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The Best-Kept Secret to Generating More Referrals

As we all know, the most powerful form of advertising always has been, and always will be, word of mouth. Although every shop owner would like to believe the majority of their customers are songbirds, the reality is, they’re not. I am not suggesting that you don’t have some customers who love to sing your song, but it’s safe to say that they’re a very small percentage of your overall customer base. I feel comfortable making such a strong statement because even if as little as 10% of your customers were telling their friends about you, and if those people were to come in to your shop, then within 90 days you would have to shut down all of your advertising programs, and you would be booking appointments 30 days out. The reality is that regardless of how well you treat your customers, and no matter how pleased they are with your service, when your customers walk out of your shop they’ll step back into their busy lives, and they will forget about you. Will there be a time when they think of you again? Of course, but it’ll only be when they have a need for your services, or when a friend engages them in a conversation about auto repair.

So here’s an easy-to-use procedure I created years ago that will turn your customers into salespeople, and fill up your service bays with customers who are presold on you.

Start the process by identifying the customers in your customer database who are your biggest boosters. Ideally they will be good communicators, and they will either work with a lot of other people, or their social lives will put them in constant contact with a lot of other people. Then when they are dropping off their vehicle, or at the time of car delivery, say something like this…

“Before you leave, Kevin, do you have just another minute? Great! We’re growing our company, Kevin, and in my perfect world, every customer would be just like you. You are always a pleasure to work with, and everyone here who knows you thinks the world of you. Now I know birds of a feather flock together, so here is what I would like to do…” While they are in front of you take two of your business cards, and on the back of each card write – “One complimentary oil service”. Hand the two cards to your customer and say: “What I’d like to do is give you these two cards. Each one of them entitles the bearer to a complimentary oil service, so when you go to work today, if you could be so kind as to take just a moment to give these two cards to a couple of people you work with, it would be very much appreciated. They’ll get a complete oil service at no charge, and we’ll be able to meet a friend of yours.”

This works so well because if you give the cards to the right people, they’ll be excited to pass them along to their friends, and since you gave them specific instructions on how and when to do it, there’s a good probability they’ll pass the two cards out the very same day. You know as well as I do that they will be singing your praises when they pass along those cards, and there is a good probability the cards will be used. Your cost? The potential cost of two oil services, and the cost of an oil service is meaningless when you consider that you are getting a new customer who is presold on you, and you are giving your best customers the opportunity to give something of value to two of their friends. If you are looking for an immediate increase in car counts, then this is one way to not only bring in more new customers, but to turn your customers into salespeople at the same time.


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.



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