Friday, November 6, 2020 | November 2020
Engage your customers on a more personal level and help your shop endure through the winter By jordan wiklund
It’s been a rough year for many. Like microbes under a microscope, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed what’s always been there, and many businesses had to pivot seemingly out of nowhere to stay open. Shop owners within the vehicular repair industry have mostly endured, however, as Americans still need to repair their cars, and most shops have made adjustments regarding how they contact their customers, service their vehicles, keep everybody safe and move business forward. Nonetheless, the pandemic has made it harder to adjust for what was already obstructing or slowing down your business. “If you had problems with car count before the pandemic, you’ll really experience issues with it now,” says Rick White, owner of 180Biz, a repair training and consulting firm. “On the other hand,” he says, “if you were busy before the pandemic, you’ll probably continue to stay busy throughout it.” White maintains that the biggest shift isn’t in our immediate opera - tions, but in our minds. “An owner who shifts their mindset and keeps their expectations high will be OK,” he says, because that owner will make the decisions to keep the doors open and customers happy. He uses apple picking as an example—this year, instead of picking fruit up off the ground as it falls in the orchard, owners have to make a more proactive effort to pluck it from the tree. “The key message has to be of caring and of safety and credibility,” he continues. “Owners have to slow down and change how they’re engag - ing people. The other thing I think is really important is that shop owners need to work on growing their audience.” Luckily, that’s something White and his company excel at.
Don’t Press Pause—Press Play
White pushes video as the No. 1 medium to reach new customers. “Facebook Live and other social media videos offer an opportunity to really get in front of more people,” he says. “It’s not about sales—it’s about entertaining, engaging, and being approachable.” Before the pandemic, for example, White imagines a market commu - nity as a stage and maybe 30 shops all sharing it, all vying for customers’ attention. “And for the longest time, they all just jumped around and tried to shout over one another to be heard. The problem is the audience was mostly empty—potential customers have busy lives. They’re running to this and going to that—dance, karate, work, school, family, healthcare. No one was in the audience to listen.” Today, however, that stage has changed. The pandemic has offered a perfect storm with more time available and more cash on hand for much of the car-driving public. “It’s a great time to be the shop that’s going to get out there, make a difference and step up,” he says. “Video consumption is HUGE right now—there’s not much to do at night and there aren’t many places to go. This is a wave, and the wave will slow down again, so you have to market now.” In other words, many shops are preparing to withdraw and retreat once more as winter looms; many shops are getting off that stage. Some owners may decide to retire earlier than planned. From that perspective, it’s a perfect opportunity for the owner who wants to step up, entertain, educate, and engage. “It’s a perfect time to use video to show people what you’re doing with their cars, how you’re safe to work with, and if the country shuts down again, the benefits you’ll offer if they choose your business for vehicular repair.” White says to do this, give them an idea of how their community will benefit every time they walk through your doors. Maybe your team loves a local restaurant or bagel shop—maybe offer a promotion that if your customers bring in their receipt, on their next service you’ll knock $50 off the total. Even better, drive a team member to the shop and make sure someone has their camera on, recording where you’re going and why you're going there. “It’s a ripple effect,” White says, “it’s a pebble in the water causing ripples over the entire lake. Post the video and link to the restaurant online; maybe they’ll even offer something in return. It starts goodwill all around.” It’s just the right thing to do, White says. “It’s not about perfection,” White says, “it’s about authenticity. Be real, be authentic, make your mistakes and try to have some fun. People will respond and your business will blossom.”