A fight with the customer to get them to open their wallet. A fight with the staff to get them to treat the customer right. A fight to be profitable.
It’s amazing to look back on how hard things used to be, before we made educating our customers to make the right decisions a way of life.
Because this concept was what changed everything in our shop, it’s how we fixed our image in our community, built trusting relationships with our customers, and grew our sales, profits and bank accounts.
It makes sense! The more knowledgeable your customers are, the more empowered they feel to make the right decision regarding their vehicle’s health, and the happier they feel about the decisions they make. By simply taking the time to foster a dialog with your customers, you’re building trust, fostering loyalty and ensuring your business’ long-term success.
You may be asking: How can I better educate my customers to make the right decisions about their vehicles?
The First Impression
Hospitality is the key to building a trusting relationship and every employee on your front counter should be well-versed in providing superior customer service.
Customers should be greeted when they call or enter your shop in a personable, un-rushed manner that exudes professionalism and makes an early impression that you’re EXPERTS in the auto repair field and you’re there to care for them.
This means that tone and volume are critical. If you sound rushed when you pick up the phone, it’s an instant clue to everyone who calls in that you don’t have the time to give them your best service and do the best job.
Just as important is your attention to detail. When asking about their vehicle, be as specific as possible – it shows you’re the expert. When you give them your full attention and you acknowledge the details, you’re setting yourself apart as both considerate and smart. How many times have they seen these traits when going to other repair shops?
In fact, a good service writer should be like a well-versed waiter at a classy restaurant and anticipate their customers’ needs. Just like seeing a given table needs more bread or water, a service writer should be able to read a given individual well and ask questions pertaining to their vehicle and circumstances confidently and with substance.
One tacky phrase we’ve eliminated at our shop and that should NEVER be used anywhere in our industry is “upsell.” On the contrary, when you are completely dialed in to the needs and wants of your customer, your services become indispensable to them. This means you never have to upsell anything – you simply need to educate them about what’s really going on with their vehicle and the customer can make the right decisions.
Show, Don’t Tell
Instead of bluntly telling your customer what they need to have done to their vehicle, your shop should be showing and advising customers on what services they require. Your customers should be treated as guests in your shop – guests you consider a member of your own family.
But, that doesn’t happen overnight. To make your guests feel valued, you need to deliver on and exceed their expectations. The main things guests to your shop expect from their experience are: professionalism, results, answers, honesty and fair pricing. If you can’t deliver on these five things, no amount of education at the front counter will fix anything.
While the first of those four items on the “positive experience” list are well within your control, you may encounter wildly different interpretations on what “fair pricing” entails. Price shoppers are a fact of life for repair shops.
In my experience, anybody shopping for prices just wants to know how to protect themselves and their family from being taken advantage of. This means it’s critical to spend the time to find out why they think it’s all about price.
Do they know about the difference in the quality of parts? Do they know they have choices and what they are?
The key here is to deliver so much value they can’t compare you to anyone. Nobody else has ever taken the time to help them the way you are, which is why they’re calling you. Once you take the time to educate them, how could they be satisfied with anyone else?
Eliminate the Mystery
Educating your customers is all about separating yourself from your competition. By taking the mystery out of auto repair – after all, the unknown can be frightening – and by giving your customers CHOICES, you’re doing exactly that.
Taking away the mystery involves using more easy-to-understand language (no industry-speak) and continuously making sure your customer understands what’s going on with their vehicle.
Using analogies and “speaking visually” is also a valuable tool we like our employees to incorporate when they’re dealing with customers at our shop. A good example of this is an analogy we like to use for preventative maintenance: you go to the dentist twice a year for cleaning and cavity-checks, brush your teeth every day and maybe even use dental floss regularly – all to avoid the pain and expense of a root canal, cavity-filling, etc. Spending a couple of hundred dollars per year on having your vehicle checked by professionals is a lot less painful than dishing out thousands for repair jobs that could’ve been avoided by catching problems early and staying up-to-date on scheduled maintenance.
Another good idea we’ve found success with at Keller Bros. is to use a “Question of the Week” in our shop. Just by asking someone a question like, “When was the last time you had your transmission flushed?”, you can enhance your shop’s top-of-mind awareness, better educate your customer about ongoing automotive needs and increase the traffic in your bays.
Options + Solutions = Sales
Closing a sale is the hardest part of any transaction. Presenting multiple options is the best way to get this done. If your customer understands the different means by which a given job can be completed, they usually opt for the best way (as opposed to the least expensive).
Repair needs should also be prioritized by level of severity. If you list out everything that needs to be done on their vehicle in a rapid-fire manner, the owner will most likely feel overwhelmed and take their business elsewhere.
“I need to think about it” is a common refrain we hear from reticent customers; if you encounter this obstacle, simply ask them what they need to think about and have a response ready for them. If they are worried about getting around while the repairs are being done, offer them a loaner vehicle or offer to give them a ride to work or home. If they’re concerned about the money, offer them a way to finance the repair. Taking time to “think about it” won’t make the problems go away, so working to find a solution to their fears sooner rather than later will be in everyone’s best interest.
Lastly, make sure the final thing they walk away with from your shop is a clear understanding of the unique differences in your warranty, guarantees, tech experience and quality of services your shop offers. During checkout, don’t thank them for their business, which is no different than saying, “Thanks for the money!” Thank them for their trust and the chance to build a relationship.
Remember: Go further, try harder, spend more time with customers. Do this and you’ll have customers who are educated, invested and most importantly, loyal!