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What Your Customer Wants

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SHOP STATS: 3A Automotive & Diesel Repair Location:  Phoenix, AZ.  Owner: Jimmy Alauria Staff Size: 11   Shop Size: 5,000 square feet  Number of Lifts/Bays: 11   Average Monthly Car Count: 200  ARO: $800  Annual Revenue: $1.9 million

Imagine how easy it would be to run your business if you could read your customers’ minds. Right away, you would know what was important to them in a repair shop. You’d know the best way to market to them, what to put in your lobby to keep them happy, how to best communicate with them and win them as customers for life. 

Unfortunately, mind reading is not possible, but answering all of these questions—and more—is actually very easy. Just ask Jimmy Alauria, owner of 3A Automotive Service in Phoenix. 

The Backstory

Alauria has been in the industry for over two decades. In fact, he grew up in his Phoenix’s based shop, 3A Automotive. The shop was founded by his father, grandfather and uncle. You could say that running the shop runs in his veins. That being said, Alauria doesn’t rest on his laurels. The industry is ever-changing, and so is his customer. To stay on top of trends, Alauria attends training and is always speaking with people in the industry on ways he could improve his business. One particular conversation opened his eyes to the fact that he may not know his customers as well as he thought he did. 

The Problem

Alauria’s conversation was with Ratchet+Wrench’s own editorial director, Anna Zeck. Even though Zeck has been reporting on the industry for years, she’s had a difficult time finding her own “go-to” repair shop. When discussing this with Alauria, she told him what she was looking for and he realized that he may have been making assumptions about his customer base that weren’t accurate.

For example, he assumed that most people, when looking for a repair shop, would go online before anything else. Speaking with Zeck, he found word-of-mouth and referrals were her go to. If they were for her, that’s probably the case for others, he thought. He was then left wondering how customers actually decided where to go to get their cars repaired. 

“If I knew these answers, it would be a lot easier to reach customers,” Alauria says. 

The Solution

In June, Alauria put out an in-depth survey for his customers in his waiting room through Google forms. The survey asked questions that would help Alauria better his business, including questions on how customers found out about the shop, what amenities were important to them, examples of good and bad experiences they had in repair shops, whether or not they left reviews and what ideal customer service looked like to them. The survey wasn’t overly complicated to make, in fact—it was only 12 questions long—but the answers gave Alauria and his team valuable insight into his customer base. 

The Aftermath

As soon as the results were available, Alaura got the team together to share the results because it was important for the whole team to know what was going on with the customer. What he found was that you can’t assume what’s important to your customer just because it’s important to another shop’s customer. You need to look at your demographic. What’s important to his customers is very different from what’s important to a customer in a luxury vehicle repair shop in L.A or a Jiffy Lube in Ohio. 

“We can assume a reality, we can assume that they want a good price and honesty and trust and that should be in every single ad, but you have to ask what they actually want,” Alauria says. 

Alauria, who has a diesel segment, conducted a survey for those customers as well and found that his diesel customer’s biggest complaint was turnaround time and misdiagnosis and that they had previously experienced  wait times of two to three weeks at other shops. Using that information, he changed his ads to say, “Are you being told it will take too long?” After that ad, his new diesel customers nearly doubled. 

One of the main questions that Alauria wanted answered was how customers decided to come to his shop. When he found that 68.5 percent asked for referrals before looking online, he decided not to increase his Google Ad spending and keep it at what he currently had. Another change he made as a direct result of the survey was to get rid of his loaner car fleet. Many people preach the importance of loaner cars, Alauria says, but it turns out that when he asked his customers for their top three preferred benefits, loaner cars was in the top of less than four percent. 

The Takeaway

For the shop owner that is looking to go from $500,000 per year to $1 million a year, a survey could be just the answer, Alauria explains. It’s a quick and easy way to get insight into your customers’ mindset and help you tweak how you run your business. But, in order to be successful, you have to actually take what the survey says to heart. 

“Don’t go against what you find in the survey. Use the results. You can spend a lot of money on marketing and be a quarter inch from the gold,” Alauria says. “If you do a survey, you can nail the target and it can make a huge difference on how marketing is received and how many customers you get.” 

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