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The Keys to Quickly Winning Over Customers

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In a bid to stand out among 14 other body shops in his area, Chuck Romano has developed a clear cut marketing strategy. 

Create a great first impression. And then never rest on your laurels. 

“The long and short of it is the customer experience,” says Romano, a veteran of 40 years in the auto industry who owns West Coast Collision in Cape Coral, Fla. “You can never stop (marketing). You have to do it every day.” 

From the second customers roll into the estimating area at West Coast Collision, Romano wants them to feel like they’re at a classy and immaculate facility. He makes sure the parking lot is free of any weeds or cracked pavement. He makes sure his office area resembles a four-star hotel’s lobby, with granite countertops and leather furniture. And, the shop owner makes sure customers are greeted promptly and cheerfully. 

After all, as Romano noted in a 2010 FenderBender article, most customers size up a shop within a few seconds of their arrival, and having a pristine facility can quickly shape a visitor’s perception. That’s why the Florida shop owner takes the following steps to make sure his shop leaves a lasting impression with customers. 

Be seen in the community. 

When FenderBender spoke with Romano a decade ago, his shop did $1.5 million in annual sales. In recent years he has added a pair of satellite locations, and the facilities have combined to grow the business’s sales figures four times over. One of the keys to that accomplishment, Romano notes, has been planting the seed by marketing his business through community involvement. 

When there’s a charity golf event in the area, for instance, West Coast Collision makes its presence felt in the form of on-site promotion and giveaways. 

As a result of getting out and about within the community, “people get to know you,” says Romano, who handles much of his business’s marketing by himself. “And, as time goes on, you get to be well-known, you gain a good reputation, and your (online, customer-review) ratings improve.” 

Provide shop tours. 

It’s easy to get in the good graces of potential customers when your staff is transparent. And there’s no better way to accomplish that than by letting your shop’s visitors take a quick tour of your shop floor, allowing them to rest assured that the back of the shop looks as impressive as the front. 

“When they walk out to the shop area for (even) two minutes,” Romano says, “when they get home they think ‘That’s where I want my car to get fixed.’

“People say it all the time: ‘It looks so nice that I’m sure you’re going to do a nice job on my car.’” 

Give away goodies. 

One way to quickly win over customers who are parents is by keeping their kids occupied during unexpected visits to a body shop. West Coast Collision’s staff accomplishes that by giving away tickets to the circus, or magnets, suckers, or caramels, not to mention free Matchbox cars. 

Romano, whose business boasts a CSI score of approximately 95, says it’s well worth spending money (specifically, nearly $2,000 per year on the Matchbox cars) to keep customers’ children occupied and content with candy or a toy.

“Parents are always appreciative,” of the giveaways, the shop owner notes.  

Stick to your script. 

Above all else, the key to effectively building a positive brand image as a shop owner is to be consistent, Romano says. In other words, have repetition with regard to every marketing endeavor you use, and constantly communicate with customers. 

“If you’re doing a one-time thing, it’s usually not going to work,” the shop owner says with regard to marketing. “If you’re not doing it all the time, then you’re wasting your money. Because people have a short memory.” 

Consistent marketing, Romano adds, “builds up over time. And, for us, it has definitely helped build a really strong brand.”

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