Auto repair is not foreseeable. Every week we know we will need to go grocery shopping, we may even plan when we go clothes shopping by season, but, just like we don’t plan to get sick, we don’t plan to have car problems. Because of this, it is difficult for auto repair shops to target customers through traditional marketing channels. You could advertise your location, to local residents, but chances are high that you are not the only auto body shop in the area and that by the time the person needs service, they may have forgotten about the promotional material you sent them.
Ok, so you can’t predict when customers will need your service, however, just like we know most people will get sick, you know that most cars will need to go to an auto repair shop. As an auto repair shop owner, the main thing you should do is spread brand awareness. Make sure people know you exist. More importantly, make sure people are prompting you to their friends and family. As is the case for most service providing small businesses, your customers are an important marketing tool.
There are three reasons a customer will come to your auto repair shop: (1) to get an estimate; (2) they were referred to you; or (3) your auto repair shop is the closest to their work or home.
You cannot control how close a person lives to your auto repair shop, you may not be able to compete price-wise with another shop, however, you CAN make sure your customers are satisfied so they recommend you to others.
So how do you market your auto repair shop? You do so by convincing your customers you’re the best at what you do. Though you may only have one shop, your shop is your brand. You must make sure public perception of your brand is good. The worst thing you can do is do your job and fail to interact with the customers. Well, I guess not doing your job is worst, but I mean if you are doing a good job, why pass up on the opportunity to build a relationship with a potential lifetime client?
Given that many people will find your shop through a search engine query, most likely Google—an April 2010 study by comScore found that 64.4% of all searches in the U.S. are conducted on Google—you should make sure your reviews on Google Maps are good. It is also vital that your auto repair shop information correctly appear in online business directories.
Make sure your company is monitoring its online reputation. Your auto repair shop’s reputation management is more important than ever. Know what people are saying about you online. Never fail to address negative comments. Never attack people who left you negative comments. Your responses to the negative comments should address the person’s concerns. If the negative comment is something like, “This place sucks. Don’t go here.” Responding, “We’re sorry you feel this way. Can you please let us know why you feel this way so that we may improve our service,” is much more effective than, “No, YOU suck!” The former will let a third-party who is reading the review know that you are actively managing your reputation and that you value your customers and their input. The second comment has absolutely no positive value and may turn people off to your auto repair shop—I guess someone may think it’s funny. No response suggest you don’t care.
There’s no exact formula for negative to positive ratio. You want to be as close to 100% positive as posible. However, even this standard isn’t exact. How elaborate and well written a review is, gives it more value. The trouble is that a person who had a negative experience is much more likely to go online and write a detailed review about their bad experience. Because of this, your company should actively reach out to your customers and ask for positive feedback.
Getting customers to leave positive reviews is not easy. It’s time consuming and can be frustrating. No one you ask is going to tell you they won’t do it, but many of the people who say ok, will forget or not do it for whatever reason. Instead of asking them at your shop, a better strategy is to email them a link to your company’s Google Maps listing, for example, and ask them if they’d take a minute to leave you a positive review. Be sure to personalize the email, as personalized messages are more likely to elicit a response.
While negative reviews are bad, you can use a negative review to your advantage. For starters, you may be able to contact the negative reviewer and win them back by addressing their concern. You may also be able to use their criticism, if constructive, to improve your service.
Every customer that leaves satisfied can lead to more potential jobs for your auto repair shop. When it comes to generating more leads, making sure your customers leave happy is your best bet. Customer satisfaction must be your company’s top priority, hence the phrase “the customer is always right.”
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