What is it exactly that brings clients to the bodywork garage? Traditionally, for a first visit, it is working together with one (or several) insurance companies, having effective marketing campaigns or word of mouth, that have been the means that bring workload to a garage. However, what will make clients return will be, precisely, that first experience in the garage. Then, what can we do to make that first experience be ideal?
Human beings are used to not forgetting about our “firsts”: our first school day, our first relationship, our first car, our first house… That is the way we are and the bodywork garage must be take that into consideration. The garage is taking its chances on that “first time”. If it does not meet the expectations, it will be difficult for that client to return. If the first impression has been hardly satisfactory, or not satisfactory at all, the client will not easily forget it.
The first general impression is full of “little first impressions”. Those are key moments in the itinerary that the client will take starting with the time that he/she hears about us (through publicity, a friend or a relative, online…) to the moment when the repaired car is picked up. Further, even.
Attracting clients is not easy (it is estimated that gaining a new client is 5 to 7 times harder than keeping one). That is why all the strategies we can use to gain new clients, including online, will be positive. Remember that the internet and social media are not exclusive to millennials: according to Eurostat, in 2018, the proportion of people between 16 and 74 years old in the EU-28 who ordered and bought goods and services online for private use was 60%.
Once we have managed to capture the client’s attention, factors such as making it easy to get an appointment, asking for a quote... will be fundamental to make a good first impression. Having a website that makes it easier to contact us is an important point too.
The third “little first impression” happens when the client comes to our facilities. This impression starts from the moment the client parks in front of the garage. This is why a good general aspect of the outside of the garage will make us gain points. A tidy and clean reception, no matter how small our business is, and a nice and friendly treatment by a receptionist with a tidy appearance, will also count.
At the same time, we will help to improve that experience with nice facilities —paying special attention to the toilets, there is nothing worse than using a dirty and smelly bathroom— and a waiting room (if we have one) with newspapers, magazines, TV, even wifi, coffee and soda machine and/or play area for kids.
How do we reach outstanding? That is where we know we have to show our best version, because it is the moment when we replace our customer service ‘suit’ with ‘overalls’.
If the client has read on our website or social media, or has been told at work or at the supermarket that we are the best, he/she is going to expect no less than that, and will look for excellence in the vehicle’s repair and we cannot disappoint him/her. That effort to make that vehicle end up in our hands will mean nothing if our paint and body repair and finishes are not up to their expectations.
The goal is that our paint job goes “unnoticed”. This means that the final polishing (glow and color matching) does not show the slightest flaw, that the garage makes the car look like it just came out of the factory. And how do we avoid those imperfections? It is nothing the garage does not already know: maximum care in every step of the repainting process, from the cleanliness of the area to the final drying. All that counting with the best materials and tools, trusting only the best products of the market.
After checking out that the final result is really the best the client can find, it is time to let him/her know that the car is ready. It is important that this contact is not the only one that the client receives since the vehicle drop-off.
This way, keeping the client informed, being proactive and calling him/her, will make us win points, both for a good first impression and as a way to build customer loyalty. Let´s think about that comment during an informal conversation or in an online review: “I had to call the garage several times to find out how the repair was going”, instead of “They kept me posted at all times during the repair”.
And now we reach the final moment in this chain of “little first impressions”: returning the repaired car to the client. This is when we can show the result of our impeccable work. Of course, with a smile and a clean, shiny car, to better show off our work. Even better if we can offer some paint maintenance recommendations.
If the first general impression is outstanding, we can even improve our grade with a phone call, after a few days, to see if the client is satisfied.
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