I don’t know one shop owner who doesn’t want to increase sales. Yet, many fail to dedicate time to the one thing that is guaranteed to drive sales — customer retention. Cultivating loyalty among your customer base is a surefire way to ensure a steady flow of business. Unfortunately, shop owners often put all their energy into luring new customers, mistakenly assuming that existing customers will automatically return to their shop when the need arises.
Placing more focus on improving customer retention will not only increase sales but will also drive up your average repair order, since customers who are familiar with your shop and trust you are more likely to spend more money than those there for the first time. It also costs more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. How much more? According to the Harvard Business Review, customer acquisition costs businesses anywhere from five to 25 times more than customer retention.
So, how can you keep your customers happy and coming back? The first step is to make sure you’re delivering an exceptional experience every time they visit your shop.
You may not realize it, but customer retention begins the minute someone searches for your shop online. If you offer a well-thought out, easy to navigate website you’ll not only stand a better chance of attracting them initially but into the future. Your physical shop should match your online presence. The branding, color scheme and offers should be the same as what a potential customer encountered online. First impressions are key. What does a customer find when they approach your shop? Is the parking lot well-lit and secure? Is your shop clean and inviting? Is your staff welcoming? Do they greet customers promptly? All of these characteristics factor into whether a customer will make a second visit.
Providing outstanding customer service will also differentiate your shop from competitors and make it easy to retain customers. As I’ve discussed before, the best way to stand out is to become a “yes” company. Being a yes company means going above and beyond to accommodate customers even when it’s inconvenient. For example, instead of turning down a last-minute oil change when your technicians are busy with a major repair job, find a way to fit it in and you’ll earn a reputation for convenience and flexibility. Open your shop on Saturdays to provide more options for customers who have difficult stopping in during the week. When a customer brings their vehicle to your shop, make a point of keeping them informed on repairs/services even if it creates extra work for technicians or front desk staff. Going the extra mile – while often challenging — will make your shop memorable.
Make marketing a priority
Let’s say you have the customer service part of the puzzle mastered. You’ve established such a strong reputation that your previous customers are guaranteed to return, right? Well, not exactly. Don’t forget that your competitors are constantly marketing to your customers and if their messages hit at the right time, that shop might be the one your customer calls for their next maintenance or service concern. To keep pace, you can’t take anything for granted — you have to market, too.
A great option for reaching your existing customers is direct mail. With direct mail, you can target customers closest to your shop by income, car make and a variety of other variables. An easy way to connect with existing customers is to simply incorporate your current customer database in the mailings you might be sending as part of your customer acquisition efforts. In fact, I always recommend that shop owners never remove existing customers from their direct mail campaigns. At a minimum, this approach ensures that your existing customers are receiving your messages on a monthly or quarterly basis and you’re able to blunt the impact of competitors.