Automotive shop programs drive word-of-mouth marketing for your business. What people say online about your shop will impact the future of your business. People trust reviews from other customers; after all, those are the people who tried out your business and took the time to share their thoughts.
Think about it. If you’ve ever wanted to try out a restaurant but read multiple reviews that said the place was swarming with mosquitos, the food tasted bland, and the waitstaff was rude, are you likely to go there? Probably not—unless mosquitos, bland food, and rude waitstaff are your thing. Or, if you read several reviews about a barber or hairstylist you’re considering, and the reviews are full of complaints about uneven haircuts and bad dye jobs, you’ll likely decide not to take that chance with your good looks.
Now, bad meals and bad haircuts aren’t fun, but also aren’t the end of the world. After a bad haircut, your hair will (usually!) grow back. Vehicle repairs are more serious. People depend on their vehicles to get where they need to be, and if things aren’t running smoothly, their livelihoods and wellbeing could be at risk.
When customers walk into your auto repair shop, they’re trusting you and your team with the health of their vehicle, one of their most expensive assets. They’re coming in with a problem or set of problems and expect your team to effectively fix those problems in a reasonable time frame. If the problems aren’t fixed correctly, if they aren’t fixed in a reasonable time frame, or if other things go wrong—like a misunderstanding over pricing with a service advisor—customers probably won’t recommend your shop to their friends and family. Even worse, they might leave your shop a negative online review that discourages other people from going there.
Negative Reviews Harm Your Shop
According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review survey, in 2021, 77% of respondents indicated “‘always’” or “‘regularly’” reading reviews when searching for businesses in their area. How disastrous are negative online reviews? Only a mere 3% of respondents said they’d even consider going to a business with an average rating that’s less than three stars.
On the flip side, positive reviews will bring in more profits. Research has revealed that customers “are likely to spend 31% more on a business with ‘excellent’ reviews.” Good reviews lead to more customers; more customers mean the chance to get more good reviews. It’s an upward cycle for your business.
Fortunately, positive reviews are something you can actively encourage. By taking certain key steps, you can impress your customers, boost your online image, and generate more profits.
The 6 Fundamentals of Stellar Auto Repair Customer Experiences
So, what do shops seeking to score two thumbs up, ten out of ten ratings, or five stars from their customers look to improve first? As obvious as it sounds, the foundation for quality online reviews is excellent customer service.
In the auto repair industry, there are six fundamentals to creating quality customer experiences:
- Agency: Give customers more of a say in the repair process to help them feel like they’re working alongside you. Think of it as a reciprocal relationship.
- Efficiency: Finish repairs quickly and efficiently. Customers want to get back on the road as soon as possible and will be thankful for your shop’s speed and diligence.
- Communication: Keep customers in the loop to help them plan their day better and show them that your team is on top of things.
- Flexibility: Make it easy for customers to get in touch with your shop so they can quickly get any updates and clarifications they need. The easier it is for customers to contact your shop, the better it will reflect on you.
- Simplicity: Make payment a breeze. When the repairs are all done, customers will want to get behind the wheel fast. They’ll appreciate an easy payment process.
- Giving Back: Whether you offer a referral program, special events, discounts, or a bunch of balloons for your 1000th guest, customers feel appreciated when you recognize them.
How Automotive Shop Programs Strengthen Customer Service
Automotive shop programs can help you across all six fundamentals of stellar auto repair customer experiences. Automotive shop programs give you the tools you need to make life easier for your team and customers across the different stages of the repair process.
Of course, we’re by no means claiming that automotive shop programs are the be-all, end-all keys to winning customers over in these areas. Software won’t message your customers, finish repairs, and dish out friendly smiles to everyone who walks into your shop.
However, what software can do is streamline your team’s ability to provide exceptional customer experiences and service that gets people behind the wheel in an efficient manner, and has them coming back with their friends and family in tow. Here’s an analogy. You may use a payroll company to put money in your employees’ bank accounts each payment period, but the payroll company isn’t giving you that money. You still have to go out and earn that money, then filter it through the payroll company to pay your employees the right amount on time. The payroll company simply facilitates payments to make it easier on you, the business owner.
Automotive shop programs facilitate you and your team’s ability to offer great customer experiences. Here’s how.
