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Capturing Your Customer’s Information

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Think back to the days of general stores. Shops knew everyone’s name, and often, knew exactly what customers were going to order next. Back then, customers felt special. Customers felt cared about.

Today’s customers have the same expectations. They expect repair shops to know them, the history of work completed on their vehicle and how they prefer to be contacted—whether through a phone call, text or email. Meanwhile, they want results quicker than ever before. It may sound like a daunting task, but doing this is simpler than it seems.

It’s time to get back to a time where a culture of “customer first” was synonymous with general repair shops. Kevin Clawson, Marketing Director at ALLDATA, Customer Satisfaction and Brett Shanaman, Vice President of Marketing, Customer Satisfaction for AutoZone, share what they’ve learned about the importance of capturing customers’ data and how it can be used to establish a trusting relationship between shop owners and their customers.


Collect Information Immediately

Even before the repair starts, gather the customer’s name, address, phone number, email and preferred method of contact.

“People are willing to share their information if they know it will benefit them,” says Shanaman.

Customers are happy to come back to shops if they know they’ll be taken care of, or if there’s a deal waiting for them. Shops have a stronger opportunity to draw customers back in when their vehicle is due for its next maintenance if they know how to best communicate with them.


Figure Out Contact Preference

In order to connect with the customer, you need to contact them the right way. It doesn’t make sense for a shop to be emailing, for example, if they never check their account, or do not prefer that mode of communication.

“We ask [shops] how they want to be communicated with. Are you OK with us calling you? Figure out the best way to reach them,” explains Clawson.

Take time when you’re gathering information to ask for his or her preferred method of contact so precious time isn’t wasted when trying to get in touch. This can be frustrating for a service writer and even more so for a driver waiting for a vehicle update.


Think Outside the Box

Name and contact information will not tell you everything you want to know about your customers, but asking for much more than that can feel like a breach of privacy. Social media can tell shop owners a lot. If people like your page or follow you, you’ll have access to more information on them—such as birthdays and what their specific interests are.

Sending surveys or having a contact form on your website asking customers how you’re doing is a great way to capture more data. This technique has been extremely useful for ALLDATA in collecting feedback and client information. Shop owners can use this information to amend contact preferences, update processes and determine ways to improve.


Organize the Data

Having some sort of customer relationship management (CRM) process is key for shops. It’s necessary to have some sort of organizational process for customer communications to stay on top of appointment reminders, coupons, or other interactions.

According to Shanaman, CRM is a philosophy. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a formal system.

“It could be a ledger, an Excel file or a shop management system. It doesn’t matter how the data is organized, as long as it’s being collected and used. Make sure all of the information is in one central location and organized in a way that makes sense for your shop team and that is usable.”

That way, the customer information you’ve collected can best be leveraged to engage and retain your clients while making them feel important and appreciated.


Establish Trust

Shops can start sending out service reminders once the information has been gathered. Shop management systems will send automatic reminders based on the vehicles that customers have and the service history.

“It’s challenging for anyone to keep track of service intervals, which is why customers appreciate someone looking out for them,” Clawson says. “Getting that friendly reminder puts trust back in shops.”

Drivers are thankful for that level of personalized care.


Know Your Customers, Sell Your Services

For targeted ads, such as back to school or summer travel, Facebook Ads’ targeting capabilities are a good way to find out which of your customers have kids. Looking at social media, in general, is a great way to find out more about your customers.

“Having a Facebook or LinkedIn page for your shop is a great way to capture that information. You’re not forcing a request. If they follow you they’re volunteering that information,” Clawson says.

Many shops like sending out coupons for special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries. Asking for this information may be too much for certain customers. Stress that it’s optional and explain the reasoning. When customers understand that the information will help your shop provide them with unparalleled customer service and an exceptional experience they’re more likely to open up.

Shanaman may have said it best when he explained, “General stores knew every customer in town. They knew what their customers purchased last and what they’d purchase next. That’s the model that everyone is moving toward.”

Staying diligent about collecting data and contact preferences will allow your shop to provide a true “personalized” experience for your customers.

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