A Loyal Following
Bobby Morris, owner of Home Town Auto Care in Bloomingdale, Ga., has worked at six different automotive repair facilities (and owned two of the six) throughout his career and has had customers follow him from place to place. In fact, he has two customers that still come to him that he first met at his very first job when he worked at a Toyota dealership.
“He’s developed a loyal clientele that follows him to different work locations throughout his career,” Morris’ Ratchet+Wrench All-Star Awards nomination reads.
Even though the address on his business card may have changed, the level of care that Morris gives to his customers has not. Morris now owns two locations, which between the two, see roughly 150 repair orders per month, and has an estimated customer retention rate of 75 percent. Here’s how Morris has been able to develop a loyal following:
“Honestly, it’s just being up front and honest,” Morris says of the secret to his success with customers.
Tell customers what’s going on. If it’s going to take longer than they expected, let them know. If there’s more work that needs to be done, let them know (see a pattern here?). The customer deserves to have all of the available information. That being said, there’s a way to deliver it so it doesn’t feel overwhelming or all doom and gloom.
If, for example, a customer comes in for a coolant leak and there’s a problem with the brakes, Morris will give him or her the news, and let him or her know that—if there’s not enough time or funds available to do both jobs that day—the brakes should be a priority because it’s a safety issue. A thorough explanation of what’s going on will help the customer prioritize the work that needs to be done and will also be appreciated, Morris explains.
Get on Their Level
That explanation is only useful to the customer if he or she understands it, Morris explains.
You should never assume that a customer knows what you’re talking about. That’s why Morris has trained his entire staff to thoroughly communicate issues and use terms that they can understand.
Visual aids are a huge help. Customers can understand a lot better if they can see the problem for themselves and using them also goes a step further in showing them that the repair is needed and the repair shop isn’t just out to get more money.
Morris utilizes a few programs through NAPA that show videos of repairs and he also encourages his staff to take photos and videos on their own mobile devices to send to customers.
“This way, they can visualize the problem and it helps with sales,” Morris says.
Although Morris has changed jobs and facilities throughout his career, he always stayed connected with his customers. Until he opened his current location, he ran a small repair facility out of his own home, which customers continued to visit until the workload got too large and he opened the first Home Town Auto Care location in 2000.
Morris gives his personal information out to his customers, so, even when he changed jobs, his customers knew how to reach him personally.
Nowadays, the internet has made it much easier for him to stay in touch with customers and bring them back in. Although most customers are good about scheduling their next appointment and usually bring their vehicles back in within a few weeks if additional service is needed and he hasn’t heard from a customer in a few weeks, he’ll pick up the phone and reach out. He also sends emails and coupons throughout the year as a way to stay top of mind.