This post expresses its author’s sole opinion and is based on his personal experience and expertise. The author isn’t liable for and doesn’t guarantee any results.
As a long-term technician, manager, and owner of an auto shop, I had the opportunity to case-study and apply different methods of managing and improving the business and converting it into a financial outcome. I’ve spent 23 years in the auto service industry overall… 6 years as a repair shop owner, 15 years as a workshop manager, and 23 years combined as a technician in a consistent self-improvement process. If we stop improving, we begin to slowly quench. Every manager and technician knows that in order to exist and be successful a workshop must not only acquire new clients and serve them in a way that makes them returning customers but also create a circle of “high-value customers”. The bigger the circle the better for your business as a whole.
If you are a realist you have to admit that every new client is skeptical at first and you have to put up a counter value to dissipate their skepticism. Call it an investment of value.
Focus on high-value clients
How to find high-value clients and how to win and maintain their trust in terms to make them returning while your shop exists?
These clients are not easy to recognize, acquire, or keep. But to do so successfully when they appear:
- You must be convinced that the service and products you offer are of superior quality. If the repair is heavy and expensive, propose an option with cheaper parts, but emphasize the difference in their quality. Try to find the optimal balance between quality and price of the product. Putting yourself in the client’s shoes and recognizing their point of view will earn you trust and respect.
- You must demonstrate your confidence, skills, and knowledge to take a repair process to the end in an expert and time-saving manner. For clients, there is nothing more satisfying than entrusting their safety into the expert’s hands.
- Prepare a repair offer at a reasonable price and reasonable time. (you will not want to set unrealistically low-price offers and an impossibly short repair deadline. Leave a room for extra expenses and delay if necessary).
- Keep customers regularly informed about repair stages and comment on the potential increase of price and duration in case of unexpected circumstances.
- Demonstrate respect to customers and their preferences, and show that they are appreciated. This will make them feel at the right shop.
- When you happen to receive a complaint from a customer, don’t urge to take a side (the auto shop side or the customer’s side). Much better is to show impartiality and commitment to resolving the issue quickly and fairly. If you discover that the shop must take responsibility due to mistake, apologize for the inconvenience and take an immediate action to recover the damage qualitatively (do not try to put in less labor and cheapest possible parts, as I like to say ‘Mask the problem rather than repair’. By doing so you will lose this client instantly and forever). If the customer insists on additional compensation, avoid the conflict simply by promising a discount price for subsequent repairs.
If the damage is due to circumstances out of your control, please explain to the customer that it isn’t your fault but don’t blame them for being unfamiliar with technical matters. Mistakes could happen naturally, but they must be sorted out always by polite conversation and timely action. If the complaining customer is too anxious or aggressive, don’t regret letting them go. Aggressive customers don’t serve your business. Your peace of mind is more important, so best do whatever they want, let them go and never take them back. Heavy conflicts only drain your energy and willpower.
- Extremely well works the personal engagement – if you call a customer one or two days after the repair and ask them if everything is right, that will greatly flatter them. Make them sure they can rely on technical assistance whenever needed and they just have to look around the corner for you.
How to recognize high-value customers?
Here are a few examples that describe what these clients are not or don’t do:
- They don’t choose the low price before the quality;
- They respect you and listen to your advice;
- They don’t question the staff competence unless they have a good reason;
- They don’t rush to accuse you of misconduct before such has been proven (they wouldn’t even blame you because they understand mistakes happen);
- They are not likely to bargain for the cost of the repair, they trust your assessment of parts and labor rates;
- They don’t cheat you with the payment (sometimes happens customers never come back after they only went to a test spin);
- They inform you shortly if a deterioration after the repair is noticed (rather than immediately run to your competitors).
