Reputation for Retention
Speaking with other local businesses in the bracket of family-owned shops in the New Albany, Ind.-area, average customer retention is in the 25–35 percent range. Joe Green, general manager at Mike Smith Firestone, is at 42–45 percent. Green achieves this level of retention through his commitment to customer service and his understanding of how important his role is.
“While some people see this as a trade blue collar job, I see it as one of the most important positions in this day an age,” Green says. “We all depend on vehicles for transportation; I help to keep cars humming so people can go back to their holidays, their families, their errands and their joy rides. None of this would be possible without mechanics. With every vehicle I am fixing, I am allowing those folks to arrive on time, protecting precious cargo, and making someone’s day.”
Green has been in the industry since he was 15 years old and, throughout that time, has developed a passion to learn as much as he can about the vehicles that he is fixing. Green has established himself as a person that customers can trust at Mike Smith Firestone, one of the last remaining fully functioning Art Deco Firestones in the U.S. Green credits his and his teammates dedication to offering educated insight to its success in creating rapport and gaining loyal customers.
Focus on loyalty.
Green appreciates his repeat customers and focuses on them rather than stressing over new customers.
“Existing satisfied customers not only ensure repeat business, but [they] act as ambassadors in acquiring new customers,” Green says. “And, if you’ve done your job well, you will soon have lots of new customers, courtesy of your old ones.”
Green says that the shop continues to satisfy customers by treating every individual as an equal rather than talking down to them. It also values feedback—both positive and negative—and takes its customers input into consideration to improve any gaps in service.
One of the biggest mistakes Green sees that can cause the loss of a customer is treating new customers better than existing customers. One way of doing this is by offering discounts or incentives to land new customers—this can cause resentment among existing customers because they won’t feel appreciated.
Deliver top-notch service.
Green has a few tricks for delivering the type of service that keeps his customers coming back.
Be a resource. No matter what your customer needs, try and find it for them, Green explains. Even if it has nothing to do with your business. If they’re looking for a place to get lunch while they wait, offer suggestions.
Make it easy. Find out what your customers believe are “hassles” in the repair process and find a way to eliminate those, Green says.
Stay in touch: Green says the best clients are your current clients, so don’t forget to follow-up and make sure their needs are being met.
Be credible. Establish trust right away or you risk losing out to your competitors, Green says.
Get to know them. Small talk goes a long way, according to Green. He gets to know his customers on a personal level and learns about their grandkids, finds out about upcoming trips and what they do for a living.
“Treat them like family because, at the end of the day, they are our lifeline,” Green says.
Lead with honesty.
A major pitfall when it comes to retention is a lack of honesty and integrity in the repair process.
“Not only have I seen it firsthand, but also in speaking with numerous customers, they feel that some shops push to upsell products or services that may not necessarily be needed,” Green says.
Green says the team at Mike Smith informs customers of any service or product that may be needed and then shows exactly why it is needed. Then, they let the customers make the call with the estimate that is created based on suggested services and never pressure them to purchase anything that is not necessary.