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Customer Service Key in 2010

Published in Radiator Magazine, March 2010

After a tumultuous 2009, business is picking up and returning to normal for many. So how has the automotive industry fared during such a period of economic uncertainty? Overall, not as badly as other sectors it seems, but there are some things workshop owners need to consider that will help keep the wheels on their business turning during 2010.

Of the many challenges facing automotive workshops, a key is trying to acquire new customers, while at the same time generating repeat business with current clients.

One of the most common themes I hear is the huge part that quality service plays in customer satisfaction. It can really make or break a customer’s experience and mechanics I’ve talked to agree that the recent downturn really “weeded out” those who weren’t on top of their game.

Morris Tuner, owner of Stag 4x4, a specialist repairer of late model Land Rovers in Auckland, says looking after your customers is vital for retaining them. “If you’re not seen to be looking after your customers and doing a good and fair job, you’re going to lose them. They’re going to go with who they trust and rely on; it’s as simple as that”.
His comments are echoed by Campbell Brown, owner of Auckland repairer, Autowise Mobile Mechanic.  “I think the downturn has made workshop owners up their game a bit more. Customer service is becoming really important more so now than ever.”
So how can workshop owners ensure satisfied customers and repeat business as 2010 progresses?

  • Ensure your staff are well-versed in customer service – You know how important honesty and integrity are when running a workshop and it’s vital your staff are following the same set of rules when it comes to customer service. It only takes one comment or action from one staff member to disgruntle a customer – and the ongoing effects of that can be disastrous
  • Ensure clear and consistent business processes – This will help to ensure all staff members are on the same page. From emails and phone calls, WOF and service reminders to the way you process and follow-up invoices, there needs to be clear processes on how to deal with such transactions and how staff interact with clients along the way
  • Ensure you keep customer records up to date and easily accessible – No customer likes waiting while you look through piles of paper trying to find old invoices of previous work you’ve carried out on their vehicle. A central and easy-to-search repository of previous vehicle history notes or invoices is vital when running a busy workshop

The introduction of computer software to manage key business processes is becoming more popular and, as Campbell explains, can really make a difference to the level of professionalism you provide to customers. “I use my computer program to produce service reminders which I send out regularly to customers and found it’s resulting in a lot of repeat business for me. Being a mobile mechanic, I also use the software to print invoices on the road, which I can instantly give to customers following the completion of a job. They are really impressed with the level of professionalism this provides”.

Not only can technology help standardise business processes; it can also help you keep ahead of the competition. After starting 2010 with a “hiss and a roar”, Morris credits his levels of success largely to the high levels of customer service that using software to keep his business organised has brought him. “It’s made everything more efficient and it means I’ve been able to improve service levels”.