With change comes opportunity. The shift in the auto repair industry is definitely toward women as your primary clients. The good news is your competition is probably unaware of this trend.
The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association discovered in a recent study, almost 90% of women are now involved in the decision process for their vehicle’s repair and maintenance, 68% of them take the vehicle to the shop themselves, 45% are solely responsible for their auto repair and service decisions. That is amazing. Do you have 60% or 70% female clients? If you do not, you are missing out on a lot of business. If you are looking to develop a brand or a reputation, I would consider becoming the go to shop for female clients. The fact that the numbers are so big makes this an attractive area on which to focus.
Female clients have specific needs that are easy to accommodate. Women are looking for a shop that is informative, treats them with respect and appreciates their business. Forget the think pink garage or anything that can be construed as condescending. Put your female clients in the position of making an informed decision and they will be loyal to your shop.
Women Think Differently Than Men: While this is not news to anyone, most shops have had the same approach to business all along. Now it’s time to focus on the 60%-70% of this lucrative and loyal market. The traditional male client is a transactional buyer. His loyalty is to the best deal he can find. This kind of client may not remain loyal to your shop. Let’s get a general overview of what a female client wants from her repair facility. Your target female client is a relationship buyer. This means when you develop a relationship with her, she will develop loyalty toward your shop. You must identify her needs and fulfill them. Here are some things you should know.
● About 25% of female buyers shop online daily, and 80% to 90% will share deals they find with their friends and family.
● Your target female clients are more likely to be busy parents with a demanding schedule. Their time and is very important to them.
● Most women will not complain if they have a bad experience, they simply will not come back to your shop. However they will share this experience (good or bad) with people they know.
● Women want a shop that is very clean and has a professional quality about the entire facility.
● Women will drive a relatively long distance to a shop they feel loyal toward.
● Women want to make informed decisions. They value information that will empower them to make the right buying decisions.
● Your female clients are far more likely to keep appointments and follow trusted recommendations.
● Women want a shop that is a good citizen of the community, and demonstrates it with action, not words.
● They want a fair price, but will not expect you to be the cheapest.
These are just a few things women are looking for in a shop. You have to cater to these needs if you want to build your client base and car count.
Communication and Educating your client demonstrates concern and gives her more empowerment. You are not telling her what to do or think. You are sharing information that she can use to make informed decisions. Think about purchases or decisions you make without really understanding the situation fully. It is a bad feeling, especially if you consider the importance of having a dependable car at your disposal, but not being comfortable deciding on how to maintain or service it. If you empower them through communication and education, you will have a loyal following.
Educating your clients is just a matter of changing how you present the information. The presentation should be based on the vehicle inspection and formatted into a list of priorities that includes why one item is more pressing than the next item. Here is a format to use when presenting the results of an inspection.
Needed Repair: This would be what you recommend doing first and why. For example, front brakes that are metal to metal. You would probably recommend calipers, rotors, pads, rear brake clean and adjust, as well as a brake fluid flush.
Reliability: These recommendations might include c.v. shafts because outer boots are cracked, but not broken, serpentine belt and tensioner that are worn, but still operational. Things that must be done soon, before reliability is compromised.
Preventive Maintenance: These are maintenance items you recommend due to mileage, or being indicated by your inspection. Some possibilities may be a tune up, timing belt, struts, radiator hoses or transmission service.
Economy: These things are recommended for better economy, like a fuel injection service, air intake cleaning, air filter, or oxygen sensors. These would be the finer points that really put your client’s car into top shape.
Education is the key to building trust with your client. You must explain what they need and why they need it to the point that they are completely at ease with you and your recommendations. This level of understanding is the key to creating the empowerment that is so important to your client. Check out the following ways you can educate your client.
● Visual Aid: Use a computer animation of the system to show how the effected system works. Explain it in a way that shows what happens step by step, from pressing the brake pedal, master cylinder and power booster, down to friction material on the rotors. Mention each part along the way, whether it’s leaking, worn or inoperative. Use words that are professional like remove, disassemble, replace, worn out, leaking, etc. Do not use phrases like shot out, blown, yank, tear, pull, jerk, etc. She does not want anyone to yank, jerk or tear on her car. The visual imagery from these words is enough to lose the sale and the client.
● Show and Tell: The next step after the computer animation is to go out to her vehicle and show her each item you recommend. Point out the physical evidence for each recommendation; go as far as using a dip strip test on her brake fluid to demonstrate it should be flushed because it is contaminated. Show her the gouged rotors, and a new one, the leaking calipers, her paper thin and metal to metal pads. Explain that has been the source of the noise she’s been hearing. Ask her if there is anything she has a question about.
The final part of communication and education is consistency. Every time a client comes in you should double check the last work you did, because if there is a problem you can address it right now. Also check the recommendations you made last time and give her an update. Be sure to record on each invoice what items were declined.
● Follow up each unsold recommendation with some internal marketing. Send an email within 30 days with a discount.
● Use service reminder stickers for her next service. Studies show women rely on these. Refer to it as a service, not an oil change. I highly recommend machine printed service reminder stickers with your shop’s name, phone number and the mileage when the service is due. Get the machine that prints them out. Have the service advisor remove the old one and replace it with the new one. This will help ensure a steady car count and build loyalty. It is also a very professional touch. Be sure to list the items inspected and done during a service on the invoice. Review the invoice line by line and have your client sign the invoice. Let’s do an example of a service:
The 3,000 Mile Service –
5 quarts of Valvoline 10w30
Fram oil filter
set tire pressure to 35 psi.
spare tire and jack are in place & serviceable
belts and hoses appear good at this time
serpentine drive belt appears good
air filter may be needed next visit
charging system good at this time
front tires at 6/32 remaining
rear tires at 3/32 recommend replace soon
Etc…wiper blades, lights
This gives your client peace of mind and promotes trust in your shop. This also demonstrates the difference between your shop’s full service and the $9.95 oil change down the street. Remember always schedule your client for their next visit before they leave. Follow up in a few days to see how the service was and if she is happy with the repair. Your shop will enjoy a better average R.O., a stabilized car count, and a growing group of advocates telling everyone what a great shop they found.