Garage and Car Sales – Make more from what you have.

Garage and Workshop Marketing – – Podcast April

Since the last podcast and comment on retail businesses today I am going to focus on a different type of business to consumer model  – garages, both repair and sales businesses.

Small garages and workshops need to keep an eye on their customer service and also make sure they end up with plenty of repeat business –  in fact, they are no different from any other business in this regard – but just how few are actually doing this is alarming.

Podcast is here

The talk amongst business owners is all about customer service and systems –  but the overwhelming evidence is that there are few that are using systems and even less that really under the whole issue of customer service – like how to make it add value instead of it being a cost. Sure  I’ve seen some ‘top end’ firms making the most of great customer service – but like a Saville Row suit or a new Bentley – if you’re spending thirty or forty times more than average to be clothed and probably more than that on a child transporter you’d expect to be treated differently. That’s how Bentley and Saville Row businesses survive.

The long term value of a customer is worth a gazillion times more than the money you make from this sale – yet, there is plenty of focus on systems and processes  to get the punter in the first place – but few to make sure that they keep coming back.

Just think for a moment – if your garage (same applies to any small business) starts to treat customers like they’ll be around for fifty or even a hundred years you’ll start to treat them very differently. Lifetime value is measured in many tens of thousands in profit and a guarantee that a business will survive. I don’t fully get – why you wouldn’t make the most of long term plans – and assume your customer will be with you for ten or twenty years.

Looking back in history there used to be plenty of people who’d be pleased to state ‘I only ever drive x or why’ only now they don’t because customer service is pants and we all seem to have a short term goal – sell more stuff and no long term plan – really look after customers.

More and workshops and garages are relying on hope marketing –  hoping that the customer is going to come back rather than making sure that they do,  the odds are stacked in favour of them not coming back. Simply because if you are not doing anything to make them come back – there is a good chance they won’t. With modern technology and automation – like having a website that is actually working for you and some simple tweaks – making sure your customers don’t forget you is quite easy.

Just look at the world or marketing – all of your customers are being assaulted on all sides – advertising, social media – offers and deals are being presented all of the time from all of the sources. This is why changing your approach is the only way forward if you want to ensure success.

By making a few changes to your own systems and processes, it is certainly possible to guarantee that existing customers, the most valuable customers you have keep coming back for more and more.

If you are doing nothing to keep them, nothing to make sure they’ll come back – then you are relying on hope marketing – you hope they are going to do the right thing and come back to you – nothing guarantees they will – just a bit of hope – it’s the same as going to Church on Sunday and praying for Jesus to clean the rivers of plastic or for God to make global warming less of a thing.

Ffs it’s not going to happen  – it’s only hope and it’s not a thing you can put your finger on and use it to make things better – it’s just hope.  Meanwhile all you religious zealots who want to email me – wishing me the pain of a thousand biblical plagues – good luck – your hope for me is just that – not real.

There Are Things You Can Do

All of your customers have a problem – that’s why they come to you – if they could repair their cars themselves your business would soon disappear  – gone forever. Reality is, nearly all wouldn’t have a clue what to do.

So the problem you solve is one of maintaining reliability, complying with laws and regulations  – getting kids to school safely, getting mum home after Sunday lunch – all without fear of breakdown or delay – these are the problems you make sure they avoid. You are an important part of family life – sure the humble local garage may not be seen as a superhero  – but if you got a non start – on a frosty morning with two young kids fighting on the back seat, whilst eating breakfast, and you are stressed up to the eyeballs – the local grease monkey – the one that ensures the car starts is a superhero. Let me ask now, how many of you think of your business to be staffed by superheroes?

This is your angle, the evidence you need that what you do adds value – makes a meaningful change in their lives. Which means you go from being an expense to something that adds value, are seen not as a pain and an expense but a valuable and much needed resource – sure your workshop looks and smells like a garage (I have no idea why that is still a thing) but you are a trusted friend, one that ensures mum gets home after lunch on Sunday and the kids are safe on the way to school – and to make sure the car starts on those miserable frosty mornings.

