It’s no mystery, the fast lube industry has become increasingly competitive over the years. No one knows it better than you. What was once a simple business focused on oil changes is now a strategic game. If you can capture a consistent amount of repeat customers, winning that game becomes easier.
Unfortunately, free Wi-Fi, coffee and soda are no longer reason enough for customers to visit your shop over and over. Almost every quick lube offers similar amenities. Consequently, they’ve become expected perks, not reasons to regularly return.
Now, I’m not saying ditch the coffee pot — such a thing would be blasphemous coming from a coffee addict like myself — but I am suggesting capturing a loyal customer base requires more than a good cup of joe. So how do you get customers to return these days? I’ve heard grumblings from technicians saying, “It’s impossible. Customers don’t care.” However, I disagree. These days, people are more loyal than ever. The key is presenting your brand in a way that gives them a reason to come to you and captures their loyalty. They want something to tweet about or snap a picture of, so give them a good reason to do so. The most effective ways to drive customer loyalty cost nothing.
Focus on these five things, and I guarantee you’ll have a better shot at repeat customers than the shop down the street who’s expecting a free bottle of water to get their customer to return.
1. Make Friends
Sure, they’re your customers, but make them your friends and they’ll come back, I pinky promise! This doesn’t mean you have to exchange bracelets and promise you’ll be best friends forever, but if the issue they’re having relates to their car, they should feel like you’ll keep their best interest at heart and advise them as a friend would.
2. Be Trustworthy
Trust goes a long way, especially with your customers. You’re probably all too familiar with the popular misconception: the fast lube industry isn’t very trustworthy. As unfair as it is, it’s powerful to know what stereotypes you’re battling, so you can be prepared to appropriately respond to them. Prove to your customers, most of the industry is trustworthy by prioritizing the repairs and services each vehicle needs. They’ll appreciate your honesty and realize you aren’t trying to upsell them. A few bad eggs sure can make it more difficult on the rest of us.
3. Create Experiences
Customers always have an experience at your shop. It may be bad, but I hope it’s good. If you’re not sure what the experience you provide is, you’re swimming in dangerous waters. Figure it out. You should know exactly what it is you’re after every time a customer pulls into your bays. If you’re wise, you’ll want to make them feel welcome, at ease and taken care of. Do this by greeting them with a smile, learning their name and doing something memorable, like striking up a conversation about their favorite college sports team (you saw their alumni bumper sticker) or asking if you can give their dog in the backseat a treat.
4. Do Your Research
If you plug in the customer’s information and they’ve been to your shop before, take note of the services they had done last time and mention them in your opening pitch. There’s a certain level of comfort that comes with knowing someone is familiar with your car.
5. Recognize Loyalty
The “reward good behavior” principle rings true with kids and customers. Consider creating a customer loyalty program. For example, “Buy three oil changes, get half off your fourth.” A simple punch card will alert you to loyal customers who return to buy an oil change and have their card punched. There are so many variations of loyalty programs, so create the one that’s right for your customers.
Without establishing loyalty, customers will continue to visit the shop that’s closest to them or has the lowest price when they decide it’s time for an oil change, instead of heading straight to you.
Loyalty is a game changer, but it takes time to establish. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see an increase in returning customers in the first month. Keep at it. Consider every customer who returns a win. Eventually, you’ll notice the points adding up.