Shop Owner Magazine

Improving Customer Service Beyond The Counter: Leveraging The Web To Generate Leads And Build Customer Relationships

February 2, 2012

By Uwe Kleinschmidt

If you’re like most shop owners, when you think about making better use of the Web, you’re likely thinking about things like your website, your Google ranking or maybe even your pay-per-click (PPC) ads.

But if one of your business goals is to maximize results, then improving the quality of your interactions with prospective and existing customers becomes key and you’ll find that websites and PPC ads are just the beginning when it comes to what the Web has to offer.

Integrating Web technologies into your workflow can help you reach more potential customers, in addition to helping you take your customer interactions to a new and more personalized level — ­extending the relationship you build in the shop beyond the counter and to wherever the customer is. And that’s what we’re going to start covering in this article, the first in a series focused on improving your business by making the most of the Web and its technology.

Are You Getting Your Fair Share of the 2,000+ Searches Every Month?
The Internet has forever changed how a motorist, searching for a solution to their problem, finds you. No longer do people let their “fingers do the walking” in the phone book. ­Instead, they let their fingers do the typing, going to Google to search for auto repair shops in their area.
Image 1

How many searches? For an average city with 20,000 drivers, or a population of around 60,000, there are ­between 2,000 and 3,500 Internet searches for auto repair services every single month! With numbers like these, it’s easy to see why it’s so important that you get your fair share of these searches. Image 1 shows how those searches ­translate into calls to a shop.

Looking at the Image 1, I hope you get a sense of the ­opportunity, and also what’s at stake. Not convinced you need to make a Web investment? Imagine this: Your seasoned service advisor could be the one receiving those 45-90 calls every month, and his conversations could lead to 15-30 new customers coming into your shop every month. Are you willing to pass up that kind of lead volume?

Ranking Well is Important, But Frequency is Also a Factor
Auto repair shop ­owners who are doing well in the Web ­environment are those who understand that ranking well in Google is only a start. Page one of any Google search result ­offers motorists plenty of choices. That’s why it’s ­important to rank on Google’s first page as frequently as possible, dominating as many of the search result listings as you can. You have 10 seconds to convince the searching motorist to click on “your link,” so the more often you appear, the more likely you’ll be able to capture their attention.

Google’s Focus on Local Business and What It Means for You
Google has made tremendous efforts in the last 18 months to focus its ­attention on local businesses just like yours. Just look at a Google Places listing, which has evolved from a brief entry to a full page with rich ­information, including images pulled automatically from your website. Google has begun tailoring its sponsored ads to local businesses (see Marker A in Image 2). It has also ­increased the amount of space allocated for a local business’ listing by 220% in the last 1.5 years (see ­Marker B in Image 2).
Image 2

Leveraging User Reviews Influences Search Results and Searchers
Ranking well in Google used to be enough, but not anymore; user reviews are now part of the equation. Reviews matter to human users searching for a reputable solution to their problem and using Google’s search algorithm.

For example, in Image 2, Marker a, you’ll notice that Google has ­included reviews from Top Shop’s home page because of their relevance to the search criteria. You’ll also ­notice that Google shows third-party review stats for two sites (see Marker b). And, finally, notice that Top Shop has multiple appearances in the search results by effectively leveraging user reviews.

The Secret to Success on Google? A Partner with Proven Results
Google ranks sites based on a number of factors and, in its attempt to deliver the most value to the searching public, it regularly makes changes to its search algorithm that can send once high-ranking sites for a tumble. In fact, Google made at least three major ­algorithm updates in 2011 that had search optimization and advertising professionals struggling to quickly adjust. That’s why it’s important to work with someone who can help you keep up with the ever-changing Google landscape.

When you’re ready to take advantage of what the Web has to offer, my best advice to shop owners is to work with a professional or a vendor that can show you real-time evidence of their results for shops like yours, in cities like yours, offering services like yours.

But the Internet isn’t only good for getting new customers in the door; Web technologies can also be ­extremely powerful when it comes to ­developing a stronger relationship with new and long-standing customers. In my next article, in the March/April issue of Shop Owner magazine, I’ll talk about how you can leverage Internet technology within your shop in a way that will help boost your business and your ­customer satisfaction ratings.

Uwe Kleinschmidt is the CEO and founder of AutoVitals in Santa Barbara, CA. The company’s Web-based services focus on the independent automotive repair industry. AutoVitals’ products facilitate highly effective Concierge Auto Repair services, covering all aspects of the service advisor’s interaction with prospective and existing customers. Highly effective and optimized websites, workflow support in the shop, as well as customer retention and social media services are just a few ingredients. He can be reached by ­visiting or calling 1-866-949-2848.

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