The whole process of attracting customers, communicating with them, keeping them informed about available services, the stages of vehicle repair, preparation of offers, correspondence, phone conversations, etc. can be a very time-consuming and overwhelming process. Along with that clients should be pleased with overall service so they stick around in the future. Now it’s a good time to give advice that has been tested in my practice for over 20 years – never try to attract or keep customers with low-priced services and repairs beyond labor and legal regulations. I will explain why… My point is that the price is always too high if the service is poor. Even when the price is extremely low, customers will make a claim if they think there is a good reason to do so. In that case, will you want to keep medium to high range of prices and guarantee for the repairs and parts that are fitted by your choice and assessment? The answer is more likely “Yes”.
In fact, the circumstance that leaves the customer more than satisfied is the quality and somewhat speed of the service process!
Regarding the legal regulations: Never succumb to clients’ pressure to perform repairs in a way that risks the safety of passengers for the sake of reduced price! You are the expert and you have to prove they can rely on you for good advice that actually makes the price. If you fail to apply the right approach and an accident happens, you will be the first to blame and this will be completely natural.
Always saying “Yes” or “No job too big or too small” doesn’t make you a favor, neither does it make to the customer. By learning to refuse risky or unworthy repairs you will avoid situations where both you and the customer got upset by the fact that the repair somehow didn’t work out. At the beginning of my career, I encountered many failures by doing the common mistake of taking any type of job while thinking it would please the customer. After several times I experienced the frustration of explaining why the repair didn’t work out and left the clients unfulfilled I learned my lessons. Sometimes “No” serves better than “Yes”. At least you don’t mislead the clients.
In the same relation, we often hear customers say, “Don’t replace that part I don’t have money,” or “I don’t think it’s important to repair now.” The role of the good manager by taking the expert position is to explain to the client why an immediate repair is imperative (from a safety point of view, never put the profit at the top). A justification of “Well, the client only wants this repair” kind shouldn’t be allowed. This could cost much to the customer (road accidents with injuries or victims) and to the shop (prosecution, license cancellation, financial penalties, etc.). In cases of customer insistence to cancel an urgent repair, have you a statement signed by the client that the vehicle repair is incomplete. This will save you a lot of headaches from a legal point of view.
Offer you services proudly and apply the relevant price tag
Give an image and temper to your business by putting your personality, virtues, and vision into it. This will make your shop stand out from the crowd. Always be sure to provide absolute transparency about your services. The client’s notion of knowing you from your audience interaction, internet activity, business ads, and slogans around your place will grow your credibility and bring you more high-value customers and profitable repairs. Build an audience of like-minded clients and convert them into raving fans.
Maybe now is the time to mention difficulties that some garages would say they have been experiencing basically:
- have no clients
- have no money
- have no time and money for upgrades
- have no skills to boost the business out in the internet space.
If this sounds familiar to you – “The business was great, there was great turn-over, we were moving the things forward but something happened, there was a crisis, we lost a lot of customers, the clients had no money for repairs, we were too busy but really did not get any fresh capital and the business died, we had to shut the business down”, so it is time for optimization.
You can bring your business to a higher level by transforming it into a “new generation workshop”. Modern days offer a huge advantage – the Internet. Since in the past the Internet was not so developed and was not widely used at the moment things seem radically different. With a measurable investment and little knowledge, you can reach a mass of customers with a click of a computer mouse, keep them warm and informed about your business development and latest improvements in technology, tools, training, services, etc., which will improve significantly your credibility and customer confidence that your place is the right choice. High reliability, advanced qualification, new equipment, extended service range = much bigger ROI.
How can a seemingly small workshop turn into an industry leader?
Make your repair shop a masterpeace and start to monetize.
If you want to take a step toward growth and sustainability you should consider a few points:
1. Company website – advantages over the traditional advertising methods (brochures on the windscreen, business cards, branded pens, key rings, and calendars, cold calling, pitching your friends and relatives… outdated methods. Don’t rely on word of mouth to grow your business it will take you ages to develop to the extent you want. What you really need is advanced and proven methods.)
