No one likes to be taken for granted—especially high volume sources of business for a shop. This shop owner assumed his rapid cycle time, his use of used and aftermarket parts, and his always giving priority to the DRP vehicles would be enough to hold on to that DRP forever. Any recently divorced husband or wife could have told him this was a faulty assumption. One might provide a good home, high quality food and clothes and abundant money to a spouse and yet lose that relationship due to a lack of real attention. This shop owner might have saved that DRP with something as simple as an occasional call and very personal lunch with the DRP decision-maker. The dealership decision-maker would probably have required more elaborate contacts and more frequent communication. Sadly he neglected both of them at a significant cost to his shop.
As important as it is to maintain close relations with referral sources like insurance companies and auto dealerships, perhaps the most important source of business to keep in contact with is prior customers. As times have changed this has become a trickier business. Young customers will generally be in touch with the Internet, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. This provides an obvious way to stay in touch and pass along shop improvements in equipment, technology, personnel training, and elements of specific interest like color matching. Older customers may now be conversant with the Internet and websites but possibly less so with social media. This could make updating these customers a bit more difficult. But he bigger question is, how are the shop marketing people to know which customers fit into the young or older category without specifically asking customer age on the information form?
Old customer info forms generally asked for birthdays and anniversaries to send targeted greetings. Newer forms probably also ask for an e-mail address, but how many now ask for Facebook, Twitter and other social media designations? These info forms are often neglected in shops already, but in this new high-tech age such neglect can be a costly marketing and sales omission. Insurance companies are frequently combining and consolidating, sometimes forcing customers to change companies. With steering still going on, either directly or indirectly, a shop has to counteract insurance company efforts to force old customers to go to the new company’s preferred shop.
A shop’s best hope for retaining these customers is a steady stream of information about the shop’s superior ability to deal with the rapid changes in vehicles. Promoting the shop’s ability to handle electric and hybrid vehicles, vehicles constructed with lighter weight materials like plastics, aluminum, magnesium, and other special metals can reassure the customer that this continues to be the best shop to come to. This message can easily be gotten out through the website and social media, but those off that track can still require old methods of communication. With the cost of postage stamps continually rising, direct mail can be costly. E-mail is by far the best if a shop can be sure its message doesn’t wind up in a spam file. For the shop’s best old customers, it would be appropriate to make a phone call periodically if only to ask the customer to check his or her e-mail for the latest update, and of course to ask about the condition of the customer’s vehicles..
In yesterday’s world, a shop could employ a marketing guy or gal to make the rounds and keep in touch with referral sources and customers. Today’s world calls for a marketing person with intimate knowledge of social media and especially effective e-mail management. E-mail tracking can tell whether or not a specific e-mail has been received and opened. Today’s astute on-line marketing professional should note if some of those messages have not made it to the recipient and tag those for a phone call. A lack of adequate attention destroys many kinds of relationships. For most shops, referral sources and prior customers are the gold that keeps things running and maintaining an ongoing marketing effort to keep them happy should be the shop’s top marketing priority.