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The Effortless Shop Experience

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For the longest time, when I first started learning the strategies and tactics of marketing, I tried to think of things that would leave a big and lasting impression.

Most of the books I read encouraged this. I read Seth Godin’s Purple Cow where he inspired his readers to find something so different and so amazing that people would just naturally want to talk about it. I also read Andy Sernovitz’s Word of Mouth Marketing and even attended a conference he hosted where the theme, again, was to be as over the top and remarkable as possible.

Just to be clear: I still really like Godin and Sernovitz’s ideas. I think they have a lot of merit. They are inspirational and challenging in a world where marketing is increasingly bland and similar. It truly is important to stand out.

But it’s not the most important piece of your marketing efforts. Try to take the point of view of your customer. If you were in their shoes, would you rather go to a shop that tried to wow you with some dazzling marketing tactic or even some over-the-top customer service? Or, would you like to get in and out of there as quickly as possible on both drop off and pickup?

Matthew Dixon in his co-authored book, aptly titled The Effortless Experience, writes, “Loyalty is driven by how well a company delivers on its basic promises and solves day-to-day problems, not on how spectacular its service experience might be. Most customers don’t want to be ‘wowed;’ they want an effortless experience. And they are far more likely to punish you for bad service than to reward you for good service.”

Convenience is king! The vast majority of your customers are busy people who would like to be inconvenienced as little as possible, not blown away by how creative you are. So the good news is that you do not have to dazzle people to make an impression. All you have to do is make their experience with you as easy as possible.

Here are a few ways you can do that:

1. Have a clear roadmap for what they can expect. Your customers need to know what the process is for getting their car repaired in about three steps. Do they get an estimate from you or from their insurance company? Will they be notified when it’s done, or are they expected to call you? Will a rental car meet them at the shop or do they need to arrange that themselves? Communicate the big picture in as few steps as possible both in person and on your website.

2. Kill the jargon. They do not know what “R&I” or “OEM” or “DRP” mean. Explain the estimate in simple terms they will immediately understand.

3. When there is a problem on a repair, make it as easy as possible to get it corrected. Are you willing to pick up their cars? Can you pay for rentals so they won’t be without transportation? What you’re going for ultimately is for them to say, “That was easier than I thought!” At that point you’ve won a loyal customer who will likely refer you and be happy to come back even though they had a problem. It’s typically not the problem that bothers people. It’s how it is handled.

One major way our shop is trying to make a huge stride in being effortless is by having “file handlers.” We actually changed the name to “care managers.” Turns out customers don’t want to be known as a “file” and certainly not something to be “handled.”

“Simplifying the customer experience actually creates more loyalty, referrals and goodwill than trying to be overly creative.”
—Kevin Rains, owner, Center City Collision and Precision Frame & Body

But before we had care managers, a customer would call and it wasn’t clear who they should talk to if they had a question or issue. Customers might end up talking to several different team members throughout the course of their repairs. At times we would even give somewhat conflicting impressions based on who handled the call. But by having a dedicated care manager for each individual customer, we have simplified their experiences and ours. It’s easy to know how to route calls and it’s easy for the customer to get through to the one person who is responsible for the repair from start to finish.

I’ve found that simplifying the customer experience actually creates more loyalty, referrals and goodwill than being overly creative in our marketing tactics.

How do you make things as easy as possible for your customers? Share your ideas and let’s spark a conversation about how we can all improve in this area.

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