Creating a company website may sound impossible, but the truth is that with little knowledge and skills that can be acquired for a comparably short time and at a reasonable price, you will be able to purchase your own domain, choose a name you like and surely links to the nature of your business, and build your own website ( read more information about the difference between paid and free web hosting providers) while really having fun. In short, you will be the creator of your own success story. What is the huge advantage of creating your own website? The answer is very simple – you will create it as a mirror of your own vision and values, the key to your uniqueness. Of course, it is good to take an Internet Marketing course that will reveal the secrets of the online trade – the most powerful money generator of our age. Personally, I am taking this absolutely relevant online business training now and recommending it as something of exceptional quality and value.
STAY TUNED INTO THE BOOMING DIGITAL ECONOMY AND YOUR BUSINESS WILL NEVER BE OBSOLETE.
Great benefits of the company website:
- Publish accordingly up-to-date information about services and products of your business;
- Keep your customers familiar with new trends;
- Promote various services, products, raffles, etc.;
- You have the opportunity to get rid of the frustrating constant phone ringing by providing an online booking form or request by email (suggests a registered with the company domain name email address);
- Provide information and education materials to your customers in the form of short articles and video presentations (you can create your own YouTube channel and link it to your website) to get customers to know their car better;
- Publish information about your team qualification, range, and quality of services, hardware upgrades, etc .;
- Provide the clients an opportunity to purchase services and products directly from the website;
- Link to your social media accounts and enable the customers to share quickly…
This leads to exceptional optimization of the service process and eliminates situations like conducting long phone consultations regarding minor repairs, long talks on describing problems and solutions in the pre-service phase, separately informing customers about the business updates and upgrades, dealing with advertising agencies and discussions on the performance of your ad, expensive investment in traditional media campaigns (TV, radio, magazines, newspapers…), creating a stressful and chaotic environment in the shop with many customers at a time or lack of customers at other times, and many more.
YOU CAN REST ASSURED THAT YOUR BUSINESS WORKS WELL EVEN WHEN YOU SLEEP.
2. Organizing the client email database in email lists and sending automated email broadcasts (autoresponder) – the latest-generation type of communication. Be in touch with your customers even during the busiest time!
The idea behind collecting client emails is to be able to send fast, targeted and personalized information to a wide range of customers. You have to make sure that customers give you their e-mail addresses voluntary and authorize you to send emails to them. This is required by e-commerce and correspondence regulations – you can not get emails in an illegal way (through theft) or flood with unwanted or deceptive messages (spam). But honestly, spamming customers who do not want to hear from you is not a good solution for business success, it can even be quite repulsive.
Depending on the metrics you specify, you can add, exclude, systemize, and flow different mail addresses in preferred lists. This allows you to send specific information to a specific group of clients, for example:
- If you put your customers’ email addresses in lists according to the car make they own, you will be able to write about training or new hardware you’ve got that allows you to perform specific repairs on certain systems and send this broadcast with a click of your mouse to all customers who own the relevant car make;
- You can send emails for products in promotion to all relevant lists of customers, and many other options…
A valuable function of the autoresponder is a set criterion (you can choose of or create dozens of different criteria and labels), pick the name for the lists, schedule campaigns and broadcasts, set priority and create the content of the messages at your own discretion which allows customization, schedule broadcasts in specific time by your choice.
AGAIN, YOU CAN REST ASSURED THAT YOUR BUSINESS WORKS LIKE A WELL LUBRICATED MECHANISM EVEN WHILE YOU RELAX!
- Affirm your position as an outstanding leader who cares about the people keeping the business up – technicians, administration, delivery drivers, and any kind of staff at all. It is completely wrong to believe that saving from training or benefits for the staff will stabilize the business financially!
- Create an excellent work environment with inspired and motivated staff;
- Grow the potential of your business;
- Affirm the trust in your customers they are in secure hands;
- Enhance the trust in your own team and ensure you the staff support in difficult moments or new ventures;
- Grow your business limitless by reinvesting in more job positions and advanced training.
So, let's wrap up by saying that smart work rather than hard work makes you grow and stand out.
For further information on how to set up and launch your online property and use a range of online business tools, please, book a free 45 minutes strategy session here. I will be more than happy to encourage and assist you.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article.
Working for your success, Vladislav Gerginov founder of The Garage Mentor