No-Brainers For Success: Own Customers For Life -

No-Brainers For Success: Own Customers For Life

You've just repaired a vehicle and your female customer seems pleased with the quality of the repair and the service you provided. You deliver the vehicle, hand her the keys and send her on her way. But does that customer really belong to you? Is she really yours?

By Jeanne Silver
Independent business owner

You’ve just repaired a vehicle and your female customer seems pleased with the quality of the repair and the service you provided. You deliver the vehicle, hand her the keys and send her on her way. But does that customer really belong to you? Is she really yours?

Did you ever think at the ­moment you were delivering her vehicle that she might need your service in the future, but go to another shop?

Most shop owners assume that their customers – male or female – will return to them the next time they need tires or a repair. The frustrating and sad fact is that they probably won’t, without some work on the shop owner’s part to make them come back.

One of the reasons for this is that there are so many different parties attempting to take control of your customers’ decisions. This “control” ranges from a simple suggestion to strong-handed steering ­tactics.

Most customers don’t realize they have a choice of where to repair their vehicles, and let’s face it, we’re letting them leave without informing them that they do have a choice. You might think it’s not your job to educate your customers, but when you find out they went somewhere else for their next vehicle service, the truth hurts…and hits your bottom line.

We all want customers who will call us first the next time they need a vehicle repair. A short-term investment in some simple “no-brainers” could result in long-term customer retention. Executing those no-brainers will take some planning and, once you start, you’ll need to do them consistently, but they won’t cost you a dime.

Here’s a short list of simple things shops can do to help retain customers. We often don’t think of them, but they’re simple to implement and worth doing over and over again if it means getting those customers back, and getting those customers to send other customers your way.

No-Brainer #1: Use Your Manners
Your customer has just “awarded” you her business (it’s a prize, so treat it with enthusiasm). Thank her when you deliver the finished vehicle. Tell her in a heartfelt way how much you value and appreciate her business. She should hear the words “thank you” from every person in the customer service area. An echo of four or five “thank-yous” is unique and makes a great impression.

No-Brainer #2: Name Game
Give your customers something with your name on it and ask them to keep it in their glove boxes. That “something” might be a tire pressure gauge, tread depth gauge, safety tip card, pen or even a business card. Remind them that, should the need arise, your number is right there “in the glove box.”

No-Brainer #3: Inform
Several years back, the fine clothing discounter Syms had an aggressive advertising campaign that stated, “An educated consumer is our best customer.” It was wildly successful and led the store to become one of the most successful discount retailers of fine clothing in the country.

That philosophy holds true today. An informed consumer should be your life-long customer. Tell your customers that you know they have many options for service, and that you ­appreciate them choosing You. Let them know that you can handle vehicle warranty work as well as regular service. Tell them your shop is their best choice, their only choice, and should be their first phone call when they need a vehicle repair.

This is the most important no-brainer I’m going to give you, and the one hardly anyone ever thinks of. It’s better to be proactive and lay the groundwork for the next sale, rather than to assume that your customers will automatically come back to you. In all likelihood, they probably won’t unless you lay the groundwork now.

Female customers, in particular, may be getting “pressure” from friends, relatives, boyfriends, fathers, husbands, car dealers or others to use “their guy.” In theory, customers aren’t “told” they have to go to another shop, but the suggestion may be so strong that they feel they have no other choice.

Develop a script that covers this “no-brainer” and train everyone at your shop who comes in contact with your customers to use it.

No-Brainer #4: References
Ask your customers to refer family, friends, co-workers and colleagues. I’m going to say it again: Ask for the referral! Most customers will be happy to do this for you, but they won’t think of it by themselves. Most people respond well to a simple direction as long as it’s not controversial.

No-Brainer #5: No Freebies
Don’t give away your work. There’s no shame in letting a customer know that you charge a fair price and that your service work is worth it. Price cutting gives the impression that you don’t value your own business. A customer expecting a quality repair will gladly pay the price and appreciate your integrity and pride in your ­business.

No-Brainer #6: Don’t Go Half Way
Don’t do partial repairs, even if the customer requests it (that is, if you value your reputation as a quality shop). Think of it in terms of what could happen when the vehicle leaves your premises. I can promise you that when your customer’s neighbor asks, “Who repaired your vehicle?” she’s going to give your name and not say that she asked for a partial repair. That vehicle is a “rolling billboard” for your business. Make this your shop philosophy: “If we can’t repair it right, we won’t repair it at all.”

A former shop manager told me something I’ve never forgotten: “You don’t lose money on work you don’t do.” He was so correct, and we have yet to lose any money there. Take pride in your business and your work, spread the word everywhere and you’ll have customers
for life.

Jeanne Silver is the owner of an independent collision ­repair business in Illinois. She’s active in her community and is committed to improving the image of the collision repair industry.

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