[caption id="attachment_3536" align="aligncenter" width="506"] Sharing your knowledge is a good way to increase customer loyalty.[/caption]
As an auto shop owner, you have to split your time between operating and maintaining your shop, attracting new customers and taking care of the ones you already have.
Of the three, ensuring customer loyalty is probably the most important—keeping a satisfied customer loyal is cheaper, in the long run, than attracting new ones and it will help ensure that you’ll have a steady stream of business no matter what. The keys to improving customer loyalty are being there for them, letting them get to know you and your crew, making them feel important and offering them more than just the nuts and bolts service your competitors provide.
Be available, and be prompt. Make your hours of operation prominent in all your marketing: online, print, radio or television. Also make sure your hours are easy to read for drive-by traffic, too. Have at least an after-hours emergency number and, if possible, offer emergency service. It’s also important to return phone calls or emails as quickly as possible. Include that in your return email signature or voice mail: tell them you’ll get back to them by the end of the business day and make sure you—or someone on your staff—does.
Let your customers get to know you. The most important part of building up customer loyalty is building up a relationship with your customers. There’s no substitute for personal interaction. Make sure your customers can get to know your staff; in the ‘about us’ section of your website, include photos of your crew and a brief biography—how much experience they have, what they like to do on their off-time, perhaps their favorite vintage auto—even if your customers won’t interact directly with your mechanics. Include regular pics on your facebook page and tag your employees and customers in them. Let them know they’ll not just get a quality repair, they’ll get friendly service, too.
Offer rewards. Another great way to improve customer loyalty is to make them feel like a part of a special club. Make the money they spend with you worth their while in the form of discounts or other benefits.
Provide advice. Create and maintain a blogto offer advice about routine maintenance, explain regular repairs or talk about why they are necessary. You’ll show your own expertise and help your customers see the value in what you do.
Provide a referral bonus. Give your customer a discount or a free service—oil change or tire rotation—if he brings in an additional customer for you.
Give back to the community. Operating a business is not a one-way street. The more often you get involved in the community, the better it will be for your auto repair shop. It does not have to be a major expense: you can sponsor a little league team or contribute to a local event like a city celebration, fireworks, etc.—whatever is popular in your area. Create an email list of vintage car owners and then put on a car show. Everyone likes classic muscle cars—either looking at them or showing them off.
Stay in touch. Obviously, your customers don’t want to be forgotten once they walk out the door or drive off the lot. The keys to communicating with them after they leave are: do not over communicate, do not unnecessarily communicate, do not inaccurately communicate, and keep it personal. Basically, do not communicate for the sake of it, and do not make up some unnecessary repair in order to get them back in the door.
Keeping your customers loyal will help you keep a steady flow of business, and it’ll help turn them into advocates for your business, too.