Repair Shop 2.0: Preparing for the Next Generation of Customers
Use technology to build lasting, trusting relationships
Last year, my client and friend in rural Wisconsin lost the road in front of his shop. Even though the project was exciting Ė they were widening the road in preparation for more traffic Ė it meant he didnít have a road to his shop.
Before the Department of Transportation tore up the road, they were kind enough to create an entrance from the side street into his lot, so he wasnít completely cut off from his customers. But for several months, the only way to get to his shop was to take a series of winding, out-of-the-way detours.
That kind of circumstance is uncontrollable. When the Wisconsin DOT literally removes the major artery that your customers use to access your shop, the natural instinct might be to be depressed and worried about your business. But uncontrollable doesnít mean hopeless. And what this friend and client of mine did next is a lesson to all shops.
As soon as he knew that the construction was coming, he had us create a page on his website with links, maps, explanations and updates on the construction. While the construction was going all summer long, he became the go-to resource. His website came up first when searching for information about the project, and a main source of his Web traffic were people searching to learn more.
That wasnít the only way that he became a go-to resource for his community, though. Every morning, rain or shine, he went outside and took pictures of the construction progress. He talked to the construction workers to get updates on how it was progressing. And every day he sent all of this to us to put on his Facebook page. He became the eyes and ears for his customers and his community.
What did it mean for his shop? What could have been a devastating project for his shop Ė losing the main road to his business during the middle of a recession Ė was anything but. His shop didnít just survive that project last summer, it grew. And now that his shop is sitting next to a main artery with more lanes and more traffic, heís in great shape going forward.
Every customer goes through critical points of contact with a shop, starting from the first time they learn about you through the follow-up after the service. Knowing and improving these critical points of customer contact is the key to building trusting, long-term relationships and increasing your average ticket.
But new vehicles arenít the only things getting more technologically advanced Ė the ideal repair shop customer is, too. The fact that my friend was able to survive and grow despite losing the road to his shop by utilizing the Web is evidence of that. So what sort of presence do shops need on the Web? And what technology should shops be taking advantage of?
Here is how you can enhance three of those critical points of customer contact for new generations of repair shop customers, and how owners can still build trusting, long-term relationships, even in the digital age.
Critical Point of Contact: Your Marketing
Your customers typically go through three critical points of contact before they even hand you the keys, making this first point Ė your marketing Ė especially critical. This is your first opportunity to build a trusting, long-term relationship. But in this digital era, itís one of the biggest ways that we forget to build the relationship.
Itís probably not news that your shop needs online marketing like social media and blogs. But there is a big takeaway from the story of my friend in Wisconsin: people like genuine businesses.
The key to using online marketing to build a relationship with your customers is to ignore the urge to focus on page views or fans. The key is getting people who pay attention. When you have people following you because they want to know what you have to say, youíve got them: you have Top of Mind Awareness, and youíve got their attention for telling great stories about how your shop can help their family.
But thatís no small feat. Itís common to see repair shops taking one of two paths right now: using a service that posts nothing but repair and preventive maintenance information, or using a service that posts nothing but funny sayings or photos. Which will have the longer-lasting impact: a funny picture you found somewhere, or a heartwarming story about your service writer? An excited post about getting to work on a classic car or a generic post about brake repair?
The next generation of your customers is out there, waiting for something genuine. Waiting for real stories, real pictures, real information about how you can help them save money and time. Waiting for you.
Donít get me wrong: thereís nothing that says you have to spend the time and energy running your Facebook page or updating your blog. But the choice isnít between a) you doing all of the work, understanding all of the technology, spending all of the time or b) shipping it off to somebody else, lock, stock and barrel. It may be easier to turn it over to a social media company wholesale, but my friend in Wisconsin shows it is significantly more effective when you stay engaged.
No matter what path you choose Ė doing it all yourself or utilizing an outside company Ė Iíd encourage you to remember what makes your shop unique. Itís not your ability to spout information about auto repair. Itís not your ability to find funny pictures online. Itís your ability to listen to your customers, to provide great customer service, and to create trust. No matter who runs your online marketing, never lose sight of that.
Critical Point of Contact: Your Front Counter During the Sale
When customers come to your front counter for the first time, you have another great opportunity to use technology to build trust. Modern websites are able to take advantage of ďresponsive layouts,Ē which mean they grow or shrink so that they look as good on home computers as they do on tablets.
With this in mind, you can use your own website to educate customers to make the right decisions right at the front counter. Iíve seen shops use an iPad to show videos that teach about the value of performing preventive maintenance. They simply pull up their website on the tablet, and watch the video along with the customer, answering any questions they might have. (You can find dozens of free videos in a tablet-friendly format at http://www.mondaymorningmechanic.com).
Critical Point of Contact: Your Front Counter at Checkout
But the opportunity to use this technology at the front doesnít stop during the sale. After the ticket is closed and you have a happy customer, you can use the same tablet and the same responsive layout technology to gather testimonials. Whether you want to gather it for use on your website or on a review site like Google or Yelp, you can give the customer an opportunity to post it right there while the memory of your great service is still fresh.
The key in all three of these applications is to use technology to enhance the superior customer service you already provide Ė not to replace it. Just as online marketing is less effective when you are completely removed from it, simply using a tablet at the front counter is no replacement for you taking the time to teach and care for your customer.
If you have any questions about how to utilize these exciting new technologies in your shop Ė or want to share your own success story, donít hesitate to call or email my team at (866) 520-3030 or email@example.com.
Good luck! Weíre excited to hear how youíre using technology to build lasting, trusting relationships!
Editor’s Note: This article is one in a series of management articles that are contributed to AutoInc. by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. In 2013, AMIís knowledgeable instructors will continue covering a variety of topics designed to educate and train todayís 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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