Educating Customers on OEM Certifications
According to Lupe Hererra, many shop owners often assume customers know what they’re talking about. But that’s a misconception, he says. The plaques displaying all your certification mean a lot to you and your team. But to the customer? They might as well be trophies, Hererra says.
As the owner of Professional Collision Equipment (PCE), an equipment distributor in the Texas and New Mexico area, he’s spent more than 15 years visiting shops and observing the different ways in which they market their OEM certifications.
And there is a large missed opportunity if a shop fails to educate customers while they’re in the shop. Not only will it affect sales, but customers will believe they can get safe repairs at any non-certified shop.
Edward Pena—whose techs at North Texas Collision Center in Arlington, Texas, currently undergo certification training for Ford, GM, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Nissan, Infinity, and Hyundai through the Assured Performance Network—has found that customers with families and children take certifications more seriously. Because they care more, they’re genuinely interested in the repair process and understand repairing vehicles is complicated.
He adds that lack of education can hurt your customer retention rate. Because Pena makes it a point to educate those coming in, his customer retention rate stands around 95 percent.
Pena says that, generally, the customer is unaware of a certification’s true value. Most of the time, he or she believes you take a short class that will provide a certificate, or that those certifications are provided based on years of experience. Pena and Hererra outline the top ways that shops should educate customers on OEM certifications.
1) Get creative with messaging.
An effective way of advertising certifications is through a waiting room television, Hererra says.
Instead of playing a normal advertisement, the television displays certifications for the customers coming in. This way, Hererra says, when customers sit down in the lobby, they have an idea of what certifications mean. Because that knowledge is fresh in their heads, the shop doesn’t have to explain the importance of certifications nearly as much.
The display doesn’t have to be fancy. From Hererra’s experience, a three-minute video with vehicle logos and a blurb on why it’s important does the trick.
You can even have a short blog up on your website that does the same thing.
2) Collaborate with the community.
Because Hererra’s company is located in a smaller market of 120,000 people, he says the best way to educate customers is to schedule a class based on the market demographics.
Hererra partners with local colleges, high schools and collision centers to educate young drivers and their parents on the importance of selection when it comes to choosing a collision shop.
It’s important to tell your customers that with technologically advanced cars, it is crucial to take cars to a facility that has the proper equipment and training.
3) Show and tell.
Pena thoroughly explains to the customer what exactly is being repaired on their vehicle.
Take the time to introduce the company, Pena says. Let customers know you have a certified staff to work on their vehicles, and that the objective is to restore the vehicle to its original condition. You should note that non-certified technicians could not perform OEM-mandated work on their vehicles.
Pena explains his shop’s technology to assure customers he follows the highest quality standards and manufacturer procedures in order to fulfill all safety needs.
Then, he tells the customer he will be in constant communication, relaying the progress of the repair. By that moment, the customer feels confident about the company and knows his or her vehicle is in good hands.
Pena also gives his customers print-outs via ALLDATA that outline the repair and the OEM’s recommended procedure, providing a tangible takeaway they can comprehend.
4) Educate yourself.
The best way to educate your customers is to educate yourself first. Pena recommends joining industry groups and keeping up to speed with the the industry. Doing so inspired Pena to obtain his Tesla certification.
Once your shop nails down an OEM certification, dealerships are going to inform customers that you’re a certified shop in the area, resulting in advertising for your shop.
It also builds trust with the customer, as any type of education or certification makes the customer feel more comfortable.
5) Re-evaluate marketing.
How does your marketing educate your customers? Hererra says a good way to get your front-of-the-house staff on board with reaching every customer is by measuring marketing performance.
Delegate a marketing method to each staff member—such as mailers, social media or phone calls—and measure who has the best results. You can determine which campaign is best based on your closing ratio, Hererra says.
But also be sure to evaluate your ROI in customers. If you post on Facebook and got 700 views but only one referral, versus 300 mailers in which you received 10 referrals in return, which strategy is better? There isn’t a set number for success, but be sure to market to those that make up a large part of your database.
6) Have the tough conversations.
Not every shop can repair every car that comes through its door, so if you know you’re not certified in a particular make or can’t repair it for any reason, that doesn’t mean you’ve lost a customer for good.
Hererra had a client that once turned away a customer because the shop wasn’t aluminum certified through Ford. Three weeks later, the customer’s wife, who had a Chevy Suburban, got in an accident and ended up going to another shop.
This client of Hererra’s was Chevy certified, but because he couldn’t service the customer and failed to educate them on what other vehicles he could work on, the customer assumed that he couldn’t work on his wife’s car.
In these situations, Hererra says that the best thing a shop owner can do is be as transparent as possible. While you can’t repair their cars at the moment, let them know about all the other makes you can repair. That way if there’s a different car in the family, they know they can come to you.
Whatever you do, do not try and fix the car when you’re not trained to do so. Instead, providing your customer with a personal referral to another shop builds trust, he says.