Car count is about much more than advertising.
This entire article is built on that fact, so I’m not going to bury it down the page. In successful shops, the money spent by the owner on marketing is only responsible for a fraction of the car count in that shop.
This might strike you as insane. After all, we tend to refer to “car count” and “advertising” interchangeably. Need more cars? Buy this! Send that!
But what causes good car count? What do we do as a repair shop to keep customers coming through the doors?
We retain our existing customers with excellent customer service. We do quality inspections and repairs so customers know they can trust the quality of our work. We grow our production capacity so we can service more vehicles effectively while providing superior customer service.
And then – finally – we attract new, quality customers with our marketing.
I’m not here to tell you marketing is unimportant. Quality marketing is critical for the health and success of a shop, and anybody who tells you a shop can survive on referrals, word of mouth and internal marketing is wrong at best, and lying at worst.
Quality marketing – critical as it is – is one piece of your car count, and is supported and enhanced by your employees. Which is why the employees in our shop know they’re responsible for 80 percent of the car count.
Why? How? And how do you possibly get your team to take that level of responsibility for your shop’s car count?
Why it’s the team’s responsibility
The short answer: attrition.
Attrition might be the most misunderstood concept in our industry, and while I don’t want to spend a lot of space on it, a quick primer is important.
Attrition is the rate at which you’re losing customers. Every shop has attrition, which is why a shop that doesn’t advertise to attract new customers will die.
But there are a couple of ways to look at attrition.
The first is uncontrollable attrition – when a customer moves away or loses their job, they stop coming to your shop through no fault of your own. This number can vary wildly from market to market. A shrinking city like Cleveland has a very different uncontrollable attrition than Houston, the fastest growing metropolitan area in the U.S.
The other type of attrition is controllable – when we lose a customer because of something we did. Poor customer service, mistakes in communication, an experience that didn’t match marketing promises and even employee apathy all drive customers away.
While losing a customer is bad enough, controllable attrition is like an infection, destroying the shop from the inside. Because the shop doesn’t just lose a single customer – they lose that customer’s friends and family, and everyone they know on social media. When that customer leaves a bad review, the shop also loses potential new customers and their marketing become less effective.
In other words, unless the entire team is engaged every day in the work of attracting and retaining quality customers – unless they’re responsible for car count – you’ll go broke trying to do enough advertising to attract new customers to replace those who have been burned.
Now that we know everybody in your shop is responsible for car count, the more important question is: what can each member of your team do?
Your technicians may never interact with a customer, but they still have a large role in how your shop is perceived.
Obviously, they must fix cars well. If they can’t diagnose the customer’s concern and complete the repair, your customers will lose all trust in you. But the tech’s ability to attract and retain your best customers goes far beyond their basic job responsibility.
Are they pencil whipping inspections to find the jobs they like to do? Are they dogging it on Fridays and letting cars sit in the bays over the weekend? Are their notes unclear making it harder to communicate at the front counter?