Many years ago I briefly worked with a charitable organization that had every employee who had a few free moments call some prior contributors. Another private school I came in contact with had a similar policy of having idle employees personally call prior and potential students. Both of these organizations attributed a large degree of their success to these phone calls.
In this day of unwelcome “robocalls” and uninvited phone solicitations, can calls like this be effective? The fact that the calls continue already tells you that they must produce results or they wouldn’t be continued. Could a body shop produce similar results if idle employees called prior customers? A shop owner might complain, “I have thousands of prior customers. I couldn’t possibly call them all.”
Congressman Johnson has 653,647 constituents. If he called 100 of them every day for four years, he would still only reach 25% of them, but the calls he has made have kept him getting re-elected for years.
Obviously for a body shop it would be most effective to call the repeat and most profitable prior customers, but an old sales law says the volume of business coming in is directly proportional to the amount of communication going out. Any calls going out would be better than none at all.
So, assuming you decided to try this calling approach, what do your people say when they call? A prior client of mine had a practice I haven’t run across in any other shop. After every repair he told the customer he would be calling in about a month to have him or her bring the vehicle back to buff and polish the repaired area. For one thing, he said this allowed him to make one more check on the quality of the repair and catch any potential problems, plus he could use the opportunity to press for possible referrals to an employer, employees or just family and friends. But when they came in he also suggested they do a complete detail of the entire vehicle, and he frequently sold the customer on doing it. Even a year after a repair, very few customers would refuse an invitation to come in to have a repair checked for durability and possibly a free buff and polish. The cost of this free service should be more than offset by detail sales. Best of all, these calls can be made by just about any employee since no technical knowledge is needed.
The next level of call could be considered to actually be a sales call, but disguised as an information call. Prior customers are called to inform them of new services and technology available at the shop now. If the shop has added or upgraded alignment equipment, the customer can be invited to come in for an alignment at a discount. Since more car owners are now upgrading their existing vehicle rather than buying new, the call could focus on equipment that is now standard in new vehicles, like GPS systems, back-up lights and systems, and updated cosmetic improvements. Rather than pushing for a sale over the phone, a better approach would be inviting the customer in to come in to see a display of available upgrade equipment.
While not as likely to be welcome to every person called, asking for participation in a brief two or three question survey will get the attention of some prior customers. A good place to start would be telling the customer the shop was intending to make some improvements and add some new services. The caller then asks the customer what additional services he or she would like to see offered by the shop. The second question would ask if the customer were planning to upgrade their existing vehicle or to buy a new one. This opens the door to talking about the upgrade options already available at the shop.
Will employees be willing to make these calls? If business is slow, this may be a chance to save their job. Phone solicitation is generally a very tough job. A large percentage of people called simply hang-up or angrily tells the caller not to bother them. Fortunately a shop employee calling a prior customer has the advantage of being able to say this call is from the shop that recently repaired their vehicle and it is simply a follow-up information call. After that is made clear, it is vital to then ask the customer: “Do you have just a few moments to talk now, or would there be a better time to call?” This shows courtesy and concern for the person’s time. That should minimize hang-ups and avoid damaging the shop’s relationship with the customer. And it may also bring the customer back to the shop for those additional services.