Communicating At All Hours
SHOP STATS: Anderson Automotive Location: Anderson, Calif. Average Monthly Car Count: 130 Total Staff Size: 4.5 Average Shop Size: 4,000 sq ft; Annual Revenue for Company;$700,000
After three years into Nick Jones’ role as owner of Anderson Automotive, he was ready to grow the shop’s previous slim-to-none marketing. After transitioning from technician to owner, Jones found that there were a few things that he wanted to change about the shop—and also a few things he had to learn as an owner.
Without an updated website or the desire to look into an email system, Jones began searching for a marketing system that could not only get his business out there, but also pave an easier path to getting connected with customers. As a shop that didn’t have weekend hours, the business couldn’t provide that 24/7 service that Jones felt customers deserved.
After joining a new website provider in April 2018, it wasn’t until three months later, in July, when the company introduced a potential update of which Jones could take advantage. Little did he know, the update would provide an easy, efficient way to reach his customers at all hours of the day.
When Jones became owner in 2013, he spent a few years taking control of the business before branching out to look toward new marketing efforts. Looking for a way to be inspired, Jones decided to look on AutoShop Owner, where his eyes were opened to new ways of doing business, he says.
In the beginning, Jones started with a marketing system that initially didn’t work for him before making the switch to a company called Broadly that offered more text message options.
In today’s world, if you don’t answer the phone right away, or solely rely on an email response, then your chances of instant feedback and communication are limited. Since Anderson Automotive is closed on the weekends, the shop’s inability to communicate with customers on the fly meant voluntarily driving a potential client base away, Jones says.
“You have to be connected with people otherwise you’re not going to survive anymore,” Jones says.
For Jones, being responsive via email is often difficult for the hands-on owner.
“The email thing just never worked for me,” Jones says. “I feel like it’s the difference between mailing someone a letter and calling them directly.”
In July 2018, Broadly had a new, free update that came with using its website: a chatbot. Prior to receiving the update, Jones had not seen another shop use the feature before and thought it might be an interesting addition to the shop’s website.
In the beginning, the chatbot was added on and was located on every single web page of the website, Jones says. The initial bot was a fake individual named “Carly,” Jones says, who customers often referred back to when they spoke with the shop later on.
“I had kind of funny luck with that [fake character],” Jones says. “Although I did get a lot of response from it, it was just awkward when someone would call and say, ‘Hey, I talked to Carly.’”
Around a month later, the site decided to get rid of a fake person, and now the site’s chatbot simply pops up and asks the following question when users visit the shop’s website: “Welcome! How can I help you?”
When guest’s type a message to the chatbot, the 24-hour service bot begins typing a message that’s visible to users, and responds to the customer’s inquiry with the following: “We'd love to follow up with you, please provide your name and the best way to reach you (mobile phone or email).”
Once customers respond with their contact inquiry, a message is then sent to Jones’ email, where he can access the messages via the Broadly app, he says.
“I usually respond pretty quickly and I generally am on my phone consistently,” Jones says. “I think they’re just getting back to me through the chatbox.”
Since bringing the chatbot aboard in July, Jones says the shop has seen a lot of appointments from the site, and has seen an increase in leads from the program.
“I’ve had really great luck with it,” Jones says. “I get about a lead per week from the chatbot.”
According to Jones, the shop received five leads in July, three leads in August, six in September, and most inquiries typically turn into appointments.
“I’m getting about 4–6 per month out of it and that’s pretty good,” Jones says. “Most of them turn into appointments, and some of them don’t. Some of them want to do older smog checks, but most of the time people actually schedule appointments.”
Jones says, for the most part, he’s noticed a shift in a new clientbase.
“Most are new [customers],” Jones says. “I would say 1 out of 6 is a recurring customer.”
Additionally, it’s been an added service to the shop for free, Jones says.
“I basically didn’t pay anything extra for it over my website,” Jones says. “They’re passive, so it’s not like it’s ringing my phone at 12 o’clock at night.”
While it’s always important to focus on catering to your shop’s demographic, don’t be afraid to try out something new, even if it doesn’t seem common with other shops.
“I’m actually in an older demographic where a lot of customers are well into their 50s and 60s,” Jones says.
For customers, being able to interact with a shop at all hours of the day can make a difference, Jones says.
“I think that a lot of your people visit your website but you don’t have a huge amount of people that actually click through and call,” Jones says. “‘[A customer] clicks on my website and there’s a chatbox; they don’t have to call, they don’t have to do anything, they can just passively say, ‘Hey, can I get an appointment,’ and then I respond and they’re done.
“How many people buy off of Amazon just to avoid a store? It’s just the world we live in.”