Is my car ready? That is the $64,000 question that customers want to know. It comes right after “how much?” Today there is no excuse for the customer to not know the status of his vehicle. All we have to do is take a little time and use the technology available to us and keep them informed. Once you get on the program, you will find it actually makes you more money, creates satisfied customers and saves time in the long run.
 
Not communicating with the customer can create customer complaints that cost you time and money. If customers leave and remember that they had a hard time getting their car back, they will not recommend you to friends and coworkers. Also, these customers always seem to get mad and walk into the shop and cause a scene when you are selling to another customer. That can cost you a sale.
 
The phone rings off the wall in shops that do not keep the customer in the loop. I remember taking over a shop where the manager had been dodging the customers. I watched him the first day. It was easier to get the governor on the phone. He had told so many lies he did not know what the truth was anymore. The phone was ringing all day long. It seemed like the shop was extremely busy when in fact most of the calls were customers wanting to know when their car would be ready. The next morning, I called every customer and gave them a status report on their repair. The rest of the day it was like the phone had been cut off. This manager had kept the shop in constant turmoil because of poor communication with the customer.
 
It is our job to keep the communication lines open and make sure all customers are informed and engaged throughout the repair so they can make transportation and financial arrangements. For us, we want to make sure they have their money ready when we finish the repair. Why wait until they call? Be proactive and contact them. Your customers will appreciate it and your life as a shop manager will become much easier. There are several ways to get that done.
 
Call the customers every morning: Give them a status report and verify that they can pick up the vehicle when it is ready. It does not take long to do and then the customers do not distract you the rest of the day.
 
Shop management software: Some programs will email or text a work status alert automatically to the customer every time the work status moves to the next stage of the repair cycle. This is a real time saver because it eliminates having to manually contact the customer every day, and the tech-savvy customers prefer the email and text notices over the phone calls.
 
Email: For those of us who do not have fancy shop management software, we can manually email a work status alert to our customers every morning.
 
Text: If we get the customer’s cell number we can manually send a text to keep the customer informed.
 
YouTube: We can use our camera on our smartphone and record the external and internal diagnosis. We can go under the lift to show the customer leaks, axle damage, mounts, etc., and upload it to YouTube for the customer to see. This is especially useful to record the internal parts damage for customers to see for themselves. YouTube is a valuable tool to use to keep the customer informed.
 
Since I have been semi retired in Florida, I have had to take my vehicle to local shops for various repairs. I am on the other side of the fence now. I always had my own shop, or a shop where I was working, to fix my personal vehicles and I would supervise the repairs. I was hands-on all the way through the repair cycle – super informed. Now I sit and wait and feel the pain of the customer. I can tell you first hand that If you want to win over customers, keep them informed throughout the work cycle. It is called service after the sale for you young managers out there. It lets the customers feel like they are involved in the repair and in control. It doesn’t cost you anything and it only takes a few minutes to do. The benefits are worth the effort because the customer will become your customer for life.
 
Art Little is the founder of TransTeam, a management support company that provides transmission shop owners with employees, training and leads. The popular TransTeam website has served as the National Employment Headquarters for the transmission industry since 1997. Online training and certification testing for transmission shop center managers are also available at the site. The Nationwide TransTeam Wholesale Club is generating low-cost Internet leads for TransTeam shop owner members nationwide now. If you need help with recruiting employees, training or lead generation, visit the TransTeam.com website or call Art at 888-859-0994.
 
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