Google Automotive released a study in July 2013 titled: “The Road to Winning Drivers: What Drivers Want in Automotive Aftermarket Service.” It is filled with data that suggests service customers could be yours for the taking if you apply the right strategies to capture them. In fact, 1 in 3 drivers surveyed by Google indicated that they were uncommitted to a particular service provider. And 36 percent of those committed to a particular service provider stated they would go wherever is “affordable or convenient.”
Now, while there is good news and information in this Google study, this point on “affordable and convenient” is a challenge. For years consumers have perceived independent shops to be the choice that is affordable and convenient. Earlier this year a study released by AutoMD.com found that car owners trust independent shops over dealerships when it comes to vehicle repairs. The site surveyed 3,000 owners online between November 2 and December 12, 2012, and 80 percent of the respondents said they felt they had been overcharged for repairs at a dealership, while 90 percent felt they could save more money by visiting an independent shop.
However, to the consumer, automotive service providers are doing nothing to standout and separate themselves from each other. According to Google, “Drivers tend to stay with one shop due to lack of differentiation among service providers rather than high satisfaction.” An oil change is an oil change is an oil change. In fact, the Google study found that the majority of people surveyed (59 percent) couldn’t even recall a single brand name when asked what chains come to mind when they think of automotive service providers.
So, while consumers may feel that independent shops are cheaper and more convenient, there is nothing else that is keeping them loyal. And here’s the trump card; a full 81 percent of the drivers surveyed in the Google study felt that quality service and trust trump price. This is where auto dealers can win the customer’s business.
I talk about the “Wow” factor all the time. Chances are that you have better trained technicians that are better qualified to work on consumer vehicles. However, to a consumer, you’re just another place changing their oil. Every time someone comes to your store, you’re on stage. The customer that comes to you for preventative maintenance is yours to lose. Statistically, unless another automotive service provider “WOWS” them, they will continue to service with you. In fact, the Google study found that 73 percent of consumers “would return to a service center they visited for preventative maintenance for future large repairs.” Does this make you rethink the importance of all of your customers? It should.
How do you “WOW” them? By providing a superior customer experience.
Here are a couple of simple changes that could make a huge difference, if you are not already doing them:
The first is to take the time to make sure that your customers understand the service you are doing or recommending. One consumer in the Google study stated, “I’d like it if they spent a bit more time explaining things to me. I know they are busy, but it would make me trust them more.” How much time do you spend explaining to the customer the required service recommendations for their vehicle? Are you explaining it in a way that they can understand?
The second is service reminders. Believe it or not, Google reports that only 2 percent of consumers say that they get “digital reminders from their service provider.” In fact, 44 percent of consumers say that the only way they know its time to service their vehicle is by either the sticker placed in the window by their service center, or a dashboard light reminder. Most dealerships send emails to sales customers with offers. Why not connect digitally with your service customers to remind them that it is time for service? Implement a process in your store that connects with customers across all of their digital devices, including via e-mail and text messages.
Google further reports that 70 million searches are done MONTHLY for aftermarket service. These searches account for 525,000 service opportunities with an additional 100,000 opportunities coming from referrals. 43 percent of consumers are searching online, either on their computer or smartphone, when considering who to service with.
Not only are they searching FOR you, they’re doing research ABOUT you. “My process is online search, then reading reviews, then checking out specific websites to cross-check prices,” Commented one survey respondent… Not only do you have to be easy to find across all platforms e a consumer is searching, you have to know what those platforms are saying. Don’t assume that everyone is searching Google. This includes social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) review sites (Google Places, Yelp, DealerRater, etc.) as well as the plethora of directory sites. “I use Google Search and Maps to find places that are close and convenient to me – then I read the ones that pop up first and check their reviews,” said another consumer in the study group. Make sure that both your sales AND service departments are appearing high on search results, and that what is being said about you is positive.
Once they’ve chosen you, 62 percent of consumers say that they research a technician’s recommendations online. This is where the independent verification I mentioned earlier comes into play. Google reports that 51 percent watch videos, while 15 percent will contact another shop, and 13 percent will visit another shop’s website to gain information about what you are recommending. One consumer commented that “I take the mechanic’s advice and then I go home and research the parts and labor online, then I go back in with more knowledge.” Are you that resource? You should be. Be where they are, using good information, and even video to establish trust.
While price is important to consumers, quality service and trust is more important. Build a relationship with all your service customers and give them a reason to be loyal. Make sure that your service recommendations are thorough, explained in a way that the consumer understands. Go the extra mile to service the customer. And differentiate yourself from your service competitors by making sure that you’re easy to find online, your reviews are positive and you provide a great customer experience in every way.
“There’s a way to do it better – find it.” – Thomas Edison