Drive More Customers to Your Collision Center
The growth of your collision center depends on your ability to gain new customers. Unfortunately, the scope of marketing efforts for many collision shops is to place an ad in the local yellow page phone book. Not that this practice is a bad one, but there is much more that shop management can do to drive more customers to the collision shop.
Do you have a marketing plan for your collision center? If not, you should. An effective marketing plan can bring more customers to your door. Through the process of developing and writing a marketing plan for your shop, you will conduct a competitive review and market analysis, advertising and media options, and identify ways to build customer awareness as well as leverage referral business. And in today's world, the task of writing a marketing business plan is much easier than in days past. There are numerous tools and resources available to you through your paint jobber and other collision shop consultants to assist you in getting this important task completed.
Another important key to gaining new business is tracking and measuring current business through Customer Satisfaction Indexing (CSI). Most dealership conduct CSI on new car sales and some do it with their service departments, but research shows very few perform this important business function at the shop level. As in other areas of a dealership, when properly done, a well-ran CSI program for the collision center will help turn customer feedback into useful marketing and management tools that insure long-term profitability. And remember, for greatest effectiveness, CSI should be done on a consistent and ongoing basis, and administrated by a third party for the highest level of credibility. Keep this statistic in mind when considering implementing a shop CSI program: The average disgruntled customer tells 17 people about his experience. How many people will those people tell?
Speaking of referrals use your satisfied customers to help spread your good name around. Start sending your customers a Thank You card for choosing your shop to bring their pride and joy back to pre-accident condition. And take it a step further by enclosing a small "pass along" card (printed on one side with your shop info) that your customer fills out with their name, address and contact info on the backside. The idea is to get your customer to "pass along" this referral card to a friend, family member or associate that we all know will likely be in an accident sometime soon – especially if they drive in any metropolitan area. Increase the "pass along" success rate with an incentive for the person who passes it along once a referral uses your shop. Reward them with a gift certificate to a restaurant, tickets to a movie, or maybe just cash. Get creative. Nothing beats word of mouth advertising.
Can the service center help promote the collision center? Of course it can. How many vehicles pass through the service center with dents, dings, crumpled fenders and bruised bumpers? Probably plenty. Educate the service staff to make note of body damage when vehicles are brought in and have informational material on the collision center ready for handout to the customer. Take a minute or two and promote the collision center – and vice versa.
How long has it been since your dealership conducted a "Customer Appreciation Day"? These events go a long way in showing your customers that you really appreciate their business. They also provide an excellent venue to showcase your many services and an opportunity to educate customers about what really goes on behind the scenes of today's professional shop environment. When it comes to gaining customers for the collision center, the seed should be planed before the customer is in an accident.
There are off-the-shelf "Accident Kits" available that can be included with new car sales. These kits include items such as a checklist of what to do in case of an accident, paper and pen, tape measurer, accident report form, and some even include a disposable camera that can be customized with your business name, logo and contact information. Another way to "plant the seed" is to produce a short informative video CD about the collision center and what the customer should do if they have an accident. The CD would also be included with all car sales and customers would be encouraged to view the video soon after the purchase. These are just several ideas on ways to gain collision center customers before they have an accident. And with some creative thinking, I know you can think of many more.
Having an automobile accident is usually a very stressful and sometimes traumatic experience for most people. By educating and preparing your customers for this event, you are doing them a favor and keeping your business in their mind when it comes time to choosing a shop to repair their vehicle.