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Business Operations

How to engage the customer, Part 1

August 31, 2011
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The following is part 1 of a two-part series on “How to engage the customer.” Next week, part 2 will be published, revealing three more rules to follow in order to engage current and potential customers.

With the downturn in the economy, including the loss of 4,000 new car dealers and thousands more used car operators, the detail industry has taken a big hit. Meaning there are fewer detail operations to service both the motorist and the auto dealer. So, are you one of the detail businesses that aggressively go after fewer customers, or simply wait for them to show up or call you? If you are aggressive, that will put you way ahead of most detailers who wait for the customer.

So what are you doing to get the business? It is not enough to say, “Have to get more customers in the door or to call.” That is easy. What is more important: What are you going to do with the prospects when they do come in the door or call? The answer is what makes or breaks the sale.

This is called “engagement.” There are some basic rules to follow to properly engage a potential customer, but these rules are either not being followed properly or not being used at all by most detail business owners.

So, what are these rules, and as important, why are they not being followed?


Rule #1: Offer to make an appointment to every incoming call.
Sounds simple enough, right? Why would you not offer an appointment to every customer? Unfortunately, research shows that most auto service businesses do not offer an appointment to their customers who are calling about a service concern or need.

Consider this, you develop a marketing plan and start advertising, and the phone starts ringing. You answer the calls, but most of these callers are not given the opportunity to say “yes” to an appointment! Why is that?

The answer is you or whoever answers the phone, has not been properly trained on how to sell the appointment. This is why you should self-evaluate, or better yet, record the calls to monitor yourself and others while you talk with the customers. The best solution, if you can afford it, is to hire a person who coordinates all the appointments.


Rule #2: Conduct a vehicle walk-around with the customer.
Doing this is very well received by most customers. Yet very few detailers do this, they let the customer tell them what they want. Who is the expert here anyway? Why is this? Again, you or they probably have not been properly trained or are simply too lazy!

You or your sales people must review the needs of the vehicle with the customer. Walk around the vehicle looking for obvious detailing needs inside and out. Note these needs and make recommendations to the customer. This is also called selling. Get the customer involved. Too many detailers are technicians, rather than salespeople. If you would like to know whether you or your people are technicians or salespeople, just ask both yourself and your employees. Track yours and their performance every day to see how successful you/they are in selling.

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