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  1. The holidays are a great time of the year to strengthen your relationship with employees and customers. Spend time with customers and employees discussing holiday plans and family. Show everyone that you value people first, profit second. Make sure you are genuine and show sincere interest in others. In the spirit of Christmas, the more you give the more you will receive. And of course, never forget your own family. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!
  2. While many shop owners may not enjoy a harsh winter, there's always that feeling that a tough winter is good for business. But is it? Last year was one of the worst winters on record in the northeast. There was a ton of winter-related work. But, when you factor the days closed due to snow and ice storms, sales did not reflect any real increase. I know I may be simplifying this, since there are a number of reasons why business may slow down in the winter months. However, to rely on a tough winter to bring in service and repair work may not be your best sales strategy. The winter will be what it is; tough or mild. We cannot help that. But, what we can do is prepare for either scenario, which is building your customer retention rate by proactively identifying needed future work on each vehicle, discussing all future work with each customer, creating service reminders and creating a follow up call list to contact your customers when those service reminders go out. We cannot predict the future, but we can help create it. Start today with each and every customer to ensure that they come back to you for all their service needs. Remember this: Every car in your shop today will need a future LOF service, future services and future repairs. The question is, will they be coming back to you?
  3. How many searches are looking for your shop and how many are not? This is a weird question, isn't it? Why would a shop owner care about searches not looking for the shop? The answer is simple: Motorists make decisions based on education. That has been the case since the car become the main tool for transportation. What changed in the last 3 years is the fact that using a smartphone is sooooooo much simpler when educating oneself than calling somebody, the self declared auto expert brother or husband or your shop. Don't believe me? check out the image This is a screenshot from Google Trends showing that in the last ten years the searches for "timing belt" have tripled, whereas the searches for "auto repair" stayed essentially flat. The number of DIYs have not increased, the opposite is true. So who are those searching people? The answer is simple: Your existing and prospective customers, searching for education, a second opinion, etc. In fact, according to Google's info at the SEMA show three years ago the number of searches for parts and educational info (e.g., "Check Engine Light") exceeds the number of searches for your shop (e.g. "auto repair", "brake repair" etc,) by thirty times. 30 times. Did you just say "wow"? Is your web presence optimized for these searches and do you catch those searches? Probably not. Since we have introduced this new SEO strategy and launched a new product called TopFuel 12 months ago, we have received testimonials from clients, who have a good problem to solve: Too many new prospects. They refuse service since the shop's capacity to serve them at high quality is not big enough. 400% more impressions on Google, 300% more website hits, twice as many new customers compared with one year prior. Check out this article with examples, how it impacted them and what they did about it. Education is key, but you knew that already. make it available so that motorists find your website, instead of 10w40.com or similar websites.
  4. If we took the time to share the details of our business processes, I think we'd see that there are a lot simiarities. However, I'm also convinced that our "step-by-step" processes contain some stark differences, because we all do things that we think are in our own best interest, so policy & procedures are put in place where it makes sense for us individually. What does your service & followup program look like? Do you have a documented process for greeting & taking care of your customers? What does it look like? What things do you do in this regard that show you the results you want? At our shop, we are continually trying to document our processes. We like our service staff to answer the phone a particular way because they quickly learn the difference it makes to our customers. Our technicians are told from the beginning that no conversations can be had with the front office about any service/repair concern unless they have the job ticket in their hand, and they've already (in shorthand) documented the problem they uncovered that needs addressed. Furthermore, no one in our company is allowed to refer to the car or the service when bringing up issues with the repair. We refer to "MR. SMITH'S" concerns, not the "WATER PUMP JOB", or the "FORD TAURUS". A small tweak...but one that has made an incredible difference in our operation, and especially in the lives of our customers. These are only a handful of small things we find important, that we think make a difference. I'm hoping some of you will share a brief description of the greeting, service, and followup process you use in your shop. Maybe we're doing something that makes sense to one of you, and you can find it helpful. Maybe there's something one of you are doing that makes sense to us, and can help us. So how aggressive are you in contacting or communicating service proposals with your prospects? What are you doing "in-house" that's making an incredible difference in your business? Just one man's hopeful request.
