From the moment a customer drops off a vehicle to the moment he or she picks it up, it’s all about one thing, Karissa Williams says.
“It’s all about creating an experience,” says Williams, marketing and human resources director for Offutt Collision Repair in Bellevue, Neb. “If they ever have to see us again, they should know that we made this experience as good as it could possibly be.”
From the way she markets her shop to the service her customers experience, Williams is instituting the lessons she learned from Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service by Ted Kinni. In fact, as a marketing professional, Williams is constantly absorbing books that have shaped the way Offutt markets itself to the public.
Williams, along with three other marketing professionals who have appeared in FenderBender, shared their top picks for books that will help you rethink the way your shop markets itself to the public.
Give ’em the Pickle
by Bob Farrell and Bill Perkins
In a market as competitive as collision repair, it’s all about perception. How does the public perceive your business? What separates you from the rest? What are you offering that other shops won’t?
And after a less-than-pleasant trip to a restaurant where he couldn’t get the waiter to bring him an extra pickle for his meal, author Bob Farrell found one simple strategy for making a business stand out: Just … give ’em the pickle.
“If you make the customer upset one time, they never come back, or they’ll tell their friends how horrible it was,” says Meleah Montgomery, who uses the Give ’em the Pickle mentality when working with customers. “Sometimes it’s that one little extra step that makes the difference between a one-time transaction and gaining a fan for life.”
As regional marketing director for Oklahoma-area MSO Collision Works and a past FenderBender Award winner, Montgomery has stressed this mentality among her employees when working with customers. It’s a seemingly miniscule shift that, in turn, created an improved reputation for her shops. Simple little actions that go that extra step have gone on to improve the shop’s word-of-mouth marketing in her eyes.
Take one customer who recently wanted to leave her vehicle at the shop while out of town, which meant she did not have transportation to the airport. Montgomery’s estimator got someone else to cover duties while the estimator drove the woman to the airport, which was “going above and beyond” in the customer’s eyes.
“Sometimes it’s just listening,” Montgomery says. “This person has been in a horrific accident. It’s something we deal with every day, but these customers don’t. So when they come in, they need someone to listen and give them that little something extra to help get them through it.”
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
by Robert Cialdini
As the founder of Marami Marketing Group, Philipp Lomboy frequently works with collision repair shops on forming marketing campaigns. After a consultation, Lomboy will frequently send a marketing book as a “thank you” for their time—and that includes Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
As a professor of psychology and marketing, the book’s author, Robert Cialdini, lays out five “triggers” you can use to get people to say “yes” to what you ask. Any one business owner marketing his shop’s service should live by at least three of those principles, Lomboy says:
Reciprocity is when someone gives us something and we feel compelled to give something back in return. In the book, Cialdini uses restaurants as an example. When you visit a restaurant and are given the bill, there’s a good chance the waiter will have included a mint, a fortune cookie—some kind of “gift.” This, in turn, creates a social pressure to “square up.”
Simply put: If you offer your customers something “extra,” whether it’s a coffee or a free ride somewhere, they’ll feel better about giving you their business.
Commitment and Consistency
This is a straightforward principle, yet one that is often overlooked. Consistency is activated by looking for, and asking for, small initial commitments that can be made. When seeking to influence using the consistency principle, you should put your commitments to the customers in writing and then form a system so that each person on staff adheres to those commitments.
This principle pushes the idea of selling your employees as credible, knowledgeable experts. In a case study highlighted by Cialdini, real estate agents trained their staff members to always mention the agent’s credentials and expertise when speaking with customers. As a result, it led to a 20 percent rise in the number of appointments and a 15 percent increase in the number of signed contracts.
Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service
by Ted Kinni
Ted Kinni has traveled all over the country pitching the “Disney experience,” which is all about exceeding expectations rather than simply satisfying them. During the last 25 years, thousands of business owners and marketing professionals have attended business programs at the Disney Institute and learned how to adapt Kinni’s approach—including Karissa Williams.
“The idea behind the whole Disney experience is to build something so spectacular that they don’t even know what they're missing,” says Williams, Offutt Collision Repair’s marketing and HR director. “People will say, ‘I have to go. This has to be part of my family’s life.’”
This is, of course, a tall task for a collision repair shop, which nobody wants to visit. Williams has accepted that as a challenge, however, and decided to implement the Disney model by employing Kinni’s “Quality Service Compass,” which aims to make the Offutt “experience” one that stands above the rest.
Compass Point 1: Guestology
Guestology means identifying the needs, wants, perceptions and emotions of your “guests.” Since collisions are emotional events for customers, Williams says understanding the state in which the customer enters your shop will shape the way you sell your business and how you treat the customer during the repair process.
“I try to study people that walk through our door and change their perception of us,” she says. “People come in and they’re frustrated. It’s on us to calm them down, make them feel at home in the lobby, bring them down a level. We say things like, ‘Your family is OK,’ ‘You can always buy a new car,’ ‘That’s why we have insurance.’”
Compass Point 2: Quality Standards
This means establishing quality standards that will serve as measures for quality service. For Williams, this all comes down to branding, and the perception your shop has in the community before a customer even walks into your shop. Williams, as noted in a past FenderBender story, spends a lot of time in the community performing grassroots marketing, building the good name of her shop.
Compass Point 3: Delivery Systems
Disney promotes three types of delivery systems: employees, setting and processes. For Williams, this starts with her frontline employees who greet the customers as they walk in.
“That’s where the magic happens,” Williams says. “They’re with the customers, getting a coloring book for their children or a treat for their dog. We find these little extra moments to wow people. That’s really powerful. People remember those things.”
Compass Point 4: Integration
Integration simply means that the three delivery systems are combined and aligned to create a complete operating system.
“You have to have good leadership and inspire employees and get them to buy in on the mission,” Williams says. “That’s why we dress nicely, spend money on our landscape, and keep our online reputation clean. Everyone is focused on positivity.”