How to Increase Profits & Generate Return Customers in Auto Repair
Every business owner must contend with one ongoing problem: staying alive in an increasingly competitive marketplace. For those who own auto repair shops, this problem comes with a few additional wrinkles, not the least of which is the difficulty of distinguishing oneself among the vast number of competing garages already in operation. Why should anyone bring their malfunctioning car to you? Why should a consumer trust your shop more than any of the others in the area? How do you ensure that your existing customers will return in the future? To help you find the answers to these questions, let’s explore some handy strategies that will aid your auto repair shop in its quest to maximize revenues.
GET ON THE INTERNET
Nowadays, much of our social life occurs online. Ordering pizzas, communicating with friends, searching for how-to guides on various topics—all of this tends to happen in front of our laptops or smartphones. This means that your auto repair shop is at a serious disadvantage if it can’t be found online. There may have been a time when you could attract business just with a Yellow Pages listing, but those days are long past.
This shouldn’t be big news to anyone, yet far too many automotive professionals fail to make the most of the opportunities available on the net. Part of the problem can be traced to lack of awareness: Many shop owners believe that a few online listings on business directories such as Yelp and Yahoo should suffice. While your online promotional strategy should include those sites, there’s much more to it than just that.
Your auto repair shop needs its own website, and ideally you should put some effort into placing a substantial amount of material on it. This is another area where a lot of business owners simply do not put enough effort in, and that’s why you so often see websites that consist of little besides a few photos, a street address, and an invitation to “come to our shop any time!” Don’t take shortcuts like this. Spend some time describing your services in some detail, and spread the information across a variety of pages. Lots of photos tend to appeal to consumers. If possible, attempt some basic SEO to attract customers searching for specific relevant terms; for example, the phrase “auto repair [your city]” on your site will help your site’s visibility on Google when customers look for that term.
In addition, you may consider maintaining a blog on your site, which can be used to advertise specials and discuss just about anything else you may wish to communicate to customers. You could post a series of basic auto maintenance tips, like how to measure oil levels or monitor tire pressure, or you could keep locals informed as to current driving conditions in the area. By updating your blog, you avoid having a dull, static website; instead, you’ll encourage consumers to visit on a routine basis to see any new posts. This also helps keep your company’s name fresh in the minds of your customers.
Finally, it’s a good idea to have Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ accounts. Please bear in mind that the idea is to create sites where you can interact with customers—it does little good to create accounts if you do nothing with them, or update them only once in a blue moon. Customers want to feel that the businesses they frequent are willing to address their concerns and answer any questions they might have.
Get Involved in the Community
It’s no secret that the field of automotive repair has a bad reputation. There are a lot of people out there with horror stories about having been ripped off for huge amounts of money for unnecessary—sometimes even nonexistent—repairs. The simple truth is that, as an automotive professional, you’re widely considered a suspicious character, no matter how honestly and competently you operate your business. One way to counteract this tendency is to support local community activities, such as charity drives, youth programs, and related events. This will help your business generate positive associations in the minds of potential customers in the area.
Forge Relationships with Other Car-Related Businesses
There are a wide range of automotive businesses out there, dedicated to renting vehicles, to washing them, to customizing them—just to name a few examples. Your auto repair business can’t possibly handle all these tasks, but it’s likely that your customers will appreciate referrals to a business that can give them the specialized attention they need; these local companies can also return the favor by referring clients to your shop for repairs. Take the time to reach out to these kinds of automotive businesses so you can form mutually beneficial relationships. One idea is to set up a system where a customer who visits another local business will be offered a small discount on repair services at your shop, or vice versa.
Ditch Ineffective and Expensive Ads
One way to boost profits is to stop wasting money on outdated advertising strategies like newspaper and radio ads. As we have noted, the locus of the business world has been shifting over to the Internet for quite some time now, and this trend will only continue in coming years. Building an online presence really isn’t costly at all, particularly when compared with direct mail and other traditional tactics, so you should concentrate your promotional efforts on the Internet.
Sending periodic emails to customers is a fantastic way to ensure that they stay within your “family.” You can advertise shop specials, offer coupons, or remind car owners about scheduled maintenance tasks like oil changes. Best of all, it’s totally free to send emails, and assembling a list of customer emails is a simple matter. Keep in mind, however, that emails should be used sparingly. Your customers don’t want to see three emails a week from an auto repair shop that they visit no more than a few times per year.
Learn About Your Customers
What are your customers looking for when they come to an auto repair shop? What kinds of services do they prefer? How would they like to be treated? If you don’t have clear answers to those questions, it’s likely that you’ve not given your clients the level of service they desire, and as a result you’re probably not maximizing your profits. You can ask your customers to fill out surveys to fill in some of these blanks. Also, consider learning how to use analytics tools to figure out what is and isn’t working right on your company website. This will give you vital insight as to the sections of your site that customers tend to spend the most time viewing, as well as the specific areas of the city from which your site is being accessed.
Everyone loves getting a deal—that’s why a service that normally costs $25 tends to be less attractive than a $50 service at a 50% discount, even though it comes out to the same amount of money. Coupons will entice your customers, both current and potential, to seek out your shop.
Use High-Quality Uniforms
In the auto repair industry, which is characterized in the public mind by dirty mechanics with shirts covered in grease, mandating the use of company uniforms can help project a professional image. This is not just idle speculation: Studies have shown that the use of uniforms provides businesses with a number of important benefits. Consumers tend to view uniformed employees as more competent and attentive than those in “street” clothing. In addition, many business owners feel that company uniforms enhance the performance of their employees. A company like Prudential Overall Supply can help your auto repair shop obtain the quality uniforms it needs to maintain the look you seek.
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