As an independent auto shop owner or manager, how do you compete with larger, well-invested dealerships in today’s markets? You actually have a few things on your side.
First, more Americans are driving older cars that require more maintenance and repairs. The average car on U.S. roads is now more than 11 years old, the oldest average age on record, according to IHS Automotive.
As more Americans drive older cars, the number of vehicles no longer under warranty increases, meaning customers who previously preferred dealerships for maintenance and repairs due to warranty guidelines may be exploring new service options.
While it may always seem like dealerships, with their large marketing budgets and corporate backing, have a leg up over the smaller guy, your independent dealership actually has an advantage over the larger shops in this market. You may not have the means to invest in large marketing campaigns, but you can market yourself in another way: provide great customer service and get happy customers to do your marketing for you.
A 2013 survey on auto repair conducted by AutoMD.com found that:
- Consumers trust independent shops over dealerships two to one
- 80 percent of consumers feel they have been overcharged for a repair at a dealership
- Most consumers believe they have better relationships with mechanics at independent shops
Capitalize on your reputation as a trustworthy, relationship-oriented service provider and you’ll stand out over dealerships. How do you make an impression on customers with your service and marketing? Here are a couple tips:
Improve the customer experience
Most customers aren’t familiar with the technical aspects of car repair, so they judge you on the other aspects of their service experience. Everything makes a difference from the appearance of your employees to the cleanliness of your shop. And while your longtime customers may be used to your paper forms and clipboards, new customers and millennials will get the impression from the technology you use throughout your shop that you are tech-savvy and innovative. Digital customer profiles can capture vehicle information, customer contact information, and preferences, while digital invoices can be waiting on a tablet for customers when they checkout. You can store information and retrieve it for follow-up and tracking, improving efficiency for you and helping customers stay on top of service.
Also boost customer service in your shop by:
- Creating a script for how employees should answer the phone and respond to various customer service scenarios.
- Distributing a tablet to waiting customers and ask them to fill out a customer satisfaction survey. This will help you identify customer service areas you need to improve, and it will make it clear that you prioritize the customer experience.
- Creating checklists that your front-office employees must fill out daily, such as whether they have restocked the coffee table and cleaned the reception area. You can find these mobile checklists right in the GoCanvas Application Store.
Market to your core audience
Many shops think attracting new customers is the key to good business, but keeping your existing customers happy is even more important. Those happy customers will help you grow by making referrals to your shop.
Increasingly women are handling the service and maintenance of the household vehicles. Keep your audience in mind and cater to them. Make sure your shop, including waiting room and bathrooms, are clean, and that your employees present themselves professionally at all times. It may seem insignificant, but sometimes the smallest detail can make a difference. Also keep in mind how your staff interacts with your female customers. Women want to feel respected and acknowledged in their role as decision-maker in these interactions. Have technicians explain service details to customers so they feel they are being educated, not talked down to.
You can compete with the big guys. Providing top-notch service and marketing is just the beginning. Want more tips on how you can get potential customers to notice your auto repair shop, come in, and keep coming back?
Download our new eBook, Four Ways Independent Auto Shops Can Compete With Dealerships.
You’ll get more information on:
- Customer service and marketing
- Training and hiring the right staff
- Pricing, profit and performance
- Staying connected with customers through technology
You can also check out GoCanvas's vehicle and truck repair shop estimates and service orders.