There are a number of factors that will result in a vehicle owner coming to the realization that their vehicle should be serviced. Some are subtle – some not so much. From the auto repair shop perspective – the point of need recognition on the part of the vehicle owner is often the time when business is won or lost. For the shop striving to retain existing customers – this means exercising diligence in maintenance, repair and vehicle inspections. For the shop hoping to acquire new customers the key to success is in brand recognition and reputation. Following are factors that influence service need recognition and the potential impact on customer retention and acquisition:
- Vehicle Failure – A complete vehicle breakdown equates to a need for immediate repair. This situation will often result in a negative perception of the auto repair business currently maintaining the vehicle. If the vehicle owner abided by all recommended and scheduled maintenance requirements the feeling that a complete failure should not have occurred will be even stronger. This perception of course is colored by the overall relationship between the vehicle owner and the service provider. But it is one of the most likely reasons that a customer will consider a new auto repair shop. This can be a benefit to the service provider that wins the business and a detriment to the one losing a customer. Effective vehicle inspections can prevent losing business due to these circumstances and strong marketing and brand recognition can increase customer acquisition rates when vehicle owners decide to search for a new service provider.
- Non-Operational or Malfunctioning Systems – When something on a vehicle malfunctions the customer reaction is similar to a complete vehicle failure (above) only on a smaller scale. At this point the vehicle owner will consider the relationship with the current service provider and question whether or not the problem could have been prevented. So to the shop owner failure prevention through inspection is the key to customer retention and for the shop hoping for new business brand recognition is the pathway to opportunity.
- Service Indicators – Many vehicles have service indicator lights to let the person know that maintenance should be performed on their vehicle. In this event the vehicle owner will more than likely return to their current service provider.
- Lube Stickers – The static cling labels placed in the windshield can be the most cost effective form of advertising available in the auto repair industry. This message reminds the vehicle owner to have their car serviced and to bring it back to the shop advertised on the label.
- Reminders – Recommended service and maintenance due reminders are an effective way to help customers take care of their vehicles. In addition they support long term positive relationships. Sending reminders by email, text or regular mail can have a huge impact on customer retention.
- Mobile Device Apps – Smart phone and IPhone applications are being introduced into the market that provide the end consumer with the ability to manage the maintenance on their vehicle including notifications when service is due based on factory maintenance schedules. They also include recommended service providers with locations and maps. For the shop it’s important to be included in the list of possible service providers.