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Multi-profit Centers

Attention, class!

October 11, 2010
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When dealing with today’s fast lube customer, we have to remember that they are more educated, busier, and deeply invested in their vehicles than ever before. Despite these factors, many consumers simply are not confident in which services they actually need, nor are they confident in our recommendations in many cases.

The absolute best way to put these types of concerns to rest is to adopt and embrace a philosophy and some policies that ensure that your ultimate goal is the customer’s best interest.

In their shoes
I train my staff to put themselves and their own families in the customer’s shoes. Most people are not automotive experts; they need to understand more about why we are recommending a particular service, how that service will truly benefit the vehicle, and perhaps most importantly, how it will benefit their finances.

Everyone has heard of the “feature, benefit, value” method of advising. Ask yourself: are you and your team truly taking the time to go through each of these methods for every single item you are recommending? If you’re not taking the time to advise the customer, you’re going to sound like you’re up-selling, costing yourself hundreds on repair orders, and worse, spending most of your time and money attracting new customers because your current ones aren’t coming back.

So the first absolute in boosting your front counter sales is educating the customer, giving them a real reason to act upon your advice, and to do so of their own accord.

The sooner you start teaching instead of selling, the sooner you’ll create a trusting relationship with your customers. A customer that trusts you is one who is much more likely to return to your shop for future repairs, and have a higher ticket average.

Create an open environment
What starts at the front counter with you and your service advisors, needs to continue with the rest of your shop. After all, doesn’t it make sense that the trusting environment you’ve created extend into your bays?

Once you’ve begun explaining the features, benefits and value to every customer, it’s time to remove all mystery from the process. For example, take fluid leaks: all of the explaining in the world isn’t going to give that customer an idea of how hard it is to detect the source of a leak, its severity, or demonstrate the importance of repair.

If you take that customer back into the bay, give them a pair of gloves and have them touch the fluid, it becomes a lot harder to deny the problem. When there’s no mystery in the process, there’s no reason for distrust.

In our shop, we do this several ways. Our front counter area is full of visual aids: shocks and struts, clean and dirty fluids, new and worn hoses, and a supercharger that has been destroyed by a broken belt. Whenever possible, we employ visual aides to help educate the customer about needed services.

The process of educating the customer is only the middle step in truly boosting your shop’s customer-focused sales. By the time they step through your front door or pick up the phone to call you, your customers should already be well on their way towards the sale.

Sales via marketing
Unfortunately, when it comes to marketing to auto repair customers, 98 percent of all advertising is 100 percent wrong.

Who is your ideal customer? Chances are it’s a customer who wants to get the most out of their car, will perform needed preventative maintenance, values service over price, and will recommend your shop to others.

If the customers that come into your shop are discount-seeking, bottom-feeding, free-offer-only-chasing, price-shopping complainers who want their free services and inspections and will usually take their car elsewhere if your inspections turn up anything that will cost them money, chances are you’re not advertising to the right customer.

Customer-focused sales absolutely need to start with marketing and advertising that sets an expectation of excellence. Marketing that uses discounts and free stuff to draw in customers sets an expectation of the complete opposite of excellence, teaching even good customers that there’s no value in paying full price. In fact, this behavior encourages price shopping.

You can’t continue to hire the best technicians and install the best parts when you’re trying to offer the cheapest service. Worse than that, you can’t set yourself apart. If your marketing says, “We’re like them, only we’re cheaper!” you’ll never attract the type of customer that will spend money, return, and refer their friends and family.

A new way to market
In our shop, we use marketing to set expectations, our service advisors educate every customer, and we follow up with every customer to continually improve our service. By doing all of this, our average repair order in our lube lanes alone is $180.

There’s no industry trend to keep up with, no secret formulas to know and use. In fact, in our shop, we’ve been using the same marketing programs for years. Every year, without fail, the results have improved.

Creating marketing that works for you isn’t difficult, either. As I’ve already begun to mention, the largest component is deciding what kind of customer you want to attract to your shop.

Once you’ve chosen the kind of customer you want to attract and steered your marketing in that direction, the next biggest thing that you can do to improve your customer-driven sales is to create an effective website.

When creating a website, it is important to say the right things and convey the right message. A well-designed website is an unparalleled way to show customers which service you perform, how you’re different from the shop down the street, and why they should call immediately for an appointment. Great websites are about language, eliciting an emotion, and creating an expectation of excellence.

With a truly great website, search engines actually prefer to search and find it. The way that a website is built is incredibly important to how well your website is “seen” by popular search engines.

No matter how well the language is written on your site, if the code is poorly written, your site can be as good as invisible to search engines.

People are using the web to find our shops. Phone book ads are a thing of the past. Every day that your website doesn’t bring you new, quality, paying customers is a day of wasted time and money.

Beyond the technical aspects of creating an effective website, the idea remains the same: market to attract the right customers and set them up for the sale before they even enter the shop. Year in and out, nothing has been consistently more effective in marketing our own business and in our clients’ shops across the country.

Customer-driven sales don’t end there. Even after you’ve attracted the right kind of customer and taken the time to educate instead of sell, follow-up is required.

It’s all about follow-through
There’s no easier way in this industry to increase your referral business than to pick up the phone and follow up every visit with a phone call within five days. There is no better way to encourage repeat and referral business.

It’s also important to stay in touch with your customers. We do that through a monthly newsletter sent to our customers via a print version and by e-mail. The customers love the approach, and we get great feedback on it every week.

Remember, it is important to keep in front of your customers, take good care of them, remove the mystery from the process, don’t make it all about price, treat them like family, follow up to show your really care, and watch your business grow.

David Rogers is the Chief Operations Office of Keller Bros. in Littleton, CO.
Rogers is an active member of the National Speakers Association. He is also a regular feature on the CW2 Morning News, in a segment that seeks to educate viewers.
Rogers is available for training seminars, keynotes, and public appearances and can be reached at 1-866-826-7911, or

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