Maintain a Strong Customer Base
We live in a time when it’s easier than ever to reach new customers (or at least reach out to them). We also live in a time when any customer can pretty easily mar your shop with a scathing online review; no business is safe from disgruntled customers keen on letting others know. Customer relationship management (CRM) is a great way to mitigate poor reviews and develop relationships an incremental business.
So how do you walk the line between outreach, retention, follow-up and high CSR scores all while running a business? Isn’t it enough to just repair their vehicles?
Not anymore. Thankfully, the same software that can take you down can also build you up. That’s what CRM systems are all about.
Use It or Lose It
According to recent data, there are only about half a dozen companies or so providing CRM services to repair shops nationwide, each with 3,000 - 10,000 customers participating in their programs. Meanwhile, there are over 35,000 shops across the country that use full-time CRM marketing campaigns. Here’s the kicker—despite this saturation, over 90 percent of vehicle owners report no follow-up call or email from their shops for service and maintenance reminders.
How is that possible?
It’s possible because a tool is only as effective as the one wielding it. With CRM, the trick is to not overthink it—it’s as simple as the name suggests, and the goal is to forge bonds with your customers to create loyalty. The most successful auto shops don’t necessarily treat their customers as customers—they use words like "partner" or "guest" and describe the input of money for repair services as a relationship and not purely transactional.
Leverage your CRM
The best way to attract new customers is to treat your old/current ones as if the future of your shop depended upon every interaction (which, as Yelp and Google Reviews suggests, it probably does). Many CRM systems have automated email and/or text messaging follow-ups for post-service and pre-maintenance checkpoints to keep in touch with your clients. Many owners report a 3-to-1 ROI of their CRM systems once they learn how to actually use them—it’s important to remember that they’re only a technological smokescreen for the living, breathing person behind the counter or in the bays.
The ability to define your ideal customers based on repair order, demographic, make/model of vehicle and frequency of visits is a powerful tool to have at your disposal; with the right CSR system, you can personalize notes and scale up/scale down your messaging to make things as personal and germane to your clients as you see fit. Combined with the advent of digital vehicle inspections (DVI) and often complimentary maintenance recommendations, it’s easier than ever to let your clients know you’re thinking about them even when they’re not due for a service checkup for months.
Provide Top-Notch Service
Nothing sells like unexpected service and attention to detail. Whether offering complimentary interior vacuum and cleaning services or decent coffee or cookies in the shop, doing the little things right can lead to big opportunities, high ROs and more revenue. Here are a few strategies to bolster your relationships with your clients:
Treat Old Customers Like New - Most clients are used to 24/7 answers and complete transparency in all their transactions. Don’t drop the ball or push old clients aside in the name of new ones; they’ll see right through it and seek help elsewhere.
Listen, and then Lead - Your customers need help and depend on you to do so. They know something is wrong with their vehicles, so even if the solution is simple, listen to the complete story, summarize and assess it back to them and then make a sound recommendation for maintenance or repair.
Stay in Touch - Figure out how your best customers want to be notified and follow up appropriately. Some respond better to mailers while others love digital communication.
Be Credible - Establish trust by knowing your credentials, recommending fair and honest service and letting them know you’ll do everything you can to make their car right—even if it means sending it elsewhere or telling them what they don’t necessarily want to hear. They’ll appreciate you even more for being upfront about your skills, limitations and finding the right solution.