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Customers Explain Why They Stay Loyal

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In a competitive industry, today’s shops have to provide exceptional service to establish relationships, trust and memorable experiences. That’s what keeps customers coming back, and raving to others between visits.

One of the best ways to find out how to improve customer service is to ask the customers themselves. So, we tracked down repeat customers at different shops to find out what it took to earn their business. There are some trends in their feedback—an emphasis on communication and the need for shops to listen, care, and, above all, get the repair right. Use their insight to exceed your own customers’ expectations, build loyalty, and earn new work. 

The Customer: Jane Bernstein
Shop of Choice: A+ Japanese Auto Repair
Location: San Carlos, Calif.
Years of Loyalty: 3

Since opening in 1997, family-owned A+ Japanese Auto Repair has staked its reputation as the Japanese vehicle expert. A tight focus on culture, keeping up on technology and training, and hiring customer-minded employees has helped land the shop at the top of Demandforce’s list of shops with high customer retention rates and online reviews.

“It’s all so the customer can feel part of the decision-making process,” says owner Eric Sevim. “We look at it as more of a partnership than a transaction. I think there’s a perception from that customer that we know our stuff.”

When it comes to automotive repair, comfort is key for Jane Bernstein. In fact, that comfort level is so important for Bernstein that she’s stayed with the same service advisor, Justin Mills, for the past 15 years and moved over to A+ Japanese Auto Repair with him, bringing her four cars and her sister’s car with her.

“It’s that comfort level,” she says. “Somebody who obviously cares about me and my car, who isn’t looking to fix everything that could be fixed.”

So what is it about Mills that has instilled Bernstein’s fierce loyalty? She cites a few examples of Mills’ exceptional customer service:

Knowledge of the vehicle history. Bernstein says Mills has taken care of her vehicle since the day she bought it, so he is well-versed in its history and past problems.

“We’re always careful to look at those things that it has a tendency to be hard on or experience problems with,” she says.

Sets priorities. Bernstein says that Mills always works with her to prioritize repairs and explains the importance of the needed repairs.

“He always takes lots of time to explain to me what’s going on, what this might do down the road and things that should be done in the future,” she says. 

Patience. Bernstein says that Mills is always friendly and takes lots of time to explain issues with the vehicle and to listen to Bernstein’s concerns. 

“I don’t know that much about cars, but I don’t feel like they take advantage of me,” she says. “He goes above and beyond. It’s a family sort of feel that makes you feel like they really care.”

The Customer: Bill Collick
The Shop: Meineke Car Care Center
Location: Lewes, Del.
Years of Loyalty: 3

In the small resort town of Lewes, Del., becoming part of the tight-knit community is essential to the survival of any business. It’s also what has made the Lewes Meineke Car Care Center location one of the most successful shops in the franchise, boasting one of the highest customer retention rates and winning the franchise of the year award in 2014. 

“It’s what we’ve done in the community and supporting this community has had our customer base speak so highly of us everywhere,” says owner Dave Repass. “We’re building customers for life. You see each other at the grocery store or the football field. None of us are ever going to have someone come up to us and say, ‘You guys are bad guys.’ It is the culture of our staff that makes the difference.”

The staff at Repass’ shop has raised money by participating in Polar Plunges, built homes with Habitat for Humanity, delivers meals with Meals on Wheels, sponsors local sports teams, and volunteers regularly throughout the community. The shop has also created close relationships with the staff at the local high school, becoming the unofficial go-to repair shop for the entire staff.

“Pretty much everybody knows that if they need something done with the vehicle, we will drive to the high school, take the car back to the shop and have it back to the school by 3 p.m.,” Repass says.

Dean of students Bill Collick says nearly every staff member has a story about how Repass’ shop has helped them out. The secretary’s car battery died, a dealership was too busy for the assistant principal’s new vehicle. All the stories have the same foundational message: 

“Dave comes and takes care of it,” Collick says. “His customer service is unbelievable. His mechanics have always gone above and beyond for me and everyone else here.”

Collick says that the shop and its staff doesn’t just talk about being part of the community; they are always visible and active participants in the town.

“He’s around here all the time,” he says. “He’s supportive of all of our athletics, his kids have gone to school here. They’re doing it right and establishing trustworthiness.”

The Customer: Bob Kursman
The Shop: Capitol Transmission
Location: Hartford, Conn.
Years of Loyalty: 1

“I’ll put it to you this way: I’m a consumer and most of my interactions in service are medium or poor,” says Kursman. “When I get a good customer service experience, I’m surprised.”

That surprise factor is what Paul Cordilico and his staff are after at Capitol Transmission. It’s also why they’ve become one of the top shops in the Autoshop Solutions database when it comes to customer retention.

“We want to make it easy for them to do business and not have any obstacles in the way,” says Cordilico. “We will go to great lengths to please them.”

Cordilico says those great lengths include a standard three-year, 100,000-mile warranty; helping him out when his vehicle broke down out of state; and creating a clean, comfortable environment in the shop itself.

“We are down to earth and make it fun,” he says. “We talk to people and go out of their way if somebody is really not expecting something.”

For Kursman, that down-to-earth atmosphere has been the deciding factor to keeping him a loyal customer.

“They’re very honorable people,” he says. “Everything they promised, they came through on 100 percent.”

Those promises include a delivery date that did not change, the standard warranty and an accurate estimate. Although Kursman notes that he found the prices “more than fair,” he says that what was even more important than fair prices was the staff being upfront about the work that needed to be done.

“In a lot of car repair shops, there’s a lot of hidden prices,” he says. “They were upfront about what it was going to cost. That’s why I found them to be very great to work with.” 

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