All of your interactions with customers should be on the basis that you are wanted and needed part of the family – not a cost.

** You can download the transcript here – Garage and Car Sales Business – Business Development Guide

Main dealer – Sales Operations

Salespeople following up with a booked in service on year three should be a mandatory part of their job – not just mention it but schedule it and follow up. The same salespeople making sure that the customer gets the latest model to drive when theirs is in the workshop – I know you’ll sell more cars, make it a system, build the back end to the business – make selling easy. How about making it a plan to contact them at year one or even year two. Yeah – most salespeople are much to busy for that.

If your business makes a profit selling cars – build this in. Find a way of making it work – control the future of the business – even if you are selling low-value cars on a back street – there is stuff you can do.


Next year’s MOT should be pre-booked in the diary at the same time as the current test is done – loan cars/collection and delivery should be offered. For those selling cars see the above – take some action on it – make it work for you.  I am honestly appalled that every year I don’t get a reminder about my MOT, am not offered a fixed price for it, nor am I offered a budget payment facility.

Yeah, garage owner – budget payment – getting paid up front for something you won’t have to do for twelve months, importantly if your customer has already paid there is a chance they will come back to you instead of a.n other.  Reminders and follow-ups throughout the year can be done with uber cheap automated tools [before you all start ranting about data protection issues – you already have data protection issues – get over them]. As mentioned, having an effective website means that all of these tools are built in.

Collection and Delivery – MOT

Personal view – with modern vehicles being far more rot free and reliable than ever before I don’t think it’s going to be long before the MOT is killed off in favour of something else.  If this does happen you’ll need something else in order to keep your cash flow the same – remember if it does happen there is a good chance industry lobbying won’t stop it.

All cars due for annual inspection and or MOT should be collected and delivered by a member of staff – simple customer service – ffs make it easy for me as a customer to use your business. Systems-wise it should be quite straightforward to do, the car is either collected from the owner’s home or their place of work at an agreed time.  If you sell cars you take advantage of offering to lend them the latest ‘all singing all dancing – LX version with the whoopdeedoo engine’ – make sales easy.

Budget Payments (cough – increased cash flow)

All customers should be offered a budget payment facility to pay in advance all of their MOT and servicing costs. This can be done quite simply using modern direct debit methods, and thus allowing all your customers to have a prepaid servicing or MOT along with a plan put in place for expensive items like cambelts and catalytic converters or even simple things like brakes. This guarantees that your customers will continue to come back to you in order to have their servicing done – and why wouldn’t they-they have paid for it in advance.

But it also starts to build a good level of brand loyalty, they must trust you and like you or they wouldn’t bother setting up these things in advance.  More importantly, it allows them to budget, look you pay everything else on monthly direct debit why wouldn’t you pay for your car servicing and MOT? Customers know that they need work doing and put it off because they face an expensive bill all in one hit. You have just made it easy for them and improved your cash flow.

Most of these things are pretty straightforward to implement, the budget payment facilities are available to set up more or less immediately, you just need to arrange some systems and processes for reminders.

The beauty of this from your point of view, as a business owner is that you start to secure solid long-term cash flow with work paid for in advance, more importantly, you do start to fill your diary with guaranteed work. This allows you to manage staff effectively but also if you’re working together with the sales teams perhaps increase the contact between servicing customers and sales customers.

With a good level of consistent income, you should slowly start to transform your business, any business. As a service provider, you will need to be very aware of the fact that service is the thing you need to provide. Making it easy for your customers to deal with you via a  whole package of services, and reminders along with loan cars along with budget payment facilities mean that you will end up as the go-to firm.

Industry Resistance

The motor car industry is looking like a bit of a dinosaur given the rapid change of just about everything else.  There is a lot that can be done to improve sales, improve customer satisfaction levels and to really add value – more than anything else it’s good for business, good for cash flow.

Richard Smith is a sales and business development guy, constantly looking at small business and thinking  – why has that not changed – how can businesses make more of what its doing – and why don’t customers get offered what they want.

When you are ready to get a head start on this stuff – you can do a ‘borrow my brain’ an intense but fantastically valuable session with me.

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