February 28th, 2020 by Fix Auto USA
Running an auto body repair shop is a very competitive business and the hardest part of marketing a shop is often getting customers to walk through the door to talk with you. Why? Because more and more customers are doing their research online.
Internet and social media have a big impact on how auto body customers choose a shop. Hence, we surveyed over 300 customers who got their car repaired within the last six months. At Fix Auto USA, we wanted to learn more about how auto body customers make those decisions. What they do online when looking for an auto body shop and why they do it.
Tools and technologies aren’t the only things changing in the auto body industry – so are our customers and how they select a shop after they get into an accident. This white paper discusses six of the most significant findings from the survey and how they can help an auto body business grow. We believe that the more we know about our customers, the more we can do a better job of meeting their needs.
1. How Customers Find Your Business
Most people don’t think about auto body repair until they need it. That’s why one of the biggest marketing challenges with body shops is getting people to think of your business first when the time comes. Our survey indicated three primary ways people find body shops.
Word of mouth.
Nearly half (49%) of the customers we surveyed found their body shop via word of mouth. In other words, a friend, colleague, or someone they trust recommended the shop. The key point here is that people don’t recommend a business unless they have a great experience with it. If your shop isn’t getting referrals, it could be worth digging into the overall customer experience your shop delivers.
A great customer experience starts with quality repair work. But, that’s only one aspect of a customer’s total experience with your shop. Customers also consider how they were treated by everyone they came in contact with at your business. Was your staff friendly and personable? Did you answer all their questions in a timely manner that they understood? Was your shop clean and professional? Did you complete the repairs when you said you would?
Keep in mind that people are more likely to remember a bad experience than a good one. If something goes wrong, take responsibility for it and strive to make it right on behalf of your customers. Also, take a look at how you measure customer satisfaction. Are you automating feedback methods? Are you paying attention to your Yelp or Google reviews? Are you doing anything offline? When it comes to marketing, feedback – whether good or bad – is the breakfast of champions.
About one in five (21%) of survey participants found their body shop through an internet search. This brings up two key points, starting with the online presence of your body shop. Where do you show up on the major search engines? According to various studies, the first position on Google gets about 33% of available traffic. At least 75% of clicks go to the first page of search results. If you’re not at least on the first page, the odds of people visiting your site aren’t good. Organic (unpaid) search techniques can help improve your search ranking, but you may want to consider paid ads to get the highest ranking and quicker results.
The second point has to do with trust. If people are searching the internet for an auto body shop they probably don’t have a recommendation, or they’re performing their own research. This means you need to build trust with them via your web site. To build trust, post content that provides real value to site visitors and positions you as an expert in your field. Customer-focused content can include blogs, articles, while papers, pictures, and videos. Every piece should include a call to action to motivate readers to contact your shop, but the content should help people feel they can trust you to provide quality repairs on their car.
18% of survey respondents found their body shop through an insurance referral. Insurance companies only recommend shops they know and trust, so if you’re not getting many of these referrals, evaluate your relationship with local insurance companies to see how you can improve them. Are you engaging the insurance community in meaningful conversation? Are you responsive to their needs as well as the needs of your vehicle owner customers? Are you consistently delivering the top-quality work that insurance companies are looking for?
2. The Importance of Making a Good First Impression
Selecting a body shop is an important decision, so one might think that people would consider several different shops before making a decision. Somewhat surprisingly, our survey showed the opposite. 41% of respondents only considered two body shops before making a decision, while 31% only considered one. 23% considered three total shops. This reinforces the importance of getting in front of customers right away and how much people trust word of mouth recommendations.
Our survey results suggest that if you don’t make the customer’s “short list,” you won’t get the business because they’re not going to look anywhere else; or at least it’s a lot tougher. That’s why your business needs to show up high in the search engine rankings, have a web site that builds trust, and have a strong social media presence. When you become one of the two or three shops under consideration, making a strong first impression with the customer can often make the difference.
When someone only considers one body shop before making a decision, chances are they were recommended to the shop by a trusted friend – another reason why shops need to focus on giving customers an experience so good they will tell others about it.
3. Why Customers Choose an Auto Body Shop
Customers evaluate many criteria when choosing an auto body shop, including location, reviews, pricing, reputation, services offered, and more. In our survey, 25% identified estimated pricing as the most important factor in their decision. This suggests that giving a bad estimating experience will drive one out of four potential customers to a competitor.
