Shop owners are faced with the competing strategies of whether to build car count or focus on maximizing average repair bill. So which is best? The answer is, obviously, “Both.”
While that may sound like a contradiction it really isn’t. You need to have systems in place to ensure that you are continuing to build your customer base, as well as maximize the service you can provide to those customers when they arrive.
Building car count is something that most shops have some experience in and there are certainly ample resources out there; everything from seminars and books, to endless web advice. It is likely that your shop system also has some very effective tools at your disposal.
You Have the Tools: Don’t Overthink It.
And as true as it is that most shops know this, it is also true that most shops do not use them, or at least not anywhere near their full potential.
The reasons are really quite straightforward and completely understandable: most shop owners aptitudes lie elsewhere—they’re great face to face and in the bay, not so confortable with the marketing world, beyond yellow page ads and maybe the occasional flyer.
With this in mind, it is wise to consider passing off at least some of this responsibility to someone else. Consider either a family member or a skilled service advisor, who could put some of the feedback from customers into action with effective marketing messages.
An effective strategy will also require you to put your shop system’s capabilities to use.
Divide your marketing plan into two main categories: attracting new customers and bring back existing, past, customers. You could also divide that last segment into customer you haven’t seen for say a year or two and those who are most recent.
These do not always have to be “specials” they could be service reminders, and there are likely preformatted messages for you to choose from either in your management system or a local flyer distribution company.
Here are three things to consider when marketing building car count:
Ensure you message is focused on bringing in customers you actually want to retain. If you’re looking to capitalize on your aptitude with Asian nameplates, ensure your images and messaging are consistent with that. If you’ve just invested in a lift and training for medium duty truck service, focus on that.
Your customer is the person, not the car. If possible, include an actual customer on your marketing information; a customer that is representative of your customer base.
Be careful about overexposure. It’s probably not a good idea to dump thousands of flyers in the local market two weeks before tire changing season hits (you wouldn’t do that would you?). It may not have been planned but when a campaign goes out a few weeks later than originally planned, you can actually hurt your efforts to build business.
Pick the method of distribution: digital is a very popular avenue today, but it may not always hit the prospects you want.
There’s more to it than this, but I will reiterate the point: don’t overthink it. A well thought out, focused marketing plan is best, but a decent, reasonable one is better than none at all.
Now You Have Them, What Are You Going to Do?
So, your marketing plan is working and you have a good strong flow of cars coming in, with the occasional “OMG we’re rammed!” days.
Regardless of how many cars are lined up, you should always be conducting proper inspections.
This can, admittedly, be hard to keep on track at times such as tire change season where you can get an unexpected spike in cars with a pretty low margin but quick to execute task such as changing over tires.
Do your best to ensure that your techs keep to the inspection program. There is no better time to look at the service needs of a car than when it’s up on the hoist with it’s wheels off.
This does not mean the service has to be conducted right then—unless a system or part has actually failed—and it is in fact better not to. It is an opportunity to schedule future work in a month’s time or so.
Be sure to log that future work, schedule it if possible, but follow up at the appropriate interval if the customer isn’t prepared to schedule the subsequent service at that time.
To reiterate, the key here is to continue to inspect even when you are very busy.
It is the only way you will ever hope to smooth out your demand load even a little.
A solid all round strategy to build activity and the depth of service you are providing is a great recipe for continued success.