By Joe Marconi
What Your Customers Want to Tell You…But Don’t
Auto shop owners and managers:
Join us for a free webinar series and learn firsthand what actual customers think about the auto repair experience.
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By Joe Marconi
I can't speak about all businesses in my area, but the repair shops are doing ok. In fact, most had a normal or near normal summer. A few weeks back we had a major storm that knocked out power for nearly the week. That killed the week. But aside from that, we had a very good June, July and August. With a miserable March and April, this was a great morale lift and financial boost.
The only down side is the affect COVID is having on other businesses, like restaurants, deli's, sport businesses and other businesses. Will this have a trickle down effect on our industry. No one can tell for sure.
I will be shoring up my finances and preparing for the unknown.
Has the Coronavirus (COVID-19) impacted your auto shop business? If it hasn't yet, it has the potential to do so soon. Please share what you are currently doing, how your business is impacted, what plans you have in place, etc.
Some things to consider:
Do you have a plan in place should you or one of your employees become ill? With school, event, and business closures, how will this affect your shop? Are you sending anything to your customers in terms of sharing your plans around keeping your customer and employees healthy and doing your part in your community? Many small and large businesses have been sending email communications to their customers. Are you marketing to your customers in terms of not delaying car repair, should there be a need to temporarily close? Are your parts suppliers sharing their plans, should the pandemic affect supply chains? Are you stocking up on business and shop necessities? Please share your experience in this topic and stay healthy!
In the media:
The coronavirus and its growing tally of sick and dead victims around the world have been roiling financial markets, prompting countless hand-washing reminders and ruining more than a few vacations, and that’s before anyone knows exactly how widespread the effect will be on the automotive industry, including your local repair shop. Source
“By mid-March, the shortage of supplies will be felt and members are projecting they’ll experience disruption through May or June,” even if operations in China soon get back to normal, said Stacey Miller, senior director of communications at the Auto Care Association, a trade group representing 150,000 auto aftermarket and service businesses. Source
By Joe Marconi
Today is the first day of summer, and we are still dealing with the dreaded COVID-19. However, there are positive indicators that business will be better than expected this summer. People will be taking more road trips, will avoid airplanes, trains and Ubers and will take to the roads in record numbers.
Gear up for a great summer and look for opportunity with each vehicle visit. Perform those multipoints as if your business depends on it….why?....Because it does!
We have a lot to be thankful for. Keep positive, be a leader and thrive!
Is your business down 40 or 50% like many on this forum? If so, I have an idea to help a bit now, but especially in the future. And even help the impression of our industry.
You probably have more time available to spend with your customers. It’s the perfect time to build or cement a great relationship, to create that illusive trust with your customer, that’s mentioned in just about every trade magazine, but they never tell you how. May I suggest “The How” that I’ve been using for years? This will be handy now and in the future when this is over.
Learn more about your customers. Become “friends.” Talk about everything: the lousy situation we’re in, ask about their job, their kids, their past vacation, their future vacations, their weekend jaunts. Exchange good news. Exchange not-so-good news. Listen. Talk about what comes up.
I treat our customers like friends, like former high school friends. And these friends know we have to make a profit (EVERYBODY knows that!)
For me, it’s a given that we’re going to take care of their car. If they tell me their dad just went into the hospital or nursing home, we’re done talking about their car. I ask, “How’s dad?”
But still do your (digital) inspections. And write down everything, even the stuff that can wait six to nine months. This may affect the service writer or shop’s approval percentage, but so what! Your percentage will be lower, but you will do more work on the car this way. (Notice that I didn’t say you would sell more work. I don’t “sell.”) No decision now on the future stuff, it can wait.
If their car came in with a problem, this is what will fix it (there’s no selling: this is the solution). I point out the other thing that needs attention now. There will be some explanation, but no selling: it needs it. No decision for the customer, actually. Their car needs it.
Next I say, “Here are the things that can wait six to nine months, but I want you to be aware so there are fewer surprises.” No selling, no decisions on their part. Plus, I’m the trustworthy guy who’s telling them they don’t need everything now.
