How Your Auto Mechanic Shop Can Pick Up More Business When Times are Slow
Summer is a busy time in the auto repair industry, and 2020 was no exception. According to the Tekmetric Index 500, car count soared around May and remained high throughout September. But as the seasons change to fall and winter, we notice that fewer people are taking their vehicles in for repairs. Of course, this varies from state to state. Auto repair shops in colder climates may still see a steady flow of customers as drivers winterize their vehicles. But in most places, a slow down in business is to be expected.
While there may be fewer walk-ins, there are several ways shop owners and service writers can stimulate business and maintain a healthy sales funnel.
Looking at Your Sales Funnel
Your sales funnel can tell you a lot about the flow of your business. Before ramping up marketing and lead gen tactics (strategies to get new business into the sales funnel), it’s important to look at what’s already in the funnel. If you already have work in the shop or customers to follow up with, those jobs are going to be the easiest to target and move through the sales process because they’re already halfway there. Also, by focusing on the bottom of the funnel first, you can identify any hold-ups and make room for new work to come in the door, leading to a more efficient workflow and overall sales process.
Work in the Shop Waiting to Be Completed
Before going out of your way to bring new business in the door, look at the current jobs already in the shop. Are there any holdups? If so, be sure to take care of those so that you can get those vehicles repaired and out the door, and then collect payment on that work. If there's a bottleneck at the bottom of your funnel, you probably want to address that before bringing a bunch of new work through the door.
Tek-Tip: Use Realtime RO Reporting on the Shop Dashboard
By looking at the “job board view” of Tekmetric’s shop dashboard, shop owners and service writers can see a snapshot of what’s going on in the shop at any given moment. You can look at the number of dollars you’re sitting on in the “work not started” status. If an RO has been approved but the work hasn’t been started and you’re not sure why this is a good opportunity to talk to your technicians to see what the holdup is. If it seems like there are many jobs that are delayed, it might be time to consider hiring more help, provide coaching, or create a more efficient process.
Customers with estimates waiting to be approved
After taking care of work that’s already in the shop, the next easiest target for more work is going to be anyone who you’ve already sent an estimate to that hasn’t approved the work. Chances are, these guests are shopping around for the best estimate. But in some cases, customers get sidetracked and may have simply forgotten to follow up. Giving these folks a courtesy call to say, "I just wanted to follow up to personally answer any questions that you may have about the work that we're recommending" is a great way to earn their business because it shows that you care about fixing their problem and that you didn’t forget about them. Even if your shop isn’t the cheapest by a long shot, customers who are shopping around are likely to see the value in going with the shop that is attentive enough to give them a call back to check-in.
Tek-Tip: Use the Tekmetric Job Board to See the Status of Estimates
Tekmetric’s job board uses icons to show service advisors the status of an estimate. The paper airplane means that an estimate was sent to a guest, but it hasn’t been opened. Once the customer opens the estimate, the icon will change into an eyeball. Near the icon, it will also tell you how long ago it has been since the estimate was sent or viewed. Service advisors and shop owners can use this information to start a conversation with their customers.
Tekmetric also has two different views of the job board: column view and list view. In list view, you can prioritize the order of those estimates to put the people who have viewed it at the top, the people who received it next, and then everyone else who you haven't quite finished up with at the bottom. So now you have a priority of who you can start calling.
Declined Jobs & ROs Saved for Later
Further up the sales funnel are your declined jobs and ROs saved for later. It’s important to remember that many vehicle owners wait until right before a critical event to get their vehicles repaired. For instance, if someone brings their truck into the shop to fix their suspension and you notice that their brake pads should be replaced soon, the customer may wait a few weeks or months until they feel like their brakes are just about to scrape the metal. Depending on the condition of the brakes, a service advisor might put it on the estimate (and in this scenario, the truck owner declines the job to focus on their suspension) or, if it seems like the brakes do in fact have a few months of mileage left, they may save it as an RO for later.
Declined jobs and ROs saved for later are great ways to reconnect with a guest. A simple courtesy call to check in with an existing customer who may need work soon is an excellent way to remind them that their vehicle needs maintenance before a critical event occurs, and it's also an opportunity to bring more work in the door.
Tek-Tip: Use Tekmetric’s Declined Job Report and Customer History
Tekmetric’s declined job report consolidates all of your shop’s declined jobs in one easy to view list. During slow months, your service advisors can open the declined jobs report and go down the list, using notes to determine why the customer declined the job and whether or not they might be interested in revisiting the work soon. To take this one step further, the service advisor can also look at the customer’s history to determine if there are any hold-ups to getting certain repair work. For instance, if the customer history shows that they come into the shop frequently but tend to spend small amounts at a time, you can make them an offer or throw in a free oil change to sweeten the deal.
Generate New Customers with Marketing
Once you’ve worked your way up the sales funnel to complete any jobs in the queue and catch existing customers who either haven’t responded to your estimate or need work soon, you can start focusing on catching the attention of new customers. When it comes to generating new business, the initial questions to ask yourself are, “Where are my target customers?” and “Where is my existing business coming from?”
By keeping track of your marketing sources—referrals, promotions, mailers, social media channels, etc.—you can get a better sense of the best place to put your efforts. Every time a new customer comes in, it’s good practice to ask them, “How did you hear about us?” If it’s an existing customer, you can also ask, “What brings you in today?” They may just tell you that they need work done, but sometimes they’ll answer with a certain promotion or advertisement, which can help you gauge the effectiveness of certain efforts. If it seems like a certain tactic works better than others, that may be the first marketing effort to invest more money in when times are slow.
Tek-Tip: Use Tekmetric’s Marketing Source Report to Gauge the Effectiveness of Your Marketing
Tekmetric’s RO Marketing Source report gives shop owners a clear view of how successful each marketing effort is in terms of total sales, new sales, repeat sales, GP dollars, GP percent, and close ratio. These metrics not only show you where your audience spends the most time but also shows you which segment of your audience is bringing in the most profit. For instance, you may notice that Facebook brings in a lot of ROs, but you have the highest close ratio with people who read Yelp reviews. If that’s the case, you may want to solicit more positive Yelp reviews from customers.
Accelerating Your Shop’s Business Takes a Comprehensive Approach
It’s important to consider your entire sales funnel when trying to boost the amount of work and dollars coming through your shop. While marketing is a great way to get your name out there and bring new vehicles and faces into your shop, it’s just as important to nurture the relationships that you already have. If it seems like there’s an existing customer that you can help with service, it’s a good idea to reach out and check in on them.
As always, keeping track of your job history, customer preferences, declined jobs, work in progress, and how your customers hear about your business is going to make it a lot easier to make calls and pull the right levers. While this may seem like a lot to keep track of, a well-organized, easy to use shop management software like Tekmetric can make collecting and reviewing this information feel like second nature.
If you’re interested in seeing how any of these features work for yourself, you can sign up for a free demo of Tekmetric.