How many times do you have a friend ask you, “Hey, who do you use for _________?” Whatever the service, people like to know what companies their friends and family are using and their experiences with them. I mean, how else can you find someone you trust with your air conditioner, home repair, or beloved pet? Auto repair has a rough reputation in a lot of circles, so it is one of those services people often ask their friends or family about before choosing a mechanic.
Referrals from your existing customers is an effective marketing tactic that can help grow your business. In fact, recommendations from friends remain the most credible form of advertising among consumers, with people being 4 times more likely to purchase a product or service when a friend has something positive to say. And on the flip side, they are just as likely to avoid a company if their friends aren’t impressed.
Customers who have good experiences are usually more than willing to give out a referral for a business. Your job is to make sure you’re doing all the right things that encourages them to do so. To make it easier, here are 3 suggestions to get you started:
1. Give Them Something (Good) to Talk About
Assuming that you’re able to fix the vehicle, most people will remember their overall experience throughout the process. But there could be one thing that really sticks out in their minds. That’s what they’re going to talk about when talking to their friends and giving out referrals.
Here are some of the most important “details” of an auto repair shop experience that you should evaluate at your own place:
- Have a friendly front desk person who will be your intake for customers.
- Treat every customer respectfully, even if they don’t have much knowledge of how their car works.
- Have a clean waiting area. And free snacks never hurt!
- Do what you say you’ll do. If you said you’ll call back in an hour with more information, then make it a priority to fulfill your promise. Communication is one of the most important areas to build trust and positive experience, even when the news is not good.
- Return the car in better condition than they left it with you. If you can get the car washed before returning, do that. And never leave the oily, paper floor mats in the car for your customer to throw out, or change their radio station. Your first and last impression can really make a difference for a customer’s attitude.
Sometimes mistakes happen and not every experience is a good one. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost for getting a referral! If you are proactive in reaching out, apologizing, and asking for a second chance to make things right, there’s still a chance to turn it around. You might even end up with an even more loyal customer because of your integrity.
2. Make It Super Easy for Customers to Give Referrals
If your customers don’t know that you want referrals then it’s likely you’ll miss out on getting them. To keep that from happening, make it really easy for them to refer you.
Here’s a few ways you can do this:
- Provide links in your customer emails to the review sites where you’d like to get more reviews.
- Add links to your website that will direct your customers to the review sites on which you appear where they can read reviews and give one of their own.
- Give out extra business cards or another small, inexpensive promotional item (magnet, pens, etc.) so it’s easier for customers to remember and you and pass your information along to someone else.
- Ask them directly, emphasizing on how much you’d appreciate them recommending you to a friend, posting a review on your Facebook page, or on review sites like Yelp.
Even if your customers refer your shop to a friend via word-of-mouth, odds are good that friend will check you out online anyway. And considering most everyone reads and believes the reviews they read online (studies show that 84% of all age groups rely on them with 91% of 18-34 year olds trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations), it’s really important that your online reviews can back up the personal reviews.
3. Continuously Build Trust
Especially when it comes to the auto repair business, trustworthiness is a big deal. If you can demonstrate that you have the best interest of your customers, not your wallet, at the forefront of all the things you do, the money will follow. This requires all of your staff to be on the same page, trying to reduce the customer’s anxiety over whether they are being ripped off. Do what you can to be honest and open about the options your customer has for a repair and whether it’s a “nice to have” or a safety concern that makes it a “must have.”
When you show your customers that you have their best interests at the heart of your business, they’ll talk about you and recommend your business to others. They’re also a lot more likely to post a review online that can help your business. Simply ask them for it. When you ask for a favor, like posting a review, you’re asking for a favor. As you might ask a friend for a favor. This builds upon that feeling of trust and can turn into quite a number of reviews on various websites including Yelp, Angie’s List, Google and others.
Asking For Referrals is a Step Worth Taking
Generating referrals for your auto shop is an important part of your marketing and overall business growth. While some will happen without you trying, you need to remember to ask for the reviews. Customers may still refer you by word of mouth when a friend needs a mechanic, but taking the extra step for an online is something that they’ll do because they like you and because you asked.
One way you can do this is by sending a follow-up email to customers after their appointment to see if everything went well while they were there and when they left. In that email you can ask them to give a review and you can even provide a link to review site you’d like to see filled with more reviews in the near future.
It should be easy to get reviews as long as you’re doing the right things to build trust and provide a positive experience for your customers. What are you waiting for?!
Finding the best ways to advertise in your local area is key to driving new customers to your shop. Learn more about some of the top auto shop marketing tactics and how to apply them to your auto shop.