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Make Drivers Feel Connected to Your Business

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Credentials count, but they aren’t the most important thing. If you can’t communicate with drivers, nobody will care how smart you are. Harsh? Yep! But it’s true. Allow me to illustrate.

Imagine you’re in a grocery store. You need a spice or seasoning of some sort, but can’t find it. This is a big deal. You’re supposed to be making a pasta dinner for the person you want to marry. It won’t taste quite right without this “essential” ingredient. Panic sets in.

You search the store for an employee to help you. It proves to be unsuccessful. You run up and down 10 aisles before you find somebody in uniform. You explain the situation and ask, “Where in the world is the parsley?” They shrug their shoulders and point to the right. “I’m not sure, but I think it’s somewhere over there.” Was that a vague response or what? You ask for more specific instructions. No such luck.

Somewhere in your travels, you’ve probably had an experience exactly like that. Unfortunately, communication skills are often lacking. Many drivers—women especially—feel this way about their auto shop experience. Would you go back to the store in my story? If not, you should take communication seriously. Here are some simple ways you can connect with drivers who feel ignored, misunderstood, or taken advantage of.

THINKSTOCK1. GREET EVERY CUSTOMER.

Lots of stores put a bell on the door for a good reason. The ringing noise gives employees a heads-up when customers arrive. The sooner you acknowledge a customer’s presence, the better. Even the small gesture of a smile can make a tremendous impact on how someone feels. I’ve tested this theory. You should try it out. Observe your own reactions when an upbeat employee says, “Hi,” or, “How are you?” Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings the next time you get ignored. I bet there will be a big difference.

2. ALWAYS BE NON-JUDGMENTAL.

Don’t assume a driver is neglecting auto repair and maintenance on purpose. Marketing has not done a good job of educating people about what it takes to keep a vehicle in good condition. Most drivers think oil changes and tune ups are all they need to do. On top of that, money is tight for the average American. It’s hard to buy an expensive repair when you can barely afford to feed your kids. This is your time to show off. Break that service into bite-sized steps.

3. SPEAK IN THEIR LANGUAGE.

How many drivers have heard of a TPS? Not a lot. Heck, most drivers look puzzled when I say, “throttle position sensor.” Customers are not impressed when they hear complicated technical terms. In fact, I think it irritates them. How do you feel when people talk over your head with fancy words you don’t understand? We’re in acronym central!

Here’s a revealing exercise I did with some drivers who attended a workshop. You can do this too, with anybody who isn’t auto aware. Pretend you’re talking to a driver about a common car problem. Describe the issue to the best of your ability. Ask this person to raise their hand when you use a word they don’t understand. Be patient with them. Adjust your approach until they get the point. People are much happier when they know why they’re buying something. I know I am.

4. EXPLAIN THE REPAIR’S PURPOSE.

No doubt some people are skeptical. Scam. Rip off. Taken advantage of. Those are words some people associate with mechanics. We all know someone who’s heard a story about a dishonest auto shop. Is it really fair to stereotype an entire profession? No. But it happens. If you react defensively, don’t. It could be interpreted as “pushy” or “desperate.” That won’t help your case or the driver. I find that when you hear and acknowledge the customer’s concern, they’re all ears and they hear you, too. That’s why they come to you. Take them outside to their vehicle. Show them the part that’s causing trouble. Explain the cause of the problem and how your service can solve it. Offer to provide a cost breakdown. If they don’t feel better yet, forget about it. You did your best.

5. FOLLOW UP VIA PHONE A FEW DAYS AFTER THE SERVICE.

Most auto shops notify customers when their car is ready to go. That’s obvious. Here’s a nice way to stand out from your competition. Call drivers within a week after each service. You’ll probably get their voicemail. Say, “Hi, this is (your name) from (your auto shop). You came in a few days ago for (repair or service). I’m calling to make sure you were happy with your experience. We value your feedback. If you have any comments or questions, let us know. If (name of driver’s car) ever needs attention, call (your phone number). Thanks!”

6. FOLLOW UP VIA EMAIL A FEW WEEKS AFTER THE SERVICE.

Save your customer’s contact info and start scheduling. Schedule an introductory message to be sent to every new customer a month after service. Thank them for choosing to trust your shop. Attach a coupon for their next repair bill. Once it’s set up, all you have to do is click a button. A lot of the auto shop software programs available have built-in templates and systems that make email marketing a breeze. If you don’t have one, AWeber and Constant Contact are two good options. The investment will pay off when you gain loyal customers.

Communication is key. Implement these tips to show customers you care, and don’t forget to smile.

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