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Three tips for attracting more customers

June 30, 2010
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Here are three tips to improve efficiencies at your detail shop, courtesy of

Get more referrals

Ask any group of shop owners what is the best way to get new customers and the number one answer is almost always referrals. Yet, most shops devote the majority of their marketing money and effort to other areas.

Shops which have focused on getting more referrals generally report good success. Some shops develop specific rewards programs, others participate in local business groups (some of these are devoted specifically to gaining referrals) while others simply make it a habit to ask for referrals from their existing customers.

Ask yourself how you could get more of the type of good referrals that you currently get. Then move some of your marketing budget and effort to doing so. Odds are good that your return on your marketing investment will improve.

Find out what your customers are thinking

All you have to do is ask. They will tell you a lot if you survey them. However, avoid the typical type of survey with multiple choices. Also, a survey requiring written replies will be ignored by many who have good input. You want to make it as effortless and nonthreatening as possible for your customer.

Create a survey with open ended questions where the replies can be anything that comes to their mind. Then have a third party perform the survey by phone where all your customer has to do is talk to an unknown voice who he or she will probably never meet.

The more replies you get, the better. You will need at least fifty or so to gather solid results. Avoid cherry picking the ones to call and make sure to include customers who have not been to your shop in a year or more. Very few shops perform a survey like this because it is not a small project, but the information that you gather will be invaluable.

Make sure to say "Thank you"

Everyone likes to be thanked and that certainly includes your customers. Always make a point of communicating a sincere thank you to anyone picking up their car. They could have gone to dozens of shops, but they chose you.

Next, some type of thank you follow up is in order. It could be an email, regular mail, a phone call or maybe a text message. A common mistake is to think that people get tired of you "bothering them". There may be a few here and there, but the vast majority who appreciate it offsets that quickly.

All that thanking may get old to you as you do it over and over, but your customers only hear it from you once in a while. They know which businesses appreciate them. Keep thanking them and never stop!

Tom and Deb Ham are the owners of Automotive Management Network, an online forum to exchange information about the management of all types of vehicle service facilities, independent auto repair shops, car and truck dealers, franchises, fleets, body shops and more. More information can be found at

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