3 Opportunities for Auto Repair Shops Created by 2020
January 25, 2021
This past year was one of the toughest our country has had in a very long time. We suffered through waves of economic crises, health crises and political crises striking throughout the country on staggered schedules.
The economic fallout left some auto repair shops hanging on by a thread. But many other shops were struggling to keep up with the steady barrage of work coming their way. Like so many other businesses, the financial impact of pandemic chaos depended a lot on where the shop was located and what types of customers the shop typically served.
So far, 2021 is feeling a lot like 2020. But by the end of the year, the pandemic’s impact on daily life should begin to fade. And despite all the pundits talking about how the world will be forever changed, most people will be thrilled to get back to the life they had before.
Here are some opportunities for shops ready to tackle another year of rapid change.
People Will Value Relationships More Than Ever
Big businesses have been able to move their customer service online and have saved a fortune. It’s been great for their stock prices – when they move their customer service to emails, chat boxes and “call centers” staffed by home-based employees, those employees have almost no overhead costs. It has caused many companies to reevaluate their work from home approach.
But this isn’t going to end like they think it is.
People who have socially distanced during this pandemic have also been socially isolated, and it’s made many of them miserable. Personal service – from someone who remembers your name and face and actually cares about you – may command a higher premium than it has in years. And independent businesses will be in the best position to provide that service.
When customers call your shop, does your employee seem like someone they’d like to meet? Or are they distracted, impersonal or unhelpful? Answering the phone in a friendly and caring way, and focusing on the customer’s problem instead of their automobile will build loyalty quickly, especially if they’re constantly dealing with businesses providing the same subpar service after the pandemic that they are today.
People Will Keep Their Cars Longer
Used car prices have finally plateaued after a major increase in the fall. But the average new car price is now above $40,000, and it isn’t going down anytime soon. In fact, crippling bottlenecks in microprocessor fabrication are forcing auto manufacturers to idle their plants, causing significant supply concerns. For people who saw this year how quickly a steady job can disappear, a six-year auto loan is even less appealing than it used to be.
It’s long been a source of frustration for technicians and shop managers that people are unwilling to invest more in their car than the bare minimum required to keep it on the road one more day. The good news is that, for any customers who have priced a new car lately, regular maintenance may be an easier sell than it was before the pandemic. Problems are cheaper before they become disasters, and with the prices out there today, even a disaster might be cheaper than a new vehicle. Why take a chance to save a few bucks?
Maintenance sales may also be bolstered by many peoples’ heightened awareness of personal safety. Unfortunately many people are newly aware of how lost lives can impact those around them. Each shop visit is another opportunity for your technicians to identify a problem in its early stages and fix it before it becomes a major safety hazard.
If you aren’t promoting a maintenance plan, this might be a great time to start. Maintenance services can be a high-margin offering, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t also a good deal for your customers. In fact, any maintenance plan your service writers are selling should be structured in a way that makes them really believe in the value of the service. Otherwise, they’ll hate selling it, and your customers will know it and resent being upsold.
Remote Work Will Impact Many City Workers
There’s plenty of talk about city workers moving hundreds or thousands of miles away to rural areas because they can work remotely. That will probably take years to happen – most corporate professionals aren’t moving to a farm three states away until they know that’s going to be acceptable in their industries over the long-term.
What will happen is that some employees who were not allowed to work remotely before the pandemic will now be allowed to work from home more often. These employees needed a repair shop near their office before the pandemic. But they may be looking for a shop closer to their house now, especially if it’s cheaper, less busy and more accessible.
If it turns out to be a year of higher-than-usual shop switching, that’s likely to benefit shops in the suburbs or residential areas. Make sure your marketing is reaching people who live near your shop! A strong showing on Google’s Local Pack will definitely help with this.
On the other hand, if your shop is near downtown areas or business parks, it might be more important than ever to build and maintain conscious customer loyalty.
To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help you reach new customers and get them into your shop, call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.