You wouldn’t go into a high-end steakhouse and expect to be treated like an inconvenience. You expect your waiter to be attentive and courteous and to respond quickly to any request you might have.
This level of service doesn’t happen overnight. That restaurant has had to consistently exceed expectations in order to develop and maintain its reputation. It’s the same way in our shops today.
The key to establishing an excellent reputation in your market is what’s called “relationship marketing,” which is exactly what it sounds like – establishing dynamic relationships with your customers as an extension of your brand.
When it comes down to it, customer relationships are no different than the other relationships in your life, and the first step to getting results from relationships is recognizing that you need to give them the same level of care and consideration you give your most loved relative. Relationships are a two-way street. There needs to be a give-and-take dynamic with your customers that starts when they first walk through your door, see you in the supermarket or listen to one of your ads on the radio.
Your primary goal when cultivating a dynamic relationship with your customers is to set yourself apart from your competition, in turn greatly increasing the odds of repeat business and increased spend. Your customers are much more likely to return to your shop if they’re happy with the work you’ve done and the decisions they’ve made – decisions that need to be based on the information, options and recommendations your shop provides them.
Simply giving a single quote and option for getting a job done isn’t good enough in this day and age. When you do this, your customer isn’t invested in the process and it becomes much easier for them to simply say “thanks but no thanks” and walk away.
So, how do you make sure your customer trusts you and your shop above all others? It’s simple: Take the time to educate them, show them value and get them invested.
It all starts with a good first impression.
Satisfy Customers’ Needs (And Wants)
When customers call or enter your shop, they should be greeted in a personable, un-rushed manner that exudes professionalism and makes an early impression that you’re experts in the auto repair field.
Tone and volume are important to establishing a meaningful connection with a given customer. Members of your team should be able to eloquently and intelligently converse with anyone who comes into your shop. Maintaining a pleasant, inviting manner of speech goes a long way toward earning repeat business.
Attention to detail also is imperative to engaging customers. When asking about their vehicle, be as specific as possible and make sure your questions are of the intelligent variety. This emphasizes two desirable traits your shop should strive for: classy and smart, both of which are very important to potential customers in any industry.
A good service writer should, in fact, be like a smart waiter at a classy restaurant and anticipate their customers’ needs. Just like seeing that 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 phrase we’ve eliminated at our shop and never should be used anywhere in our industry is “upsell.” You should be dialed in to the needs and interests of your customer to such an extent that your services are indispensable to them, so coming across as pushy or “sales-y” isn’t needed.
Your customers always should be allowed to finish speaking before your line of questioning begins. They should receive your undivided attention – no matter what.
Only after you acknowledge and value your relationship with your customers will you be able to see real results for your shop.
But, getting results from relationships doesn’t mean taking advantage of your customers. If you need something from your customers – whether that means referrals, online reviews or more visits per year – you simply can’t take it.
Your job is not to rob your customers. You can’t squeeze them, twist their arms to sign off on maintenance they don’t want nor force them to remain loyal. If you need more value from your customers, you need to create and build more value for them.
Show, Don’t Sell!
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.
In order to make your guests feel valued, you need to meet and exceed their expectations. The main things guests expect from their experience are professionalism, results, answers, honesty and fair pricing. If you can’t deliver on these five things, your business won’t be in business for long.
While the first four items on the positive-experience list are well within your control, you may encounter wildly different interpretations on what “fair pricing” exactly entails because, as we all know, we tend to encounter a fair number of price shoppers in our line of work.
In my experience, the best way to deal with price shoppers is to give them everything they need to know and then some. Overload them with information and find out exactly why they’re so adamant that price is the biggest factor in their decisions regarding their vehicle’s health.
Price shoppers are looking to avoid being taken advantage of, plain and simple. If you spend enough time with them explaining why certain things cost what they do and why higher-quality parts might be needed for a certain job, nine times out of 10 they’ll get on board with your recommendations.
At our shop, we’ve found that inviting price shoppers back into the bays to watch us perform an inspection has proven to effectively showcase the value of what we do, even with the biggest misers. Most of the time, customers have no idea whatsoever what’s being done to their vehicle, so allowing them to see for themselves what the diagnosis process looks like can quickly remedy their misgivings and alleviate their concerns.
Having customers who feel like they’re “insiders” who are involved with the process will both convert casual guests into dedicated customers and help with your shop’s word-of-mouth buzz factor throughout your community.
I’ve seen too many relationships fall apart because one person forgot to check in with the other. They take for granted that they understand what their partner wants from them, but never bother to see if they are right.
Don’t make this mistake with your customers. The moment you assume you know what your customer is thinking is the moment you put the relationship on the wire.
Ask your customers if they have any questions about their vehicle. Ask if they need a ride while you’re working on their vehicle. Ask if they’d like to come back in the shop to look under the hood of their car as you explain the results of the inspection.
Never assume you understand a customer’s thinking. They may not know the questions to ask. They may have a personal situation you don’t know about. Only when you step to the other side of the counter – both literally and figuratively – can you begin to understand your customer and build that relationship.
It doesn’t end here. Effective relationship marketing is an ongoing process that your entire team must be committed to and work toward every day. Building a relationship starts before a customer even comes into the shop and lasts long beyond the repair.
If you stop selling and start treating your customers like family, you’ll be on the path to creating genuine relationships that lead to valuable and lasting results!