“Now let’s come up with a plan for these other things I found about your car.” I’m explaining, not selling. “You can do these now or in two or three months.” NOBODY wants to come back in two or three months so they are leaning in that direction, but no pressure from you. They will probably ask; “What would you do?” I say, “If you hate bringing your car in, do it now.” (this is where you would bring in a little value, benefits and safety) Again, not selling, suggesting; letting them make the decision. Notice that the first two issues didn’t involve them making a dreaded decision: It needs this, doesn’t need that.
If your inspection has 5 things, they will do 2 to 4. If the inspection has 8 things, they will do 3 to 5 – with no selling. You are their friend, you are advising. List everything!
Now think about that phone call. There is only a little selling value or benefits: maybe some safety. So there’s no pressure on you, no bad news. You are the car detective, reading the cars clues and helping your friend thru this.
When you take care of the customer in this fashion, you come from a place of trust, like taking care of a high school friend.
You will be happier because that call back won’t be stressful, you will have more work, and they are more likely to refer your trustworthy, easy-to-work-with shop, which means even more work.
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By Joe Marconi
Due to COVID-19, many repair shops experienced a severe economic downturn, some with a drop in sales over 50%. Without a strong cash reserve and/or SBA funding help, many shops would have gone under.
My 40 years as a shop owner has taught me to always have a cash reserve. However, never would I have ever imagined a downturn like the one with COVID-19.
So, how do we plan for the next financial crisis. And, it will happen. Perhaps not as bad as the the virus crisis, but it will happen.
Here are a few things to consider: Have a separate, and hard to access, cash reserve bank account that has least two months of expenses. Also, secure a line of credit for at least one to two months of expenses. Also, know your numbers, keep payroll in line, and make sure your prices are fair to you too, not just your customers. Keep in good standing with all your vendors and keep your credit score high!
The bottom line here, is truly the bottom line. To weather the next financial downturn, you need a strong balance sheet and net profit to the bottom line.
What other strategies are you considering or implementing?
By Joe Marconi
A ride to the Mall with my wife today (yes, I went to the Mall, got a problem?) gave me assurance that things are really getting back to normal. The stores were full, the roads were packed and expect for the masks people are wearing, you would think it's just another ordinary summer weekend!
By Elite Worldwide Inc.
Although COVID-19 has brought our industry plenty of challenges, it has also taught us a valuable lesson. Many of us have seen a drop in our car counts, but have simultaneously witnessed an increase in our AROs and happier customers. These slower days give us the opportunity to spend more time with each and every individual and vehicle that enters our shop, yielding positive results for both our business and our customers.
From this point forward, in order to maximize every single opportunity at your shop, I recommend you implement the following three items.
First, I recommend you hold a meeting with your employees as soon as possible and make sure they know that each vehicle that comes in should be properly, professionally and ethically inspected. Make sure they also know that everything should be documented.
Next, it’s important that every single customer that enters your facility gets full disclosure on what is going on with their vehicle. This includes what needs to be done now, what should be done in the near future, and what may need to happen in the long run.
Lastly, make sure that everyone in your company believes in all of your products and services. When a tech or advisor is on the phone with a customer, they must truly believe in their recommendations in order to really get through to that customer. The customer will be far more likely to listen if they know the recommendations are coming from a place of honesty and care.
If you can implement the three items above, not only will you see sales go up, but you will have happier customers as well. I can assure you that the more time you spend on each vehicle and with each customer, the more successful you will be.
For additional help making the most of your shop’s opportunities, visit the Elite website or call 800-204-3548.
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By Joe Marconi
Whatever your normal advertising and marketing strategy is, now is the time to tone down call to action advertising and promotions and communicate your brand to your community. In times of crisis, it’s crucial that your customers and community know what you stand for and there to help if at all possible.
Contact your customers by phone, email, text, etc. Not to sell them anything, but to ask if they are ok. Let them know that you are thinking about them. Connect with them emotionally, like a friend or family member would.
For many shops across this great nation, there will be significant sales drops. With the new financial package, there will be help on the way. Contact your accountant, payroll company, financial advisor, bank rep and find out about the help that is coming your way.
We will get through this together.