Bunch: Mapping Out Your Customer Journey 

Feb. 23, 2024
The first step to getting more customers is understanding how they interact with your business.

Last fall, I had the privilege of teaching a class at the Ratchet+Wrench Management Conference about mapping out our customer journey. Surprisingly, when I asked for a show of hands, only one other person in the room had even heard of the term "customer journey." Essentially, it's the path a customer takes with your company, from the initial response to a marketing piece, through to their website visit, the appointment booking process, evaluating Google ratings, the shop's appearance, their greeting, the shop's amenities, the sales process, all the way through to vehicle pickup and any follow-up service. 

In my view, shop owners don't emphasize being more purposeful in understanding and improving their customers’ journey through our shops. Major retail establishments, like Starbucks and Walmart, consistently evaluate their customer journey, understanding its impact on revenue, customer satisfaction, and repeat business. Nothing is left to chance or accident!


What the Data Shows

I'm somewhat of a nerd for statistics and surveys, and what I've consistently found is alarming: very few shops manage to retain customers for a third or fourth visit. Data shows most customers visit a shop once, with 50%-60% not returning a second time, and at best, they see a 15% return for a third visit. This contrasts sharply with shop owners' beliefs in their loyal customer base, a myth debunked by actual data. 

During our recent rounds of mastermind meetings with over 100 shop owners, we had robust discussions on their customers’ journey. It became clear that even among top operators, there's a gap in thinking from a customer's perspective, often to the detriment of retention and sales. 

In a revealing survey done by Shopgenie, out of 500 automotive repair shops, a staggering 76% failed to respond to a text, email, or online form submitted through their website. Imagine the frustration and disappointment you'd feel as a customer, eagerly awaiting a response that never comes. This scenario isn't just hypothetical for many; it's a disappointing reality.  

My own experience echoes this sentiment. My wife, after attempting to engage with a roofing company we've entrusted with tens of thousands of dollars over the years, found herself virtually ghosted. Despite filling out an online request form, she received no acknowledgment, forcing her to make multiple calls just to capture their attention. This situation mirrors the frustrations many customers face when trying to do business with us in the auto repair industry. This was topped by the inspector being over an hour late, without a phone call to let her know he was delayed. 

This disconnect highlights a critical flaw in the customer journey—a failure to communicate effectively. It's a wake-up call for businesses to reassess how they handle inquiries and manage customer interactions. In an age where digital communication is king, responsiveness can't be an afterthought; it must be a cornerstone of our customer service strategy. By addressing this gap, we not only enhance the customer experience but also set the stage for lasting relationships and repeat business. Implementing a robust follow-up system and ensuring all digital inquiries are met with timely, thoughtful responses can transform a potential customer's frustration into satisfaction and loyalty. 


What Will You Do?

My friends, that is just the beginning of the customer journey. We give them plenty more opportunities to frustrate them! Most shop owners don't survey their customers about their experiences. Such surveys would reveal that most customers desire more communication, and transparency, and find scheduling a hassle. Our perception of adequate communication often falls short of customer expectations; it's only when we feel we're over-communicating that we're probably getting it right. 

In the classes I teach, I emphasize that people buy from people they know, like, and trust. This is especially true in our industry, where the intangibility of our services demands trust. Building this trust requires time and face-to-face interactions. Despite my support for technology, I caution against losing the personal connection that underpins successful businesses by the over-reliance on technology. 

I challenge you, as shop owners, to view your business through your customers' eyes. This perspective shift may reveal areas for improvement or affirm the quality of the customer journey. However, most of us don't know what that journey looks like, and uncovering it will take effort. 

Starting with email surveys can provide some insights, though it's a limited view. It’s a great place to start, with the most important questions being why they choose to do business with you and what could the shop do to better in enhance their experience. Encouraging customers to share their experiences and suggestions not only provides valuable insights but also makes them feel involved in the improvement process. This two-way communication channel reinforces the idea that their opinions matter and are instrumental in shaping the service they receive. 

I even hear that top-tier shops are employing mystery shoppers, providing them with a budget for real repairs in exchange for detailed feedback. This approach uncovers the actual customer experience, not just what staff report or what we assume it to be.  

You may find that very simple improvements are all that are needed: We all know that personalizing the customer experience can significantly impact loyalty. From remembering customer names and preferences to tailoring services to their specific needs, these gestures make customers feel special and understood. Personalization doesn’t have to be complex; simple acts of kindness and attention to detail can make a big difference. 

Remember, the truth shall set you free, but first, it may be p*** you off!  If we aspire to elevate our standing as shop owners and improve our industry's reputation, it's time we honestly assess our customers' journey and make the necessary adjustments based on our findings. 

I would love to hear from you, so if you would be so kind as to share your feedback and thoughts on this topic, email Greg Bunch at [email protected] 



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