Step back for a moment and think about your own experiences as a customer. Let’s say you want to throw a college football viewing party, but you’re in a rush and don’t have time to walk around your grocery store. Luckily, your grocery store offers curbside pickup. Using the store’s app, you can browse what’s in stock and place an order for the exact brand of chips, salsa, and lemonade you want. Isn’t having that agency over your order nice?
Grocery shopping and getting vehicle repairs are two very different things, but your customers would appreciate agency, too. While you and your team are the experts, they want a level of knowledge and say in the repair process. Specifically, they want to know which repairs are the most urgent, and an easy way to tell your team which repairs they do and don’t want.
How Automotive Shop Programs Give Customers More Agency
The common way shops get repair authorizations from customers is verbally, either in person or over the phone. A service advisor might show or email the customer the inspection results, and the customer will verbally affirm the repair work they want.
But this approach is rife with risk for misunderstandings. For instance, a customer might not correctly hear a service advisor and approve an item on the estimate that they actually didn’t want. Now, there’s a dispute—and hurt feelings. After leaving your shop, the next place the customer heads to is your Google business page to leave a salty review. They stop by your Facebook and Yelp business pages, too. Potential prospects will read those reviews without knowing your side of the story.
If you want to avoid these challenging miscommunications and misunderstandings in the first place, give customers clarity on what’s going on with their vehicles with digital vehicle inspections. Digital vehicle inspections give you a way to transparently show your customers what’s going on with their vehicles, as well as a way they can clearly indicate how they want to proceed.
Tekmetric’s digital vehicle inspections make repairs a more comfortable ride for your customers. First, technicians can concisely break down findings, send photos and videos of issues, and indicate the severity of each issue using a color-coded system. Then, service advisors can quickly put together estimates that clearly display those findings and email or text them to customers.
Customers will then receive their estimates and clearly see which issues are the most pressing, as well as the expected costs. They can check off the repair work they want to be done. And with customers’ digital authorizations, your team can start tackling repairs faster, with more clarity.
Think about times when you’ve had to wait longer than usual to get service. If you’ve ever had to wait for an hour to be served at a restaurant when the place wasn’t even crowded, you probably walked away pretty grumpy. You were hungry and all you wanted was some food, but it took forever. In fact, you might have gotten so frustrated that you vowed to never return to that restaurant again.
It’s a similar deal with your customers. They don’t expect your team to snap their fingers and put them back on the road. But your customers also don’t want to wait way longer than the time you promised them they’d get their vehicles back. Of course, if the repair in question is an extensive one, and you communicate with that customer in advance that it will take a long time, you’ve done your job to set reasonable expectations between your shop and the customer. But by and large, your customers expect to get their vehicles back promptly, within a certain time range. They have places to be; they need their cars.
If your team drags out repairs, customers may get cranky, and potentially leave you bad reviews. But by getting your team to work more harmoniously, you can create greater harmony with your customers. You can even prioritize jobs based on the promised time out you gave to customers, and by waiting versus drop-off status.
How Automotive Shop Programs Help Your Team Move Jobs Along Faster
Earlier, we mentioned that cohesive digital vehicle inspections and estimates lead to faster repair approvals, enabling your technicians to start working on repairs ASAP.
But a lot needs to go right after customers give their repair approvals. Specifically, your service advisors need to know which jobs need to be assigned, which technicians are available to work on them, and which repairs need to be prioritized.
Tekmetric’s two main workflow tools, the Job Board and Tech Board, help service advisors and technicians work together transparently, collaboratively, and efficiently.
The Job Board gives service advisors a high-level overview of every repair order at your shop. They can see which repair orders are pending authorization, in progress, or completed. Your team can even see more specific details at a glance, like which repair orders still need parts ordered, so they can swiftly move repairs along. For instance, if a service advisor sees that a repair order is still waiting on parts to be ordered, they can quickly get that sorted out and push the repair forward.
With the Tech Board, service advisors see one column that has all unassigned repair orders listed. To the right of that column, they see columns for every technician at your shop. Those technician columns show service advisors exactly what each technician has on their plate, so they can then assign the outstanding repair orders to the technicians that have the most availability, evening out workloads at your shop.
Tekmetric also enables service advisors to dispatch specific jobs in one repair order to different technicians. So, if every technician at the shop is equally busy, the service advisor can dispatch a job from an outstanding repair order to every technician to avoid lopsided workloads.