  5. Hi, My wife and I are starting a repair shop and I honestly know very little about the business side. We haven't opened yet but are getting ready to. I really believe on working ON the business, but I feel kinda out of my element and need as much advice as possible. So my questions are: 1. Do you recommend Demandforce/Customerlink? Why or why not? What has your experience been?? 2. WHat I'm really looking for is a set and forget type marketing system. Does anyone else feel this way or are most of you happy to do your marketing by yourself? I feel like it will be overwhelming, but I;m not sure if that's normal or it will be less overwhelming once I start?? Thoughts? Is there a system like that out there?? 3. What should I look for when investing in marketing?? What are the best marketing thinsg you've done so far?? Thanks a ton
  6. Just wanted to know if anybody worked with companies that drive phone calls from prospective customers. What were the bad things, were there any benefits, what would you like to change, etc. Were prices any good, was it really worth it? Were calls relevant, targeted good enough? Thank you! D
  7. I was wondering if anyone is using any of the programs from Advance auto? (MOTOSHOP) Advance is offering three tools to help shops; MotoLOGIC a repair and diagnostic information system, MotoREV, a shop marketing program, and MotoSKILL, a interactive online series of ASE prep tests. Here's a link below for more info. https://www.motoshop.com/motoshop-home
  8. A long time customer came in the other day for a LOF service and an annual state inspection. He also needed a battery, but said that he would come back for it. When I tried to explain to him that we had to jump start the car, he said he knows about it and he will come back. This did not seem right. Being me, I pushed a little; “Tom, why won’t you let me install the new battery today?” He was silent. I then said, “Tom, you are going to buy the battery from someone, why not buy it from me.” He replied, “Joe, I can’t afford your price.” I replied, “Tell me what you want me to do.” He said, “Nothing, I will put the battery in myself and save the labor.” I told him, “No Tom, I will put the battery in, you pay for the battery and I’ll pay for the labor, deal?” He was silent again, and then said, “Yes, you got a deal and thank you.” Sometimes, you need to close the book on sales strategy, profit margins, and quotas and just do what you feel you need to do. Sometimes, a compromise is a win.
  9. Driving to work yesterday was like driving through a road that was recently shelled with bombs. Because of the severe winter, potholes and damaged roads are a big problem. But let’s face it, there are a lot of other people that are driving on these road. And, a lot of them are our customers. In fact, unless someone’s car was parked for the last 2 months, just about every car will need to get inspected for winter-related damage. Now, I don’t want to sound like Dr. Evil and wish bad things on anyone, but the fact is that we are already seeing pothole-related damaged cars. Damaged tires, wheels, suspension, steering, wheel alignment and other damage. If your shop suffered through 2 rotten months of bad weather, do yourself and your customer a favor and inspect each car for winter-related damage. The opportunities are there. You owe it to your customer and to your bottom line!
  10. I was speaking to a shop owner friend the other day and he was complaining that car counts have been declining. I asked him how often he gets out in the community. He told me he is too busy to leave the shop. He comes to work, works all day and goes home. He has been doing this for years. Then he revealed to me that he does not even know the names of the store owners around him. I said to him, “Don’t you think you should know your neighbors?” After a few seconds of silence, it dawned on him that there are dozens of local businesses, schools, a hospital and shopping centers; all with potential customers. We get caught up in our own little world. Our shop dominates our existence. We often forget about the potential right around us. What forms of community based marketing to you engage in?
  11. 34 years ago, when I opened the doors to my shop, I had broken cars lined up in front of the bays on a daily basis. Thank God for GM, Ford and Chrysler. Cars back then broke down at any alarming rate. We didn’t have to be the best sales people either; broken cars just arrived at our doorstep. We lived in a reactive world, where we repaired one car after the other. Those were the days! Well, those days are gone. Today, if you wait for cars to come to you, you may be waiting a long time. With extended service intervals, improved car quality, and less maintenance items to service and repair, we need to take a proactive approach. We need to improve our image, hire the best people, adopt a culture of continuous training, speak to all customers as if they are best friends or family, inform them of needed future services, book the next service, sell preventive maintenance and deliver world-class customer service. Most important; Create the customer experience so memorable, so enjoyable, so rewarding that when they leave your shop, they think to themselves…. “That was a great experience, I’m coming back.”
