Curating the Customer Experience

Aug. 23, 2023
How collecting customer information can improve your service.

“May we contact you with specials from time to time?” 

It’s a simple question, but one that can change the way your shop operates in important ways. Keeping the lines of communication open with customers after their car pulls out of your garage is imperative to continue building trust and encourage a return visit.  

Gregg Rainville is the chief revenue officer for Mechanic Advisor, a digital platform specializing in automated marketing solutions for the automotive industry. Of all the information you can collect from a customer, he says, there’s nothing more important than their contact details and permission to stay in touch with them once the repair is finished. He explains why here. 

As told to Lindsey Gainer 

Build Data Collection into Your Check-In Process 

It’s important for a shop owner to collect cell phone numbers, emails and mailing addresses from every customer that comes through the door. This should be part of every check-in process, no matter what the job. How can you accomplish this? It’s simple, really … just ask! 

Have your front desk or service counter tell each new customer that the shop sends out specials, repair updates or shop news through email and text, then have them ask for their contact information and permission to reach out. You can even create a script, so they don’t forget to bring it up … something along the lines of “If you check this box, we can send you specials from time to time" or "This allows you to be part of our VIP club where we will text you specials every now and then." I’ve even seen shop owners pay bonuses to the service counter based on the number of cell phone numbers they collect—it’s that important.

If your shop is using digital customer management software, the request and permission is likely built into the flow of data entry. If you’re collecting information through paperwork, make sure the customer gives their permission in writing, either on their intake forms or invoice. Provide a section where they can opt-in and sign off to receive texts or emails moving forward, so you have their permission on record. 

Putting the Data to Work 

Not only does having a customer’s contact information allow you to ensure they’re satisfied after the visit—since you can ask for feedback and send surveys—you can also use it to request that they leave you a review on websites like Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc. to help grow your reputation online.  

Most important, a database of contacts is the foundation upon which you can build an effective marketing strategy. Sending specials, referral programs and shop news through email, text and direct mail is an ideal way to encourage return business. There are many reputable software programs and marketing companies that can help a shop build a marketing schedule and set up reach-out sequences after a visit to gauge customer satisfaction, build reviews and improve customer retention. In many, you simply ‘set it and forget it.’ You’re enhancing your customer’s experience and boosting retention without even having to think about it! 

Always Respect Your Customer’s Preferences 

Of all the information you can collect, I would say getting a cell phone number for texting is the most important. In today’s world, people are glued to their smartphones and like quick conversations, updates and specials sent to them through text messages. This is the way most younger customers prefer to communicate, and many of the older ones as well. I actually had a shop owner tell me once that he now feels like phone calls are intrusive, like someone is kicking in his door, and he prefers text messages from the businesses he patronizes. I think a lot of people feel the same way, that’s why it’s important to ask the customer what they prefer when you check them in and then contact them accordingly. Always communicate with your customers in the way they select, even if it’s not necessarily your preference. They’ll appreciate it, and be more receptive to future outreach. 

Use technology to your advantage! 

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