Capturing the Gen Y Market: Don’t Overlook GR8 Service Opportunities
Why you should take this generation seriously and how they can make your business extraordinary.
Despite all of the talk of technology, vehicles being built better and lasting longer, and service intervals consistently being extended, I believe our industry’s single greatest change in the coming years will have to do with people, not with technology, and not with automobiles. It will have to do with what I call the emerging market, and I am amazed at how many shop owners are paying little, if any, attention to this phenomena.
I certainly understand that the majority of shop owners have a current customer base that’s composed of Generation X and baby boomers. These are the people who were born between 1947 and 1980. Obviously, as business owners, we encourage you to capitalize on that market in every way possible with your current ad campaigns. However, the baby boomers are fading into retirement, and they are quickly being replaced by an all-new generation: The Generation or Gen Y.
As we all know, the Y Gens were brought up on keyboards and smart phones, so they are accustomed to being able to access information in a matter of moments, and on a global level. This easy access to information creates an expectation of transparency, which is why you will need to be transparent in four specific areas of business: your offers, the pricing of your services, the actual services that you provide, and your business practices and philosophies.
When it comes to transparency in your offers, in all cases you will need to ensure that the language of every offer is clear, and you will need to consider absorbing any economic losses that occur due to ads that were improperly crafted. For example, if a customer was legitimately under the impression that the price stated in your ad included tax, rather than directing them to the fine print stating that the price does not include tax, you may be better served by absorbing the loss on that particular service, while at the same time saving the customer, and building your brand.
You should always be able to quickly and professionally defend all of your pricing. If you do not properly communicate the additional benefits of extended warranties on the parts you install, or the quality of those parts, then no matter how skilled your advisers may be, your customers will still feel that they were overcharged on the parts you installed. In regard to transparency in your labor pricing, your advisers need to be able to build value in the quality of service provided by each of your technicians, and do it in a way that demonstrates both the value and the integrity in your pricing. Don’t forget: As those Y Gens are standing at your service counter, they can easily whip out their smart phones and have immediate access to a world of information on pricing. Since they are going to access information on how much their repair should cost anyway, you should start building trust with these customers by being the one who gives it to them.
There are a number of things that you can do to provide transparency in your services. Beyond inviting the Y Gens into your service bays so that they can inspect their automobiles and meet the technician performing the service, you can also take them on a tour of your facility. This will allow them to see that you have a safe and clean workplace, it will allow you to introduce them to your employees, and you can show them how environmentally conscious you are with your recycling/waste management programs. You can provide further transparency in your services by posting video clips on your website (or blog) showing simple services being performed in an environmentally friendly way.
Since most Y Gens are environmentally conscious, they are not nearly as receptive to print media as earlier generations. Accordingly, many may view print media as an inefficient use of natural resources, which can make print advertising counter-productive. However, personalized communications that are not generated by automated systems are often viewed as appropriate by the Y Gens; hand-written birthday cards, for example.
The Y Gen market is driven by ethics, so you may be best served by targeting community-based organizations, especially those that have non-economic merit. This would include local schools, houses of worship, hospitals, charities and public service organizations. When it comes to business practices and philosophies, we believe that with the Y Gens it will be important to display your mission statement in your waiting room, along with the people and organizations you support in your community. This will help drive home the concept of people helping people, which is how trust is built.
Since the Y Gens currently range in age from 21 to 31 years old, at our company we encourage all of our clients to target the oldest of this generation, but to also consider the enormous potential of those who are younger. As you are aware, the eldest have had the opportunity to make more significant purchasing decisions, so they will be more likely to understand that the price of the repair is well worth the value they receive. With that said, even though the younger Y Gens have not had as much experience, they are often more engaged in social media, so will have the greater potential to promote your shop virally if they have a good experience.
Now if for whatever reason you’re telling yourself that the Y Gens are too young to be your customers, I hope you consider that when Uncle Mike is sitting at the dinner table and complaining about his automobile, it’s going to be the Y Gen at the table who whips out his iPhone, and within a minute or two, he’s not only going to tell Uncle Mike where he can go for good, ethical service, but he’ll give him directions to the shop as well. The Y Gens may not be your top customers today, but they can certainly be your marketers.
In closing, I would like to leave you with a couple of thoughts. First of all, as I recommend to all of my clients, I would strongly urge you to invest at least 5 percent of your advertising dollars into campaigns that directly target the Y Gen market. There’s no doubt that now is the perfect time to begin impressing your brand upon these Y Gens in a way that will influence their present and future purchasing decisions.
Lastly, I would like to say this: Warren Buffet, who is recognized as the greatest investor of all time, was talking about the stock market when he said; “First come the innovators, then come the imitators, and then come the idiots.” Ladies and gentlemen, I will make you a promise: The shop owners who first embrace this emerging market of Y Gens will not only be the innovators, they will build some truly extraordinary businesses in the coming years.
Editor's Note: This article is one of several management articles that will be contributed to AutoInc. this year by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. In 2012, AMI's knowledgeable instructors will continue covering a variety of topics designed to educate and train today's service and repair professional in AutoInc. To learn more about AMI, its courses and instructors, visit www.AMIonline.org. AMI administers the distinguished Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) program.
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