There are a number of changes that are occurring in our industry, and there is no question, some of them will have a profound, long-term impact. To name just two, automobiles are being built better, and as we all know, service intervals are constantly being extended by the manufacturers. Although this is all good for consumers, better-built vehicles means they’ll need fewer repairs, and extended service intervals means you’ll be seeing your existing customers less frequently in the coming years. The way most shop owners are dealing with this evolution is by trying to convince all of their customers that they need to bring their vehicles in more frequently than the manufacturer recommends. They tell them that their oil needs to be changed more frequently, and that it’s a good policy to have their vehicles inspected every 3,000-5,000 miles. Although I agree with the reasoning, these shop owners are fighting an uphill battle since one of the many reasons people buy new vehicles is because they really like the idea of extended service intervals. So rather than trying to fight this trend, as your competitors do, I encourage you to understand it, and rather than trying to sell each and every customer on the value of coming in more frequently, I encourage you to take a different approach.
First of all, as in any business, you should explore every opportunity to provide additional services to your customers. They already trust you and your recommendations, so services such as door ding removals, tire installations, glass repair services, cabin air duct cleaning services, and detailing services are good examples of other services you can offer. Not only will services that enhance vehicle appearance or customer comfort put smiles on the faces of your customers, but at the same time these services will increase your ARO, which will help offset the fewer number of times you’ll see your customers throughout the year.
The second thing you will need to do is ensure that your service advisors are very well trained. Any services that are not authorized during a visit will more than likely be lost sales, because it may be six months or longer before you see that particular customer again. By then, your service recommendations will either be forgotten, viewed as unimportant by the customer, or if they experienced a subsequent failure, they may very well have it repaired somewhere else. Worse yet, if it’s a safety item that you discover, and if it’s not repaired during their initial visit, the customer will be at an even greater risk. There is no question that the age-old expression, “We’ll take care of that the next time you’re in” is going to vanish from our industry.
Lastly, with the understanding that you will be seeing the majority of your customers less frequently as time goes on, in order to keep your service bays filled you will need to ensure that you have a well-constructed marketing plan in place that will bring in the right kind of customers. To stay ahead of your competitors you need to invest at least 50% of your advertising budget into non-traditional advertising programs, and you should allocate at least half of your non-traditional advertising budget towards programs that are directed to what I refer to as the “emerging market”; the Y Gens and Millennials . These are the people that were born between 1980 and 2004, and there is no doubt in my mind that they are the future of your business.
In summary, I encourage you to avoid fighting the evolution of automobiles or trying to sell your customers on a service schedule that they have little or no interest in buying. Instead, look for other ways you can help them when you do see them, by providing additional services. If the services you offer are cosmetic in nature, or if they provide added comfort to the customer in any way, all the better. You will need to have talented, well-trained advisors, you’ll need well-constructed programs in place that will keep your name in front of your customers, and there is no doubt, you’ll need to have a marketing plan in place that will bring in even more… of the right kind of customers.
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 elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. To learn more about Elite, visit www.EliteWorldwide.com.