Generating Word of Mouth

May 24, 2023
They say negative feedback travels far and wide, but how do you generate buzz of the positive variety among your community?

You want people talking about your shop. But how do you make sure the word around town is positive? What can you do to encourage the kind of buzz that brings new customers to your shop, and keeps previous customers coming back time and time again? 

Tom Zoebelein, owner of Stratosphere Studio, a marketing agency that specializes in helping repair shops grow their businesses, shares his top tips.  

As told to Lindsey Gainer 

Let Your Work Speak for Itself 

So much of how body shops get their customers comes down to three things: insurance referrals (if they are a direct repair program), digital marketing efforts to pull in new customers, and the work that you do and the reputation that you build one customer at a time—i.e. word of mouth. How many times in your day-to-day do you either ask a friend for "who was that XXX that you recommended?" or “does anybody know a good XXX?” In a business based on customer service, reputation, the quality of your work, your customer focus, even your ideal type of work (such as OEM-specific repairs) get conveyed and shared by word of mouth. While you can’t necessarily tie word of mouth directly back to your ROI like you can with marketing or advertising initiatives, it’s extremely important. Asking the question "how did you hear about us?" is a great way to track as best you can, though.

Create a Positive Buzz  

People are usually happy to share about excellent customer service if you ask them to, especially when you make it a point to let them know how important it is for your business. To ensure you’re getting the best feedback possible: 

  • Do exceptional work. 
  • Always provide top notch customer service. 
  • Communication, as with any relationship, is vital—don't leave your customers waiting for updates, delays or changes. Most of the time if you read a bad review on a body shop’s Google My Business page, it's due to bad communication … the shop was difficult to reach, they missed deadlines or didn’t provide updates, or there was a general lack of understanding on the customer’s part due to a lack of communication. 
  • Treat each customer like it's your first and only customer—even if they are not returning the same courtesy. 

Assume Customers are Looking at Reviews 

Always ask your customers for reviews—like I said before, most everyone checks reviews before they select a service provider these days. Right now, Google My Business reviews are the most valuable. Maybe in the future Bing or some other AI-powered search engine could replace Google, but until then Google is still where everybody goes to check reviews. A couple things to keep in mind: 

  • Google specifically states that you cannot solicit reviews in bulk (but does not define what "bulk" is), and says you cannot financially incentivize or "buy" reviews. So, don’t run contests in exchange for reviews. 
  • Another supposed red flag is getting a bunch of reviews from your own IP address (via your Wi-Fi), so avoid asking people to leave a review on the spot.  

Instead, encourage customers to leave a review after the fact by sending a follow-up email with a link to your Google listing, adding a postcard requesting a review to paperwork at pick up, or adding signage to your lobby or front desk. 

Once you have the reviews, you can use them as social media posts on your shop’s Facebook page, too. Sharing one or two reviews a week is a great way to leverage the feedback you’re getting for marketing. Also, anything that can drive people to your Google My Business page (like paid advertising) is going to get more people to see those reviews. 

Lastly, make sure you respond to all reviews—good or bad—right away. This shows people you care about their experience. Thank people for good reviews, and offer up the opportunity to contact the shop to discuss a negative review or issue further. Most of the time bad reviews are a result of poor communication. You have to really butcher a car to get a bad quality review. But if you don't clearly define how long the repairs will take or how estimates or the final bill is calculated, parts delays, etc., those will get you a bad review much faster than an issue with a repair. People remember how they were treated above all. 

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