business by attracting a powerful segment of the population: women.
What percentage of your customers are women? Did you know that the industry average is 65 percent? Are you taking advantage of this fact? Are you getting your fair share of this most powerful group of consumers? Did you know that women either make or influence the purchase 83 percent of the time? Another reason this statistic is important is because she also can serve as a gatekeeper and deal breaker.
When talking to a couple, your eye contact can make the woman feel included or invisible. Keep your eye contact 60 percent of the time on her and 40 percent of the time on him. So that raises a question: If the pair is a father-daughter combo and it's obvious the dad is paying the bill, which one should get the most eye contact? Make the eye contact in this situation 50-50. She is your next generation of female customer. Soon she will be in the work force and will have lots of girlfriends.
Did you know that women - compared to men - are twice as likely to refer their friends, families and co-workers? If you think about it, when a man becomes a customer, most of the time you will get one new male customer. However, with a female customer who is treated right, you are more apt to be the benefactor of a whole string of referrals. A woman will go out of her way to find a business that provides the kind of repair buying experience she prefers - and then she will tell others about it. Since the majority of women rate their auto repair service experience as a big "ouch," we need to make certain she has a very positive experience with our business.
Here are nine and a half ideas for winning over women customers:
1. Front entrance appeal. Walk outside and take a look at your front entrance through the eyes of a woman. Do you have a container of flowers or a well-maintained flower bed that draws compliments from women? It is a great conversation starter. A woman will walk into your business and ask, "Who's the gardener?" - or exclaim, "Your flowers are beautiful!" Women really do like flowers. From the entrance to your business to a hook on the back of the bathroom door for her purse, it's all about the details for women customers. Have a female in your life go through your business and add a woman's touch to everything a female customer comes in contact with - because by simply meeting the needs of a woman, you will automatically exceed the expectations of a man.
2. More about flowers and females. Smart shop owners are using flowers in a multitude of ways to wow women customers. Some shops have a fresh bouquet delivered weekly, to be displayed on the counter or desk in the office area. Another shop is giving that same bouquet to a woman customer. Be sure to award the bouquet while it is fresh. An idea would be to give it to her as she gets into the rental car and is heading back to work. Her co-workers will ask her who it's from. Consider their surprise when they hear it is from her collision repair business. One shop owner says he occasionally awards the bouquet to the guy, who takes it home to his wife. This makes for double happiness. Other shops are reporting they hand a single carnation to each female customer when she picks up her car. This is really the most cost-effective way of spreading the "wow" factor. A TV news program on Valentine's Day reported that 15 percent of women send themselves flowers on Valentine's Day. Would you bet they sent those flowers to their workplace? You get the idea.
3. Your voice mail greeting: Your initial phone greeting either makes a customer feel welcome or just announces your business name. Those who wish to provide outstanding telephone customer service use voice inflection and put a smile in their voice. They also make certain the pace of the greeting is such that there is no doubt about where the customer has called and to whom she is speaking. But what about your voice mail greeting? You may want to consider using a woman's voice. First-time women customers feel some doubt and hesitation when they step into the man's world of auto repair.
They've all heard the horror stories. In fact, they may be leaving one. To you guys who have your hair cut in a full-service salon, recall how you felt a bit insecure the first time you walked into a "woman's world?" So, it makes sense that a female voice for your voice mail greeting is going to relax the majority of your customers . . . women.
4. Prove to her that chivalry is not dead. Open the door for her as she approaches your entrance. Consider walking her out to her repaired vehicle, opening the car door for her and handing her the keys. By the way, this idea comes from a female service adviser.
5. Know the color of her eyes. If you can't recall what color her eyes are right after she leaves, then you have done a poor job of connecting with her.
6. Surprise and delight her. Women love having their car returned washed. Women are sensitive to scents and smells. They dislike the smell of tire rubber from your display and grease wafting in from the service bays. Scented candles are helpful but require lighting. Some states have banned lighted candles in repair businesses. Consider placing a scent device that automatically releases a pleasant aroma in your restroom(s) and customer waiting area.
7. Give a sincere compliment. This is often a challenge for men. Men worry that a woman might feel they are coming on to them. First, realize that women freely compliment each other on lots of things like hair, clothes and shoes. One way to compliment her on a sharp-looking outfit is to bring your wife into the mix. Tell her your wife/girlfriend would really like what she is wearing or the color. Compli_ment her on how well she maintains her car. Did you know that the over-40 woman primarily dresses for other women because so many men don't even notice or give out compliments? Smart men (like you) do. Experiment. You'll become much more aware and it will become easier for you. It will also make you stand apart from the others.
8. Avoid baffling her with your brilliance. Keep it simple. Listen to her whole story before jumping in and offering an immediate fix. Men fix things. Women want to talk about it. It may drive you crazy but if you want to win more women customers, then let her tell you her story and when she finishes, say, "Thanks. That really helps."
9. Consider educating her about her car. Women consider themselves to be lifelong learners. They also look at their friendships with other women to be one of their most valuable possessions. As you have already observed, women do things in groups and pairs. Invite eight current female customers to a women's car care clinic sponsored by your business. Encourage her to bring her daughter, granddaughter or a girlfriend. Serve some finger foods and then gather in your shop area for a short educational session about her car, how to save money and be safe. There's an info sheet with some suggested car care topics on the home page of my Web site at www.margieseyfer.com.
A shop that is successfully conducting women clinics is charging a per person amount to ensure attendance and cover the cost of refreshments. A Denver shop that did not charge for the clinic sent a press release to a major TV station. Their business was featured on the Saturday evening news. This same business had 15 voice mail messages awaiting them on Monday morning. If you doubt there is an interest, another shop created a flier announcing its women's clinic and posted it in any store or bank that would allow it. They had more than 30 people call to reserve a spot. Only 11 potential customers showed up, but I would call that a success, wouldn't you? Women prefer small groups. Think quality, not quantity.
Women customers are your best word-of-mouth media multiplier and when treated the way they prefer, you may discover you won't need direct mail advertising except to your current customer base, where women already reside. Winning women customers is the easiest way to increase your bottom line without breaking the bank.
Editor's Note: This article is one of several management articles that are being contributed to AutoInc. this year by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. A full lineup of AMI instructors are sharing their knowledge throughout the year on a variety of topics including ethics, employee training, customer service, increasing profits and other valuable information.
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