The Tech Board also serves a nifty purpose for technicians. Technicians can glance at the Tech Board and know exactly what they’re responsible for each day—and in which order they should tackle repairs. The Tech Board is their digital to-do list.
People like to be kept in the loop, especially when they’re spending a lot of money. For instance, if you’re in the process of getting approved for a mortgage, you would probably appreciate your banker calling you whenever there’s a new, significant update. Those updates will help you plan your future; you’ll know if you need to change course, and when.
A car repair isn’t as large of an investment as a mortgage, but it’s still a pretty big thing to trust someone with! According to Massachusetts-based Leader Bank, cars are the second most costly item the majority of Americans own (the first being homes).
Regular updates will help them feel better about their vehicle being in your hands. They’ll feel reassured and know that the repair is going well.
Those updates will also help customers better plan their day. If their repair is ahead of schedule, for instance, and a service advisor calls them to let them know, they’ll know they can leave the next-door cafe and go home earlier than they expected. If the repair is a bit behind schedule, the customer will appreciate the heads up about that, too.
How Automotive Shop Programs Help You Keep Customers in the Loop
Tekmetric’s Job Board gives service advisors a snapshot of how far along every repair order at your shop is.
The Job Board’s column view shows a blue progress bar and the percentage of work completed within each repair order card, so service advisors can communicate updates to customers without ever having to leave their workstations and interrupt technicians’ flow states. As each technician works and marks labor lines as complete within their own work area in the system, service advisors will see the corresponding updates and be able to tell customers exactly where their repairs stand.
For instance, if a service advisor looks at the Job Board and sees that customer Fred Flintstone’s repair is 75% complete, they can send Fred a text right from the Job Board, letting him know that the roof of his car is fixed and he can come to pick up his Flintmobile soon.
Have you ever had to take your dog to the vet? If so, you probably know what it's like to wait around for news about how they're doing. When you call and they don't pick up, it can make you anxious. What are they doing with Fido? Why aren’t they picking up? Next time Fido needs a checkup, you may try a different vet.
A car isn't a dog, but even so, customers still like to know they can easily get in touch with someone at your shop when they need to. If they’re able to quickly and conveniently contact a service advisor to set an appointment and get updates, they’ll walk away much happier than if they struggle to get ahold of someone.
How Automotive Shop Programs Simplify How Your Customers Get In Touch With Your Shop
Tekmetric simplifies communication for your team and your customers with Tekmessage True Two-Way Texting.
Adding your shop’s phone number to the system opens a new channel of streamlined communication. Tekmessage enables service advisors to message any customer directly from the Tekmetric system. The message will show up as a regular text message on the customer’s smartphone, and they can text right back. Back at the shop, every service advisor with access to Tekmetric will see their response.
You might be wondering, why not just stick to good old phone calls? Well, think about it this way. With so many people out and about, running from one errand to the next, texting is often a faster and easier way to communicate. With phone calls, some details can be misunderstood or missed altogether, creating a tiresome game of telephone tag. But with true two-way texting, your team and your customers will be able to avoid those pitfalls and exchange information with more clarity.
Plus, with Tekmessage, there will be a record of the information exchanged between your shop and the customer within Tekmetric’s system, enabling you to safeguard your shop. If a customer later says that they never got a text message about their repair from your shop, you can easily pull up the sent message within Tekmetric to let them know, “Hey, I think you didn’t get the message due to a service issue with your mobile carrier; on our end, it shows that the message was sent at this particular time.” In turn, that will impress the customer and increase their trust in your shop. They won’t think you’re skirting around the issue to avoid responsibility. Instead, they’ll know that you’ve done your due diligence and that sometimes, things can happen that are outside of people’s control.
How easy is it for your customers to pay you? If it’s difficult for them to pay you—through no fault of their own—they might start to question their decision to give you their business.
Look back at your own experiences. Maybe you really wanted to buy something from a store with a broken credit card machine and didn’t have cash on you. You had to trek to the nearest ATM, get cash, and then go back to the store to pay. Or, maybe you thought going through all of that was too much effort, so you just decided to not buy the item. The store lost your business because it was difficult for you to pay.
An inefficient payment process can sour the customer’s impression of your shop, even if the customer has had a great experience with your team up until then. The reason comes down to the fact that people tend to remember the beginnings and endings of things the most clearly, rather than the middle parts. You can fix a car well, but if your guest has a hard time picking their vehicle up, that will stick in their memory.