What causes a bad estimating experience? In many cases, it’s a lack of communication, an indifferent attitude, or both. In our survey, nine percent of participants said they didn’t receive an estimate of repair costs, while 10% said the shop failed to clearly communicate the repair costs. To deliver a satisfactory estimating experience:
Provide a thorough, accurate, and written estimate
- List all repairs that are needed and why
- Welcome customer questions and answer them promptly
- Make sure customers fully understand the estimate before proceeding with the repairs
The second most frequent decision factor was proximity to the customer (17%). This was followed by reviews and testimonials (15%) and your brand reputation (14%). To motivate customers to choose your business, make it easy to find your shop on your website and different platforms such as Google and Yelp. Encourage customers to review your shop on Yelp, Facebook, and other review web sites. Also, focus your marketing on the area around your shop, especially if you are in a large city. If you struggle to get customer reviews, you may want to consider using a customer interaction service provider.
Finally, make sure your web site is optimized for use on mobile devices, so people can access it when searching on their phones or tablets.
4. Why Great Reviews Outweigh Proximity
As previously noted, proximity of the shop slightly edged positive reviews and testimonials as the second most important decision criterion. However, 62% of respondents also said they would travel further to a different body shop if it had great online reviews. This supports the need to have a strong online presence while delivering a great customer experience.
Never underestimate the importance of customer service, as it is the foundation for a memorable customer experience. Coach everyone on your staff how to give great service, including your repair technicians. They may not have much interaction with customers, but it only takes one bad interaction to create a negative opinion of your shop.
To create a positive experience, treat customers like you would want to be treated.
Greet customers with a smile as soon as they come into your reception area. If you’re busy with a customer, welcome the new customer and let them know you will be with them shortly.
Answer the phone within a couple of rings. When you can’t, have a pleasant on-hold message and return the call as soon as possible.
Communicate from start to finish. Having their car repaired is an inconvenient and stressful process for most people. To put a customer’s mind at ease, explain what repairs their vehicle needs and why, how much it will cost, and how long the repairs will take. Talk to customers in a manner that’s easy to understand. Use language they know while avoiding technical terms when possible.
5. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Yelp Reviews
If you think customer reviews are overrated, consider this: 34% of our survey participants said they considered Yelp reviews when deciding on an auto body shop.
We’ve talked about the importance of positive shop reviews and testimonials. This finding points to Yelp as an area of focus.
Place a Yelp badge on your website that tells people how many Yelp reviews you have. Badges are available from the Yelp web site and will automatically link to your Yelp page. Put a “Find us on Yelp” sign in your place of business. You can make your own using Yelps brand assets or request one by via this form.
Adding a link to the business listing in your email signature provides a subtle way to encourage Yelp reviews. Be sure to remind people to “Check us out on Yelp.” Share your ‘People Love Us on Yelp’ recipient status. If you receive a Yelp letter of commendation, display it in a prominent place in your shop so customers can easily see it.
Share your Yelp reviews on Facebook and Twitter to increase the number of people who see them. (This requires logging into your Yelp business owner account and clicking the “Reviews” tab.) You can also share Yelp reviews in your marketing materials as long as you follow the guidelines:
- Only use Yelp’s recommended reviews
- Don’t make any changes to the review
- Get permission from the review and provide attribution
- Cite Yelp as the source using one of their branded logos
It takes some time to manage Yelp reviews, but the payoff can be well worth it.
6. Have a Strong Facebook Profile
Many social media marketing experts recommend building a strong Yelp profile to attract customers. For auto body shops, our survey results suggest otherwise.
59% of respondents said they never looked at any of the social media profiles of body shops. However, of those who did look up a profile (4 out of 10), 31% did it on Facebook. Of all the social platforms available today, Facebook is the one where you should have an optimized profile with good reviews. Here’s why:
More than 600 million Facebook users visit business pages every day. Facebook highlights maps and directions at the top of local business pages, making it easy for people to find your shop. Search results are more robust and complete than with the major search engines. To ensure your shop is found on Facebook:
- Complete your profile
- Verify that location and contract information is accurate
- Add business categories that further describe your business
- Activate the Facebook call-to-click and appointment scheduling buttons
A good Facebook profile can attract local searchers in your area while positioning your shop as a legitimate and trustworthy business.
7. Getting More Visitors to Your Site
If you’re not getting enough hits on your web site or social media profile, it may be time to rethink your social media marketing strategy. Which platforms are you currently using? How much effort are you putting into generating referrals and customer reviews? Does your web site provide value to visitors? Do you work hard to create a strong first impression with prospective customers? Are you using local search tools, to augment your SEO standing on the major search engines? Using the right social media tools with precision and focus can drive more customers to your shop and keep your auto body business healthy and growing.
There’s one more marketing tool we haven’t talked about, and that’s the advantage of being part of a national network of auto body shops. Fix Auto USA Franchise Partners enjoy a nationally recognized brand supported by a sophisticated marketing and advertising engine, among many other benefits Visit our web site to learn more about our exciting franchise opportunities.