For small businesses, customer loyalty is everything — the holy grail. Want to know why your auto-repair business’ customers aren’t returning? The prevailing service center owner/operator sentiment might be that disloyal, wandering-gypsy customers are only looking for lower prices over quality. But we surveyed customers who weren’t 100% happy with their automotive service providers, and the results might surprise you.
Here’s the first in a series – entirely focused on poor communications practices – on why your customers aren’t loyal, and what you can do to fix the problems. This first problem is huge, and for the most part, the solution is free.
The Problem: Poor Communication
Communication was by far the most frequently cited issue with auto-repair shops.
Here’s just a sample of the complaints about communication:
- Be transparent upfront about what you can and cannot do and actually help a customer with documenting that what is being said orally.
- Be more descriptive of other issues.
- Clarify the services.
- Provide print-outs of work done
- I just need follow-up information about the work.
- The people there weren’t super personable.
- Be a little more communicative. I assumed someone from the service station would have called me to let me know when my car would be ready. Again, every other place calls the customer when their vehicle is ready to be picked up. I checked my phone throughout the day and finally called a few minutes past 6pm. They told me it had been ready for hours! By then, I could not make it before they closed, so I’ll have to pick it up in the morning.
- Be more customer-friendly. And explain what was repaired.
- I’d ordered a used-vehicle inspection on a 15-year old vehicle. At the end, I only received reassurance that “It looks great,” and that was it. Before buying a used vehicle, I would have liked to have discussed what the shop checked, what will eventually need attention, etc. Surely they could have pointed out more services that would have earned them, down the line. I felt they were dismissive, so they lost me as a future customer right then. A two-minute discussion and I would have remained loyal to that shop.
- It seemed like everyone left work early. I was at my appointment time 20 minutes early’ I was told that the service would take about 90 minutes. The service took an hour longer than that. No one came to speak to me about the longer wait and there was only one person available at the shop.
When giving business presentations, the rule of thumb is:
- Tell the audience what you’ll tell them
- Then tell them
- Wrap up by reconfirming what you’ve just told them
Most auto-repair customers would like you to do the same – confirm the service you intend to perform at each step of the process.
Fully Explain the Extent of the Repairs
Check in, mid-service, to tell them how it’s going (and what you’re finding, along the way). After it’s done, confirm the service you’ve just performed. But wait – before they go, ask if they have any questions they’d like to have answered.
Better yet, when you’re done explaining the work you’ve completed, or the diagnosis, ask, “Does that make sense, or would you like a deeper dive?” and ask if the customer would like to see the issue on the vehicle. Automotive techs may take their mechanical knowledge for granted, and that’s understandable – they’re wrenching day in and day out. But techs should challenge themselves have the patience to thoroughly explain the recommended or performed service for customers, keeping in mind that automotive-tech talk sounds like Greek to most drivers. Volunteering even a bit of additional information, rather than throwing drivers the keys, will encourage an exchange of information.
Tell the Customer When Their Car is Ready – Be Specific!
Once the service is complete, call or send a text message to let your customers know that their vehicles are ready for pickup. They’re not mind-readers. If you say, “It’ll be done today,” they don’t know if “today” means noon, or early afternoon, or when you close.
Hire Someone That’s Comfortable Talking to Customers
If, like some surgeons, your staff’s ‘bedside manners’ aren’t up to snuff, that’s OK. As long as they can effectively diagnose and fix vehicles, you’re good. Those aren’t the best people to be “forward facing,” in your business, because of attitude issues, or lack of communication. Consider hiring someone to manage the phones, collect and share information from the shop to the waiting room, and to tend to your customers’ needs.
That person doesn’t need to have a formal service advisor, with a wealth of experience. A high schooler with strong social skills, who naturally anticipates people’s needs, has great follow-through, and who isn’t afraid to extract and share information from the folks in the shop, would be a great stop-gap for your late-day pickups, when customers are picking up their vehicles. When budget allows, a great service advisor is worth his or her weight in gold, and a great way to keep business humming. If budget doesn’t allow, consider who is best suited to be on the front lines, and focus on a commitment to better communication.
Remember That This Customer Could Become a Lifetime Patron
Don’t forget how exposed a visit to the auto repair may make consumers feel. Consider the service your customers deserve. It’s important for everyone within the business to be grateful for every customer who enters the shop, whether they’re there for a “first date” oil change, or having a timing belt changed. Speak to them, explain your work and encourage questions, and give them a reason to return to your shop.
Stay tuned to the Openbay blog for the next article in the series: how to increase customer loyalty.
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