Additionally, an inefficient payment process can also frustrate your service advisors. Why not make it easier on your team so they can make life easier for your customers?
How Automotive Shop Programs Make It Easier for You to Get Paid
Tekmerchant Text-to-Pay benefits all customers, especially those on the go. With Tekmerchant, service advisors can send customers a payment link right to their smartphones when it's time to pay, and customers can then quickly punch in their credit numbers and authorize payments on a secure platform. They won’t have to repeat themselves on the line with a service advisor or ask for clarification about what they’re paying for. Tekmerchant puts all the repair and payment details in front of your customers so they can pay without any unnecessary annoyances.
Tekmerchant also benefits your team. They’ll have an easier time collecting payment and will be able to keep track of which customers have paid, and which customers haven’t. Service advisors can even send invoices to accounts receivable if needed. And in the Accounts Receivable Report, you can view all open balances at your shop, and reach out to any customers who have overdue payments.
- Giving Back
Have you ever gotten a special promotion or discount because you referred someone? Many online retailers and service providers run these types of promotions; for example, if you invite your friend to order from a site using a custom referral link, and they place their first order, you can get a certain percentage off of your next order.
These promotions accomplish two things: gaining a new customer and keeping an existing customer happy. The new customer is excited about getting a discount for a product or service they’ve really been wanting to try; the existing customer is happy about the company showing them, “Hey, we value you!”
You too can benefit from a referral program where you give back to your customers. You could, for instance, offer customers who refer one new customer to your shop 25% off of their next repair. Of course, you want to be mindful if you do decide to give out these types of discounts. Sometimes, a promotion might end up negatively cutting into your bottom line instead of raising your shop’s profits.
Additionally, giving back to your customers doesn’t necessarily have to be by way of a referral/incentive program where customers get discounts. Giving back can involve doing something as simple as handing a customer their favorite soda to sip on while they wait out their repair, or giving all customers who come to your shop during the holiday season a small gift, like a keychain or mug, to show them you appreciate their business. A little swag goes a long way.
Build Gratitude Into Your Workflow With Automotive Shop Programs
Tekmetric makes it easy for your service advisors to apply discounts to repair orders. Service advisors can access the payment tab of any specific repair order and click the “Edit RO Discounts button” to add the right discount.
Additionally, Tekmetric offers various real-time reports that help you evaluate promotions and discounts:
- Discounts Report: Like the name implies, the Discounts Report dives into the discounts you’ve given, breaking them down by labor discount, parts discount, sublet discount, fees discount, and/or fixed discount on job/RO. This report will also show you the total discount before cap and total discount after cap.
- End-of-Day Report: This report lets you customize your profit and profit margins data by time range. In the RO Summary section of the report, you can look at the “Discounts” line to see how much in discounts you’ve given across all ROs at your shop in a given time range. In the Profit Summary section of the report, you can get a snapshot of the total amount in discounts you’ve given on labor, parts, sublets, tires, and batteries; you can also see your net sales, cost, profit as dollars, and profit as percentages.
- Profit Details Report: This report enables you to visualize your labor profit, parts profit, sublet profit, fees profit, or total profit (within a time range of your choosing) as a line or bar graph. If you see any peaks or dips in your profits, you can tweak your promotions and discounts to make up for it.
- RO Marketing Source: With this report, you can see which sources drove business for new and repeat repair orders at your shop in a time range of your choice. For instance, you can see how much in total sales a particular Google ad or referrals brought in. You can organize the data in several ways—Total RO Sales by Source, New Sales by Source, Repeat Sales by Source, Avg. RO by Source, GP $ by Source, GP % by Source, and Close Ratio by Source.
- Customer Lead Source: This report breaks down what drove business for new customers in particular. You can see how many new customers, and how much in profits, is attributed to your specific marketing efforts.
Tekmetric also has a Customer Notes feature that makes it easy for your service advisors to jot down those “need-to-know” and “nice-to-know” things about your customers and their vehicles, such as their:
- General pick-up and drop-off preferences
- Favorite soda to sip on in the lobby
- Preferred reading material for waiting in the lobby
- Nickname (if they use one)
- Birthday (useful for knowing if you want to send them a special birthday promo)
These tidbits of information can help you and your team provide an even more stellar experience to your customers. Wouldn’t you be impressed if you walked into the lobby of your bank and they handed you your favorite soda? After all, providing stellar customer service is a blend of paying attention to the big things and the little things.
