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Benefits of Female-Friendly Certification

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A few months ago, Mark Kim was looking for a way to improve customer service at his collision repair center. While watching a television interview featuring a nearby automotive business, the body shop manager of J’s Auto Body in Seabrook, Md., learned about a new training certification: AskPatty Certified Female Friendly status.

As a small shop—spanning 3,600 square feet and employing six people—J’s Auto Body relies heavily on referrals and word of mouth to generate business. Kim quickly realized that being Certified Female Friendly would help him better serve—and serve more—female customers.

An AskPatty.com certified auto body shop creates an inviting and comfortable environment where women feel welcome, striving to ensure that the process of repairing a vehicle is a pleasant one. To get certified, employees study the expectations of female customers, and learn how to meet those expectations in a way that women find appealing. Even within the first two months of completing the AskPatty.com training, the staff at J’s Auto Body was seeing an uptick in the number of female clients.

REACHING WOMEN

Jody DeVere, president and chief executive officer of AskPatty.com Inc., was inspired to create the female friendly website and certification program during her tenure as president of the Women’s Automotive Association in 2004 and 2005. She saw that women often experienced anxiety over their automotive needs. A hassle-free environment where information was easy to come by and questions were easily asked—and answered—seemed to be missing from the automotive experience for women.

Most practically, DeVere noted that women comprise 60 percent of car buyers and influence 85 percent of all consumer purchases. “You’re losing market share if you’re not addressing women,” she says.

Effective communication with women begins as soon as you make contact. Taking the time to listen—really listen—to what she’s saying is critical. “What happens when she calls or visits your [shop] and interacts with [employees]?” DeVere asks. “Women love to talk, and we’re big storytellers. If we’ve had a fender bender, we’re going to tell the story of what happened and every other story that led up to that.”

To best serve the female customer, a collision repair professional needs to let a woman tell her story and ask her questions. “It makes her feel safe and more comfortable,” DeVere says. “Understanding that creates a customer for life and increases referral business.”

So far, 50 collision repair shops across the nation have become AskyPatty.com Certified Female Friendly.

REVAMPING BUSINESS

At J’s Auto Body, the customer service lesson that made the biggest impression was one about minding the details that seem to capture the attention of many a woman. Kim says training helped him focus on the small, yet significant, things that matter to women. One of the most overlooked? Good eye contact. “Things like that we had never considered before,” he says. “Going through AskPatty [helped us] realize the deficiencies in our customer service.”

Now that Kim and his staff have a greater appreciation for and understanding of their female customers, he’s planning “major changes” to make the waiting area of the shop more inviting. Kim wants to knock out one of the shop’s walls to allow a clear view of the office. He’ll also spruce up the waiting area by rearranging chairs and adding plants to create a more inviting, open atmosphere. Also on the agenda? To maintain the shop’s cleanliness and keep stifling auto body shop smells at bay.

J’s website (jsautobodyshop.com) also received an overhaul to better serve female customers. “It was a little outdated, so I streamlined the layout,” Kim says. The site now boasts the AskPatty logo, which clicks through to ladies-only discounts and reviews of the body shop. The shop’s current discounts for women include $100 off her deductible for every $1,000 of repairs, $20 for referring a friend, coupons for military wives and a free car wash and light interior detailing.

Kim says one of the most valuable things he learned during training was how to have the right mindset when approaching female customers. “We’re not just a body shop; we’re trying to relate to [women].” He picked up valuable tips for how to connect with women online, as well. AskPatty introduced him to Internet marketing and the social networking world of Twitter and Facebook. “[AskPatty] is just a phone call away. I’ve talked to Jody herself several times. They’re great about helping.”

BETTER CONNECTIONS

To continue the trend of improving customer service for women, J’s plans to co-host community events with AskPatty. “We’re trying to work with AskPatty and our local Girl Scouts to do an automobile care clinic,” Kim says.

Women-friendly and women-focused events, Kim hopes, will increase word-of-mouth referrals. And when he sees those female customers coming through the door, he’ll be ready with female friendly customer service. “[This new approach] is still fresh, but we do get a lot more women customers now, and we’re more sensitive to their needs.” Odds are, that’ll keep the ladies happy.
 

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