  12. We all know the value of making a great first impression. The way you greet your customers has a direct affect on sales and your overall success. But, why is it even more important to impress a first time customer? Think about your favorite restaurant which you have been going to for years. You are a loyal to that restaurant and continue to patronize it without even thinking about it. But do you go out of way to promote that restaurant? Probably not; and unless someone happens to ask you, you don't go around your neighborhood telling everyone about your favorite restaurant. Your long-time customers are no different. You have done a great job over the years and built long-lasting relationships. You have created a level of experience that they have to come accept. And to some degree, take for granted. This is not a bad thing. Its just a fact. This is one of the reasons why you need to continue to deliver that level of service your customers have grown accustomed to in order to keep them. Now, lets take a first-time customer. Their anxiety is usually high. Your shop is all new to them and they don't know what to expect. They may have had a bad experience at another shop. If you dont do something so extraordinary, they will not be impressed. And if they are not impressed they will leave your shop with no reason to promote it, and no reason to return either. But, if you really do WOW them, if you go the extra mile and create an amazing experience, they will leave your shop with a feeling of elation. When the level of experience for a first-time is so extraordinary, they will leave your shop and become song birds for you. They will tell their family about you, their friends and their coworkers. Each new customer is an opportunity to grow your business. If the experience with a new customer is less the ordinary, so will your business.
  13. I have had mixed results from any new resident program I used in the past. Years back when the economy was booming and my area (Putnam County New York), was one on the fasting growing areas in the northeast, I was fairly successful with a new resident program. The last time I tried a few years back, it was a bust. But, the housing market in my area tanked. What are other shops doing to attract new residents? This appears to be a potential source of new customers. I don't want to sound like I am endorsing anyone, but I have heard Jay Siff from Moving Targets give presentations on new resident marketing, and he sounds like he really knows his stuff. Has anyone used a new resident program lately, and what is your opinion on the results? Moving Targets link: http://movingtargets.com/
  14. There no denying that the Baby Boomers are getting older and nearing retirement, if not retired already. In order to prepare and grow, we need to look toward the younger generation and learn how to market to them. The shops that realize this will be better home in the future. Below is a link to an article in Ratchet+Wrench about marketing to the millennials. It's worth the read. http://www.ratchetandwrench.com/RatchetWrench/August-2014/Marketing-to-Millennials/?utm_source=KnowledgeMarketing&utm_medium=RW%20-%20Newsletter%20Emails&utm_term=RW%20-%20RW%20Insider&utm_content=RW_TheRWInsider_20141015&utm_campaign=How%20to%20Market%20to%20Millenials&eid=211700044&bid=947400
  15. Car count is a key performance indicator (KPI) showing you the health of your business. But before we blame low car counts for the reason why we are not achieving our sales goals, we need to take the time to look at all the numbers; analyzing labor and part margins, average repair order (ARO) production issues, other critical KPI’s, customer retention and workflow processes. Only after a thorough analysis can we begin to work on the issue of car counts. This is not to suggest that a shrinking car count is not a problem. Many shops are experiencing declining car counts for a number of reasons: increased competition from dealers and mass merchandisers, improved car quality, decreased factory scheduled maintenances, decreasing vehicle visits, and other of factors. The key thing is to track all key numbers and vehicle visits per year, per customer. If you see your car count trending down and you are not meeting your sales objectives, and all other KPIs are in line, then you need to address this issue. But, are you really losing customers? You may find that that customer visits per year is the problem. With increasing scheduled oil services and the perception that cars don’t need maintenance, this is a big problem. And it may be the problem for a declining car count. A more proactive approach, selling preventive maintenance and other services will help. In addition, bump up your marketing efforts, especially with you existing customer base. And lastly, make sure you stand out by providing world class customer service.