Good Customer Service Starts With A Good Work Environment
Good customer service starts with a good work environment.
The various features in automotive shop programs can help you maintain a good work environment by smoothing out your shop’s workflows. With features like Tekmessage True Two-Way Texting, the Job Board, and the Tech Board, you and your team members can work alongside each other collaboratively and efficiently. Everyone will have clarity on who is responsible for what, and what’s going on at the shop at any given moment.
When your team is relaxed and getting along, not scrambling to find out who’s responsible for what, they’ll naturally be able to interact with customers in a more relaxed, friendly manner. Even without your team members saying a word, your customers will automatically pick up on that happy, calm energy.
Of course, automotive shop programs alone won’t nurture good work environments and friendly customer service. You still need to be a strong leader who sets a good example for your employees with policies that help them shine their brightest and achieve their professional and personal goals.
And it doesn’t hurt to give your team members a few training sessions on what constitutes good customer service. Those training sessions don’t have to be external, either—you can bring your wealth of knowledge to the table and put together a few presentations on best practices you’ve seen and cultivated during your time in the industry. Some of the tips you could share include:
- Always greeting customers with a smile
- Empathizing with customers when they get frustrated
- Responding to customers’ questions as soon as possible
Remind Customers to Leave Reviews
While it’s natural to think that every customer who has a stellar experience at your shop will run back home and leave you a positive review, unfortunately, that’s not the case. Just like you might not leave a review for every awesome restaurant you visit, your customers might not leave a review even if they loved the repair service they received at your shop.
But it doesn’t hurt to politely ask! The worst thing a customer can say is “no.” You can train your service advisors to ask customers something along the lines of, “We enjoyed serving you today! Would you mind leaving us a review, please? It would really help us out.” Be sure to instruct your service advisors to tell customers where they should leave their reviews (such as Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc.).
Other ways you can encourage customers to leave reviews include emailing customers afterward to ask them if they could please share their experience with others, giving them review templates, and offering incentives (like $5 Starbucks gift cards).
Responding to Negative Reviews
Unfortunately, however, you might still get a negative review here and there, even if you do implement all of these tips. Not everyone will be fair to your shop.
If you do get a negative online review, it’s important that you remain level-headed. You can address any negative online reviews by answering quickly, thoughtfully, and professionally. You should also consider leaving a response to the negative online review where you acknowledge the customer’s concerns and offer to speak to them personally. If they take you up on the offer, speak with them offline, without making the conversation personal, to pinpoint why they had a negative experience, and learn what you can do better.
Another helpful way to go about negative reviews is to have a game plan in place. For example, some questions to think through are:
- Who will monitor your shop’s various online review profiles to catch bad reviews?
- Who will be responsible for putting together a response?
- How fast do you want to respond?
- Will you have a general response template that you can then customize as needed?
Responding to Positive Reviews
As far as responding to positive online reviews, the hospitality industry offers some insights. A few years ago, researchers at the University of Denver looked at consumer hotel reviews on TripAdvisor and found that for hotels with many positive reviews, management responding to online reviews would be a revenue risk. But if the hotel had just a few positive reviews, management responding could help increase revenue. Granted, the researchers were looking at a totally different industry than auto repair, but their findings are good food for thought.
Here’s another dish: The company Baazarvoice found that 41% of consumers think a brand’s response to online reviews indicates that the brand cares about its customers. Granted, Baazarvoice was looking at consumer reviews as a whole, not just positive or negative reviews.
No matter how you decide to approach positive reviews, have a game plan in place that helps you remain consistent. For instance, if you decide that yes, you do want to say “thank you” in response to every positive online review, some things to consider are:
- Will you do this for every review platform your shop is on?
- Will you be the sole person responsible for responding, or will your team members get involved as well?
- Will you set aside a block of time each week to respond to these reviews?
Also, when you get positive reviews, think long-term! Take a screenshot of them (things on the internet can disappear) and ask the customer if you can use their reviews on other materials, like your website and flyers. Use each positive review in multiple ways to gain more business. Then, use that new business to generate even more positive reviews!