Is a satisfied customer necessarily loyal ? Nothing is less certain, which is why customer loyalty is a subtle and delicate art. Building a relationship of trust with your customers takes time and should be one of your major concerns. Why ? For the success and longevity of your repair shop, of course, but especially because loyalizing a customer would cost 5 to 25 times less than acquiring a new one. Do you see where we're going with this ? If your loyalty strategy is not yet in place or not delivering the expected results, here are the 7 commandments of the perfect garage owner for successful customer loyalty. From customer reception to measuring satisfaction, through communication, this article goes through everything you need.
Welcoming customers is the b-a-ba of being a shopkeeper. Yet who has never had a bad experience in this area ? You have to make your customers want to come back to your shop. How do you do that ? By starting with kind words when one of them crosses the threshold of your shop, even if the day has been difficult or the previous customer has pushed your patience to the limit. Never forget that you only have one chance to make a good impression, so don't let it slip away. And risk collecting bad reviews on the internet.
A proper welcome also involves a clean and tidy waiting area. Easier said than done, independent garages are often sorely lacking in space. However, there is nothing more horrifying than to enter a repair workshop and find an unspeakable mess, a cardboard box here, a tool there... The clutter present at the entrance of the garage often figures the one within the workshop and this is not reassuring !
An independent garage owner is a local business. Proximity means close contact. The customer must be at the centre of your concerns and at the heart of your commercial strategy. Here are a few tips for getting to know your customers well and thus meeting their expectations.
Implement a customer file with a history of breakdowns and repairs made. Your customer will appreciate that you know the history of their vehicle as well, if not better, than they do. This will give them an excellent reason to come back and trust you again. He will appreciate not having to explain everything again at each visit.
A satisfaction questionnaire filled in after each visit to the workshop is a valuable resource. This way, you can collect your customers' reactions on the spot and adjust certain details of your offer fairly quickly. Do not hesitate to explain the importance of these questionnaires to your customers, but also to your team. Even if what you find in them is vexing, because it is a bit negative, tell yourself that criticism, provided it is constructive, is necessary to progress.
Conducting a survey is an excellent customer retention tool. You get a fairly accurate picture of the people who frequent your repair shop. Customer feedback is a real growth lever. They allow you to adjust your commercial offer in order to better satisfy your customers.
The response rate to a customer survey sometimes seems disappointing, especially considering the number of people contacted. To avoid this kind of disappointment, make sure you apply the following to your documents :
The customer who knows everything about everything or has a brother-in-law who.... Don't throw away any more, the cup is full ! Those are annoying and mostly waste your time, we agree. No, we're talking about the customer who knows his car, who maintains and pampers it, but above all who has solid technical knowledge.
With the internet and the immediate availability of millions of data, it is now very easy to get information and training on many subjects, including mechanics. So, with the help of a few well-targeted questions, take the time to find out a little more about the experience of your interviewer. Many may even surprise you, in a good way. Even if you remain the mechanical professional, never underestimate the technical skills of your customers. Be more of an advisor and you can be sure they will be loyal to you for a long time.
Another classic example of a failed customer relationship is the excessive use of jargon and highly technical terms. Obviously, some interventions cannot be explained in any other way than with precise terms. However, in the same way that a doctor is expected to put himself within the reach of his patients, you should do the same.
Certainly, precise explanations are a mark of your seriousness and care for your customers. Up to a point though. A novice will see it as arrogance and a way to inflate the bill and rip them off. Opt for simplicity and a minimum of pedagogy. Your interlocutors will greatly appreciate it.
As you are aware that a garage owner has a duty to submit to a number of obligations which incur liability to their client. These include :
- Clear and legible display of prices and hourly rates including VAT ;
- The duty to advise ;
- The obligation of result ;
- Issuing an invoice.
The estimate is not compulsory, but it is highly recommended. Do not give in to the siren song of convenience by adding services not initially planned. If the diagnosis reveals other faults, you must inform your customer before embarking on anything.
Finally, don't forget that you should keep used parts and offer second-hand parts.
Honesty also lies in fair communication with your customer. Can't take his car right away ? Just say so. Another doesn't understand why a repair costs so much ? Explain that it can take several hours to get to the carburettor or diesel particulate filter of their car. A complex technical operation requires time and attention to detail, so don't hesitate to remind them..
Great classic for a car repair professional: women know nothing about mechanics. It's almost too easy to tell them pretty much what you want or to play on the fear, however very rational, that they'll endanger their children if they don't do this or that maintenance or repair.
Idem with the little grandpa or the young driver who is a bit overwhelmed... Don't judge your customers and don't patronise them. You might be frankly surprised and more importantly you might definitely alienate someone.
Satisfying and retaining a customer requires knowing them well, but also giving them what they want. This is why you need to regularly work on your offer. Satisfaction questionnaires must be exploited to the maximum to enable you to understand their expectations. This includes new services, a readjustment of your rates or special offers. Stay up to date and monitor automotive trends. And offer the little extra that will make the difference.
Knowing your customers also helps you refine your loyalty strategy. One of the basic principles of marketing is to apply Pareto's law, known as the 80/20 law. Carefully study the typology of the 20% of customers that allow you to achieve 80% of your turnover and focus your communication mainly on this clientele. The aim is to obtain maximum results without wasting precious time.