By Bob Cooper
Over the past one hundred plus years marketing strategies, and the brands that were built, were developed by two entities: The client, and the ad agency. The client would tell the agency how they envisioned their brand, and the agency would develop the advertising campaigns that would create that very same image in the minds of the targeted consumers. The tobacco companies wanted to create brands that would cause a consumer to feel good when they used their products, and the ad agencies did a great job of achieving this objective. Volvo wanted to create a brand that reflected safety, and as we all know, just about every Volvo ad sends that very same message. After one hundred plus years, that systematic method of brand creation is now dead. Not just for companies like the above, but for auto repair shops just like yours. Let me explain what has happened.
The ability to create a brand is no longer under the control of a product or service provider, nor the ad agencies. In today’s world brands are now created by one entity more than any other, and that entity is social media. The way your shop is going to be perceived in your community is based on what is being said about you, your company and your employees on social media websites. You may believe that you provide a great service, and that your technicians are second to none. You may also invest a lot of your hard-earned money into advertising programs to try to get that message (brand) into the minds of your targeted customers. But in reality, if the chatter in social media says that you overcharge, or that you don’t live up to promised completion times, then whether you like it or not, that will become your brand.
So here are my recommendations. First of all, accept the fact that social media is here to stay, and it is where your brand is going to be built. Secondly, you should create a plan that will have a positive impact on what is being said about you and your shop on social media sites. Obviously there are a number of things you can do, but nothing will ever trump extraordinary service. The reason companies like Nordstrom, Zappos shoes and Starbucks have such extraordinary reputations (brands) is because they deliver extraordinary service. I would strongly encourage you to review every customer touch point from fielding that first call through your customer follow-up calls, looking for ways to improve the entire customer experience.
Lastly, I am going to suggest you do something that your competitors would never dream of doing, and that is invest 20% of your ad budget into the customer experience. This means investing in the customer waiting area, your shuttle service, refreshments, extended warranties, customer follow-up and the plan you have in place for dealing with disgruntled customers. The Marriott Corporation discovered that they were getting higher CSI scores from customers they dropped the ball with, yet the customer was pleased with the resolution, than from those who had flawless stays at the Marriott. The lesson they learned? When a mistake is made people typically don’t expect a resolution that will make them smile, so when they are completely satisfied, they are pleasantly surprised. This is why the Marriott immediately allocated a good percentage of their training resources to dealing with customers who had a bad experience. Without question, you should do the same.
In closing, brands are no longer built on Wall Street, but in today’s world they are being built each and every day on the web. I can only hope we all agree that social media is here to stay, so you need to invest in making the customer experience incredibly positive, because if you do, your customers will do what agencies used to do, and create an extraordinary brand for you.
Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while having a positive impact on their employees, customers and communities. The company offers one-on-one coaching from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.
By Bob Cooper