From the blog Your Guide to Improving the Auto Shop Customer Experience

Customer service is essential. Every auto shop owner knows that. After all, customers are the backbone of your business. If you can’t keep them happy, it won’t be long before you have to close shop. 

Every interaction is important. It’s not enough to provide the most efficient, effective auto service around. You need to make sure your customers enjoy the experience of dealing with you, as well.

Said another way, customer service is a big deal. Maybe more so for auto shop owners than other business leaders. And that’s why we’ve put together this guide for boosting your customer service.

Below you’ll find 6 tips you can start using today to make sure your customers keep coming back to you.

95% of people say customer service is a key factor in determining their loyalty to a brand.

1. Be courteous

It doesn’t cost a dime to be courteous. Not only that, but customers appreciate friendly interactions. By contrast, when your customers don’t feel acknowledged, heard, understood or cared for, it hurts the entire customer experience.

It all comes down to how they’re treated, especially in face-to-face interactions.

Keep in mind, too, that courtesy doesn’t just affect the one customer in front of you right now. It affects every potential customer they talk to. Folks are 90% more likely to trust a business if they get a solid recommendation from a friend. That’s not going to happen if you don’t make every interaction work in your favor.

What you can do today…

  • Make sure you address customers by name. As Dale Carnegie famously said, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
  • Think of your auto shop as your home and your customers as guests. Try to make sure folks feel truly welcome.
  • Say thank you. A lot.

“More than two-thirds of those surveyed (68%) said that a pleasant representative was key to their recent positive service experiences…” – American Express

2. Make your space comfortable

Many of your customers will need to wait right there in the shop while you work on their vehicle. Make sure they have a comfortable waiting area. 

If possible, provide plenty of space. No one likes to be cramped, especially while they’re just waiting. Comfortable furniture is another big plus. Even little things like reading materials or a TV can create a more comfortable waiting area.

But “comfort” isn’t just about the physical space. It’s also about how your customers are treated. Make sure you don’t forget the things we covered in the first tip, too.

What you can do today…

  • Pick up a few magazines and leave them out for customers. Focus on a variety of topics.
  • Make sure your restroom is clean and available to customers while they wait.
  • If you have no waiting room at all, take stock of what’s nearby. It might not be a bad idea to point customers toward the nearest café or coffee shop and offer to call them when their car is ready.

3. Give them options for payment

It wasn’t that long ago that cash-and-check-only auto shops could be just as competitive as shops that offer more payment options. But those days are gone.

Which makes sense. All too often, auto repairs are unexpected. Your customers want (and sometimes need) the option to use a credit card. If you don’t already have a credit card processing partner, it’s time to find one.

Don’t skimp. Take the time to shop around and make sure you’re getting top-tier service and competitive processing rates. This stuff will affect your bottom line. 

Be sure your POS system accepts magnetic strips, EMV chips, and contactless app-based payments. We also recommend some strategic add-ons, like customer loyalty and inventory management. While some payment processing providers charge for these tools, some include them at no additional cost.

What you can do today…

  • Shop at least 5 payment processing providers. Focus your questions on processing rates and included add-ons.
  • Ask your customers if there are payment options (like Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay) that they’d like to see you offer.
  • Make sure everyone in your shop knows how to handle each type of payment you can already accept.

RELATED: The Importance of Customer Loyalty Programs

4. Master inventory management

Some repair jobs will require wait time while you gather the parts. That’s reasonable. You can’t keep everything on hand. But what about common supplies? Like motor oil? Or brake pads? Or your best-selling tires?

There are some things your shop should never run out of.

If you don’t already have a formal inventory management system, it’s time to get one. The easiest option is to work with a tool designed specifically for inventory management. There are some free options out there but don’t just shop price. Look for something that will actually keep your shop ahead of the competition.

It’s also worth noting that some POS providers include inventory management at no additional cost. You may already have access to the perfect tool.

What you can do today…

  • Walk through your supply area right now. If there’s something you’re low on, take a few minutes and place an order.
  • Talk to your techs to determine what items should be on your “never run out” list.
  • Contact your POS provider and see if inventory management is included with your current plan.

5. Shorten wait times (sort of)

The average customer overestimates the time they spend waiting by as much as 36%. That means two things for you as an auto shop owner.

First, if you fail to create a pleasant environment your customers will almost certainly exaggerate their wait times in their heads. Fifteen minutes becomes twenty. An hour becomes an hour and a half.

But second, if you make a few strategic moves to lower perceived wait time, you’ll edge ahead of your competition… even if your wait times are identical. You don’t have to rush the work. You just have to leave customers feeling like the wait was shorter.

What you can do today…

  • Try to make estimated wait times as accurate as possible. If you err, err on the side of a longer quoted wait time instead of a shorter quoted wait time.
  • Use the suggestions under #2 (above) to make your wait area comfortable and full of distractions.
  • Let repeat customers know when you’re slow so they can bring their cars in during lulls, if possible.

“The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.” – Al Neuharth

6. Do the small stuff better than the next guy

There are a handful of little things you can do that aren’t particularly special or dazzling on their own. But if you do several of them, and you do them better than your competition, you’ll stand out.

For example, do you offer drinks, like coffee or water, to customers while they wait? Make it premium coffee and be sure to brew a fresh pot every couple of hours. The modest additional expense creates a feeling of top-tier service.

The same thing goes for other nice touches. Give customers a ride home if they live close and the repair will take a while. Provide modest surprise discounts (even just 10% off an inexpensive portion of the total services) to show you understand auto repairs can be difficult on a monthly budget. Smile—every time you talk to your customers.

The little things go a long way.

What you can do today…

  • Model customer service for the techs in your shop. Never expect them to treat customers better than they see you treating customers.
  • Look for little improvements and perks you can make that cost less than $5 each. Then spend a whopping $20 implementing four of them.
  • Give a slight discount to customers spending more than a set amount (like $500)—not enough to significantly affect your profit margin, but enough to make them feel better about the total bill.

Customer service never stops

When it comes to customer service, you’re never really done. Don’t just make a few improvements today and move on. Come back to these tips at least once every three months or so. Make it your goal to always be improving customer service.

Your customers will notice… and your bottom line will benefit.

KEEP READING: 9 Ways to Avoid Chargebacks and Credit Disputes

Are you ready to grow together?