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Invest in Your Shop’s Future: Positive First Impressions Will Heighten The Customer ‘Experience’

Fluctuations in the economy are nothing new. There will always be challenges associated with running an automotive repair facility efficiently and effectively, while still delivering top-notch customer service. But, here’s what we’re all missing: You can’t scale back too much and put shop renovations on the back burner.

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by Mitch Smith, Mitch Smith Auto Service

Fluctuations in the economy are nothing new. There will always be challenges associated with running an automotive repair facility efficiently and effectively, while still delivering top-notch customer service. But, here’s what we’re all missing: You can’t scale back too much and put shop renovations on the back burner. 

While many shop owners ­continue to talk about the economy and cutting back, perhaps what you need to do is look to the future — the near future — when business picks up again. How can you cater to your customer base when you’ve ignored facility improvements? That rundown co-ed bathroom definitely won’t. And having a cramped waiting area that has customers practically bumping into your service writers won’t either.

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As many of us work to provide highest-quality service in this new economic era, there are certain areas of business we need to revisit. Through trial and error, I’ve learned what works, and I’ll share a few of what my staff likes to call “Mitch-isms” with you. These “opportunities to be better” really can make or break your shop and, for the purposes of this article, directly relate to the five senses.

Purchase Influencers

It’s a fact that most purchasing decisions are based on our five senses — sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. In fact, if you break it down, this is how each of them drives buying behavior:

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• Sight, 83%

• Hearing, 11%

• Touch, 3.5%

• Smell, 1.5%

• Taste, 1%

As you can see (sorry, pun ­intended!), sight is by far the most important influencer on this list, and any time a client or potential client drives onto your lot, you have the opportunity to positively impact their view of your facility.

Clients Shouldn’t Dread Your Waiting Area

photos courtesy of mitch smith auto serviceBy now, I know you’ve heard that your waiting room is one of the most important resources that can help grow your business. Don’t believe it yet? According to one recent automotive repair survey, more than 63% of the women in any given household schedule and handle the automotive service for their family. Repair shop owners, know thy customer!

And whether your customer is male or female, people appreciate having something to do while they wait. Newspapers, magazines and cable TV all keep clients occupied — and not looking at their watch. It just makes the time go faster.

That’s the psychology behind the people in your waiting area, but back to the top dog of all senses, sight. Your waiting room needs to sell you, your image and your business! It’s all about presentation, and one just needs to consider a car show to ­understand why. We all know what car shows are about — the cleaning, the polishing and all the prep that comes before the public can view and admire that classic vehicle. That same attention to detail needs to go into your waiting area, with your clients as the admiring public.

Questions to Ponder

Don’t know where to begin? Here are some questions centered on the five senses to ask yourself. Honestly answer them in a way that will truly benefit your shop now and in the future.

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1. What do your clients see when pulling into your facility? Is it clean, tidy? Would your mother, wife or grandmother say, “Wow, that place looks great, they must really care!”

2. What do your clients hear when they enter? Is it a friendly, smiling voice? Are they welcomed with a smile? Does your staff tell them, “We’re glad you’re here! Have a soda, water or coffee. Here’s the remote. Wi-Fi is on, so make yourself at home.”

3. What do your clients touch when they walk in? (Hint: Get those rubber parts mats off the counter!) Are the counters clean? Do you have hand sanitizer on the counter? Are business cards, ink pens and other marketing items available?

4. What do your clients smell when they enter the door? Is it grease and oil, or some great-smelling candle that makes them feel at home?

5. What can your clients taste when they walk in? Is there a large candy dish on the counter?

Here’s the bottom line: All of these items are an inexpensive way to ­secure the clients that we all want today. And we haven’t even serviced their car yet! Sometimes, the small touches make all the difference.

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Upgrade Your Facility to Upgrade Your ROI

If the clients you want are those who make much of their service decision based on shop appearance, then get a new look for them! Something that makes them say, “Wow!” And I don’t mean slapping on a new coat of paint and putting more car paraphernalia on the walls.

I mean call a professional designer. This isn’t a do-it-yourself project. We’re car guys, right? We should be spending our time doing what we’re good at, and the same goes for interior design. A professional designer can give your waiting area the “for you” image that will impress clients with progressive colors and trendy designs.

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And don’t forget the restroom! Remember that the majority of people making car servicing decisions today are women, and most will appreciate a tastefully done upgrade. This will definitely cost you a few bucks, but the return on investment is priceless.

The End Result

After you make that great first impression with a modern waiting area, you already know how to provide the quality repairs they expect. Add great customer service, and your clients are sure to give your shop glowing recommendations to their friends and family. That’s the sixth sense: The ­Experience. The only way you can guarantee a great one is if you can answer this question with a whole-hearted yes: If you get the business, can you do it and do it right

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Mitch Smith co-owns Mitch Smith Auto Service in Anderson, IN, along with his wife Mary. Mitch and his staff have been servicing clients better than anyone else (Mitch-ism No. 1) since 1991.

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