How to grow your business
By John Oxley
Come WoF time, I always used to take my car to the same workshop, mainly because it was conveniently situated to the office – I could just hop over the fence, and didn’t need to worry about transport to and from the ‘shop.
Everything was OK for a while. It wasn’t a very modern or even clean workshop, but the people were nice and heck, I was only going there for a WoF!
However, there came a time when I had to take my wife’s car in for a service, and that’s when I discovered this wasn’t a good workshop at all. The upshot was that soon after having a new cambelt installed the crankshaft broke at the cambelt end, and the car had to be scrapped.
The workshop, of course, denied all responsibility…
Did I ever go back there? I couldn’t – he went out of business and closed his doors soon after, and I had to write it all down to experience…
I’ve moved towns since then, and my wife has a new car, which she religiously takes to the franchise dealer she bought it from, and nothing I say will make her look at any other workshop.
Which brings me to the purpose of writing this article; how do you grow your automotive business in an atmosphere of reduced WoF business and increased competition?
The first thing to remember is that when customers come to your workshop there is an expectation that it’s going to cost them money, although in most cases it’s a grudge purchase, money they don’t want to spend, although they know they
At the same time their cars are important to them; in fact in many cases they are vital.
YOUR job isn’t just to do the work that will get them going again; it’s important that you have empathy when you explain what has to be done, and why it has to be done. Safety and reliability are what most people want from their cars, and it’s important you offer them both, performing a professional and transparent repair that is going to satisfy them that their money has been well spent.
Don’t try and be mysterious or supercilious, or fob them off with technicalities; in these days of the Internet and smart devices, they can easily look up what you’re talking about even if you make it complicated, so it’s best to keep it simple. Be competent and confident in your communication with your customers, and they will bring you their business.
Not just about price
At the same time as putting your customer’s – or potential customer’s – mind at rest about the quality of the work you’re going to do, you must also convince them that good quality comes at a price.
Unless you’ve got a financial fairy godmother, cutting prices to attract customers isn’t good business (unless it’s a short-term “special” at those times of the year when business is slow) as ultimately you’ll run out of cash!
At the same time you don’t want to get a reputation for being “cheap” as customers will then suspect that maybe you’re taking shortcuts in your work.
To do quality repair work doesn’t just require skill and knowledge; you must always install quality parts from trusted manufacturers, or you could end up having to do the whole job over, at your cost!
One of the things my wife likes about her chosen workshop is that they send her reminders when a services is due. And when she picks up her car they leave a note if they expect an extra repair will be needed at the next service, such as new drive belts. That way it’s not a surprise, and she can budget for it.
There’s an old saying, “He who whispers down a well, about the goods he has to sell, doesn’t make as many dollars as he who climbs a tree and hollers.” It’s a good adage; you can’t attract customers in a vacuum.
However, attracting customers isn’t just about offering “deals” As we mention above, people want quality, and you can only provide quality at the right price.
What’s much better is to build your brand. And brand building has two main drivers – you, and your staff. Building a brand is as much about perception as reality. The reality must be that you do a good job; the perception that you do THE BEST job, that your staff are polite yet knowledgeable, that quality comes first, that the customer is the most important person who walks through the door.
All your workshop communication touch points, ads, social media, service and all customer interactions must reflect a “quality over price” brand image; that way you will grow your business.
An honest job, at an honest price, friendly communication, and with the best work and the best parts quality; that’s the secret to grow your business and establish your brand to the consumer, resulting in more referral business and a high customer retention rate.
Remember, it takes 5.6 times the effort and cost to get a new customer than it does to retain an existing one!