Relationships are hard. There’s never a guarantee the object of your affection will return your feelings. When you put yourself out there and fail to make a connection, it really stings! You might be confused, because this isn’t supposed to be a dating column. That’s true! Nonetheless, the same insight is true for auto shops. Most drivers are convinced auto repair shops are out to get them. It’s not easy to earn trust when you have to contend with that assumption. Can you relate to what I’m saying? If so, I’m happy to report there are fixes. Here are three ways to impress customers with outstanding customer service:
1. Be active online.
It’s silly to disregard social media. Most people have a computer in their pockets. They use that device to connect with the people and businesses they care about most. If you want new customers to consider your shop, then you need to meet them where they are. Failing to do so is extremely short sighted!
People don’t choose a business on a whim. They ask their friends for recommendations on Facebook. They research their options on search engines like Google. If you don’t have a presence on either of those websites, you might as well buy a shotgun and shoot yourself in the foot. It’d be more efficient!
Don’t make online marketing too complicated in your mind. For now, make sure your business is listed in obvious places like Google and Yelp and encourage your most loyal customers to leave a review while they wait for service in your lobby. Don’t be afraid to ask! If you do a great job, people will be happy to support your business.
2. Show drivers how to take care of their cars.
Some auto professionals are jaded. They think drivers don’t give a crap about how cars work. False! Wanna know what the real problem is? No one is given an opportunity to learn about cars anymore.
High schools have eliminated automotive programs from their curriculum, car engines have become so well made that they don’t require very much maintenance and automakers have stopped trying to educate people about technological progress.
When people come to my shop and ask for a “tune up,” I tell them, “Tune ups are no longer necessary, because today’s engines are controlled by a computer that can detect problems and notify you of them.” This has been the case for decades now and yet it blows people’s minds!
There’s a concept called “the curse of knowledge.” It’s definitely at play in the auto industry. Think about all of the things you consider “obvious.” The average driver is 100 percent oblivious to that stuff! That’s not because they’re lazy. It’s because no one has tried to teach them.
I capitalized on this opportunity during the Great Recession of 2008. My shop was struggling, because so many people lost their jobs and couldn’t afford to repair their vehicles (I live in NYC, which was hit harder than most other cities at this time). I invited women to come learn about the most essential aspects of auto repair, maintenance, and safety. Young women gained knowledge that helped them take care of their cars when they left for college. Single moms received free auto repairs that drastically improved their safety. It was a win-win!
A combination of referrals, good press, and media exposure helped me quadruple my bottom line. How’s that for an unexpected surprise? Talking to drivers has opened my eyes. Auto anxiety is an epidemic. People are so disconnected from their cars and they don’t have a clue what to do when things go wrong.
This is your opportunity to make an impact! Host your own auto awareness workshop. Notify the press. Print flyers and hang them in your lobby. Promote the event on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and anywhere else you have a presence. Do everything in your power to attract a crowd. Educate and empower your community with vital information they should know.
When you talk about your event (online or in person), make sure to focus on the key takeaways that will benefit drivers in their everyday life. This will make your offer sound more persuasive.
3. Always be aware of the latest and greatest technology
You can’t afford to fall asleep at the wheel. Technology changes fast. Apps can scan a car engine, identify problems, and notify a technician within seconds. Cars have the ability to drive themselves without any feedback from a human. Without an ability to accept and adapt to change, your shop will sink faster than the Titanic.
I learned this the hard way. Decades ago, the “check engine” light became a new automotive feature. Major automakers didn’t inform small, independent shops of this change before it was implemented. My dad told customers, “Hey, it’s okay. Just stick a piece of black tape over it!” Ugh. I learned my lesson! Not long after that, I went to trade school and learned how to diagnose the check engine light. I’ll never be caught with my pants down again.
The auto industry must prioritize customer service and continuing education. If auto shops fail to do so, our reputation will continue to decline. Let’s not let that happen. Our long-term survival depends on it!