SHOP: West Omaha Auto Service LOCATION: Omaha, Neb. INNOVATOR: Michelle Ross SIZE: 6,000 square feet; STAFF SIZE: 8; AVERAGE MONTHLY CAR COUNT: 220 ANNUAL REVENUE: $2 million (combined)
What It Is:
A free, small car care gift that is placed in every vehicle serviced at the shop. The gift changes every month, according to theme or holiday, and it’s aimed at improving the customer experience and drawing in more customers.
Dave and Michelle Ross, owners of West Omaha Auto Service located in Omaha, Neb., are clients of the consulting firm Repair Shop Coach.
At a meeting back in 2012, they heard about customer car care gifts from a fellow shop owner and they decided to use this in their own shop with a little twist. The Rosses believed these gifts would help set the shop apart and keep the shop top of mind to customers.
What It Does:
The car care gifts are designed to appeal to and retain customers.
The gifts change from month to month, but always include a coupon for $10 off the customer’s next visit. Customers can use the coupon for themselves or offer it to a friend or family member.
According to Ross, customers now expect a gift in their vehicles.
“Sometimes it makes somebody’s day; it makes them feel like somebody cared,” says Ross.
The car care gifts then encourage customers to review the shop online. If the customer leaves a 4–5 star review online, the shop will connect with them and send them a stress ball in the shape of a thumbs-up, along with a gift card.
How It’s Made:
Ross is in charge of marketing and connecting with customers, so it is her brainstorming that brings these gifts to customers’ dashboards.
She does her research online and in stores. She plans out each month’s inspiration or theme. She tries to stay as creative as possible when she is planning out the car gift theme for the month and she tracks her ideas, so she doesn’t repeat herself.
Ross goes to local stores and big-box stores like Target to find deals on potential gifts. Once she’s purchased everything she needs for the gift, she assembles them at home or at the shop. It usually takes her a few days to have a least a week’s worth of gifts ready to go.
This past May, Ross spent a day putting together a baseball-themed car care gift since the College World Series happens in Omaha every year. When making these gifts, she went through 50 baseballs per week.
On average, the Rosses spends $1–$1.50 per car for each gift and they spend $3,500–$4,000 annually.
Although the shop already had loyal customers before they started adding car care gifts, according to the Rosses, their repeat customers went from 500 to 1,000. Another benefit of doing car gifts is the word-of-mouth referrals.