Beyond factors like mask mandates and lockdowns, it’s tempting to assume the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t had much of an impact on independent auto shops. However, that isn’t quite the case. As the pandemic began nearly two years ago, people started quarantining. As a result, they relied on businesses (including auto and tire shops) to be more accommodating and understanding than they were in the past. For the most part, these changes have translated into improvements in customer service.
This trend had already been on the rise well before the pandemic’s arrival–in 2017, 96% of consumers said customer service was critical in determining their brand loyalty. But COVID accelerated this shift, and it won’t be slowing down any time soon.
For your auto shop to survive and thrive in the 2020s, you’ll need to know what your customers want and meet (or exceed) those expectations.
1. Honesty and Transparency
When you’re thinking about the expectations of potential customers, it’s crucial not to ignore negative preconceptions they might have. To put it bluntly, tire/auto shops don’t have the best reputation for honesty
Even if your shop makes a point of charging fair prices for its work, the public perception across the industry usually focuses on dishonest mechanics and inflated costs. On its own, offering reasonable prices for your services isn’t enough to push back against these preconceptions. You’ll need to take other steps, such as:
- Explaining problems and solutions to customers. Generally speaking, people will be more willing to trust you if you meet them on their level. When someone brings their vehicle in for service, take the time to tell them what’s wrong with their car and the solutions you could use to fix it for them.
- Making it simple for people to understand repair orders. Following the last point, your documents should also be easy to comprehend. Along with your quote, provide a detailed breakdown of the services you’re delivering on repair orders.
- Asking for approval before starting work. No customer wants to feel like you aren’t taking their input seriously–especially since they’re paying you to provide a service for them. Instead of assuming you know what a customer will want, make sure to get their OK before you begin working on their vehicle.
With online shopping, overnight shipping, and free deliveries consumers have grown accustom to quick and convenient turn around times. This can feel a bit tricky for auto and tire shops as the timing it takes to do a job can vary. What you CAN do, however, is set your techs up for success from the beginning. Consider these efficiency boosting tips:
- Streamline your parts department. Naturally, technicians need access to parts while doing their jobs. That’s why you should work to make the process of finding parts convenient for them. Consider investing in systems to track parts and part cores, making their lives easier and customers happier.
- Invest in equipment. Old equipment could be holding techs back, which could easily cut into your car count. While new equipment can be costly up front, you should quickly get your money back through increase car counts.
- Make non-billable hours history. If possible, don’t ask your technicians to work on non-billable tasks! When they do this, they’re not making money by helping customers– and you’ll actively lose cash since you’re still paying their wages.
Right now, independent auto shops stand to gain considerably by focusing on convenience or risk losing everything by ignoring this factor. In one recent study, 89% of consumers felt their “ideal” car repair experience would include pick-up and delivery service. For 70% of buyers, this service alone could cause them to switch auto shops and remain brand loyal.
With that in mind, making life easier for your shop’s clientele isn’t just wise–it’s mandatory. Here are just some conveniences your store might want to consider offering:
- Car pick-up and return. For people with young children, full work days, or odd hours, offering to pick up their car for service and return it can be a convenience too good to pass up.
- Rental cars. Your shop can complete services like oil changes quickly enough, but that’s not the case for every job. Instead of leaving your customers stuck for hours or days at a time, you may want to let them use a rental car until their vehicle is up and running.
- A (good) waiting room. Does your shop’s waiting room still have magazines from the ’90s and coffee that’s nearly as old? If so, it’s time for a makeover. Consider putting in a TV, supply coloring books for kids, and even popcorn.
- Reminders your clients will see. It’s the 21st century, and that means most people handle appointment scheduling with digital calendars. Meet them where they are by emailing and texting them about upcoming service appointments.
Meet Customer Expectations
By taking all of the above into account, you should be able to start making meaningful improvements to your shop and strengthening your brand in the eyes of your customers. But the only constant in the auto industry (or any other business) is change, and consumer expectations will certainly evolve as time goes on. To keep up with this demand, you’ll need to get off to a strong start.
A fantastic way to do this is by implementing automated marketing software like BayIQ, which you can add to your existing point-of-sale system. This software provides email/text marketing, online review management, loyalty rewards program creation, online appointment scheduling, and performance tracking.
To impress your customers, meet their expectations, and make things easier on you, it’s time to uplevel your ongoing marketing and management. BayIQ is the answer.