  16. Customer satisfaction is a key component to insuring our success as shop owners. Too often we are not in touch with the customer and how their view our shop. In addition, what we do after the sale is crucial to our future business. Here's a link to an article in Motor Age written by Brian Canning worth reading on how to improve customer surveys and at the same time improve your customer's retention and confidence in you. http://www.searchautoparts.com/motorage/shop-owner/shop-management/perfecting-shop-customer-satisfaction-survey?cid=95882
  17. The first five years in business I gladly worked on anyone’s car. I had to. I was young, just starting out and anything in the bays was better than nothing. For me back then, a customer was a customer. But I soon found out that I was spending way too much time trying to please people that, quite honestly, were too hard to please. These people would argue over the price, want the job done yesterday, never took proper care of their car and would only come to me if I offered them a discount. I began to realize that dealing with my better clientele, the people that came to me, not for a discount, but for a quality repair, are the people that I SHOULD be spending my time with. These are the people that I should be targeting. And you need to do the same. Build a profile of your top customers. The people that truly are a joy to work for; the people that don’t argue about price and appreciate what you have to offer and those that listen to your recommendations. These are the customers that will build a long relationship with you. They come to you not because you advertize a discount, but because they trust you. Create your marketing, your advertising and build your entire business around them and what would please them. Before any marketing or advertising is created, ask yourself, “Who am I targeting?” If it doesn’t target and describe your key profile customer, it’s probably wrong. Trying to be everything to everyone, ends up pleasing no one, including you.
  18. I am looking for your suggestions for quality trade journals/magazines, trade associations, or trade shows that can be helpful in marketing, advertising, industry data, market research and customer profiles and that sort of thing. Not so interested in the actual automotive technology side but more of an emphasis on the actual operation of an automotive repair business. Thanks
  19. Smith Corona, a global typewriter company, was founded in the 1886. In 1991, CEO Lee Thompson made a statement that Smith Corona would never abandon it core product: The Typewriter. Four years later Smith Corona was bankrupt. What went wrong? Smith Corona viewed itself as a typewriter company, not a company that offered solutions and products to businesses. By the time Smith Corona tried to get into the word processing market, it was too late. Technology had passed them by. So, the question for all of us is; “What business are we in?” We will see big changes in our industry in the next few years. It’s how we adapt to change, embrace technology and truly define who we are that will make the difference in our survival. Your thoughts?
  20. Be Careful of Who’s Greeting Your Customers? Have you ever walked into a store, restaurant or other establishment and the person greeting you treated you as an inconvenience, rather than a valued customer? Sure you have. Well, who’s greeting your customers? More importantly; how are your customers being treated whether on the phone or in person? The people you have greeting your customers and on the phone represent you and your business. Sales can suffer with the wrong people taking care of your customers. This is especially true for first time customers. Every point of contact; from scheduling an appointment, to write up, to car delivery, are critical steps in the customer experience. These customer touch points can be either have a positive or negative emotional experience. Negative experiences will hurt customer retention; positive experiences will help grow your business. The best repairs, using the best tools and parts, done by the best tech means nothing when the customer is treated poorly. If you want to improve the customer experience, which will help increase sales, then take a long hard look at how the customer is being treated, in person and on the phone. Make sure that every point of contact with the customer triggers a positive emotional experience for the customer. So, your greeting your customers?
  21. Do any of you use Demand Force marketing tools? Our managemnt system is working on integration with DemandForce. I saw a demo, I like most of what they do. Its kind of expensive but it gives us some added contanct avenues with the customer that we desire yet don't have the tools to implement though our management system alone. Who is using it and what kind of results are you seeing? What managment system are you using and how well does it integrate with DemandForce, primarily from recommendation management and customer self scheduling? Thanks for the input!!!
  22. I want to know if any shops use license plates frames as a marketing tool, and if you do, do you any special slogan or saying?
  23. With school ending, the focus will be on summer, and that means vacations. Meet with your techs and advisors and strategize on ways to insure that your customer’s cars are prepared for summer driving and for road trips. Create and promote a “Summer Vacation Road Trip Package”. Emphasize to your customers the need to insure that their cars are road-ready for the summer fun. Areas of concentration: Air conditioner Coolant Tires Wipers Oil Change Air and cabin filter Lights Fluid levels Belts and hoses Etc. Be proactive today. Your customers and your bottom line will thank you.

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