Increasing your car count can be one of the most effective ways to make your shop more profitable. But how can you get more people through the door? Unfortunately, there’s no single, sure-fire strategy that will work for every shop. With that in mind, here are some tactics that tend to be very effective across the board – and easy for most shops to implement.
1. Set Goals
You should begin by identifying your current car count. What is it at now? Where would you like it to be? Set a goal of how much you would like to increase your overall sales. Make sure to consider the following factors:
- Current gross sales
- The Net Operating Profit (NOP) you’re trying to achieve
- Your Gross Operating Margin (GOMs)
- Do you have the space, equipment, and staffing available to meet your goal?
2. Know Your Market
All successful businesses know their market. They know who’s likely to visit their shop and how much their customers are willing to pay for their services. Understanding your market will help you know how to promote your business better and bring in the most paying customers. If you’ve tried advertising for your shop and have only seen mediocre returns, you may want to spend more time analyzing your market.
One of the best ways to analyze your market is to look through your past and existing customers. Look for patterns, like vehicle types, and the services customers utilize the most. This will allow you to come up with specific groups of people who visit your shop. Once you’ve determined your market, you can promote the services that are most relevant to your customer base.
3. Optimize Your Schedule
Scheduling is a significant factor for your car count. Poor scheduling can mean that you’re not accommodating as many cars as is possible. On the flip side, it can mean that you’re overbooking, which can be frustrating to customers. Many auto shop owners say scheduling is one of the most significant sources of complaints from customers. Most customers want their vehicle serviced as quickly as possible. Poor scheduling can also mean that your employees are overworked or bored, both of which can lead to reduced productivity.
The key to optimizing your schedule is finding the right balance between the number of cars you can service in a day and the number of technicians you have available. This can be tricky because car count and staffing are factors that can change daily.
One way to make your scheduling smoother is to get future appointments on the books as soon as possible. When someone comes in for repairs or maintenance, let them know when their next recommended service is due. Ask if they would like to schedule the appointment ahead of time. The problem with this is that it can increase no-shows because customers are more likely to forget their appointment. Calling customers a few days in advance of their appointment or sending a text or email reminders will ensure they remember to come in or cancel if needed. Our third-party integrated application, Kukui, makes this step effortless.
Kukui is an all-in-one marketing and customer relationship management (CRM) platform that is specifically designed for auto repair businesses. The app makes it easy to send appointment reminders to your customers, prompt you to follow-up with customers, track where new customers are coming from, and send automatic “thank you” emails for reviews. Kukui also has integrated tools for search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO), return on investment tracking (ROI), and more.
4. Technician Efficiency
Increasing technician efficiency will also allow you to increase your car count and sales. Efficiency is measured by how long your technicians take to complete a job versus the estimated time in the labor guide. Calculating the capacity of each technician will make it easier to understand how much work your team can take on each day.
PIF Pro’s built-in reporting allows you to view the overall efficiency of each technician. You can narrow down which jobs may have caused issues to bring down efficiency numbers. You may find, for example, that the experience level of a technician doesn’t match the experience required for particular jobs – which could significantly extend the repair time. It could also lower the overall efficiency of your other technicians if they were pulled away from tasks to help the less experienced technician. Using our technician reporting makes it easy to make informed, data-driven adjustments to factors that affect the efficiency of your team.
Beyond calculating each technician’s capability, you can also analyze whether your technician’s work hours are being fully utilized. If you have a technician who works 40 hours a week, the chances are that the technician spends an average of two hours a day (ten hours a week) handling tasks that aren’t specific to auto repair. If you reduce the number of technician tasks that aren’t income-generating, such as driving customers home, stocking parts, or other non-auto repair related tasks, you can free up hours and increase the number of cars your technicians work on during the day.
5. Leverage Your Current and Past Customers
One of the first places you should look to increase your car count is your current customer base. Customers who have a great experience at your shop will be willing to keep coming back and tell their friends about you. Focus on providing amazing service every time, and you’ll be able to leverage your current customers to increase your car count through reviews and referrals.
You can also increase your car count by getting past customers to return. Generate a report to see which of your customers hasn’t been into the shop over the past year. Reach out to them through their preferred contact method. Say hello and gently remind them that you’re available if they need anything for their vehicle. If contacting them through text or email, you can include a link that will take them straight to your online scheduling or call the shop directly.
6. Ask for Reviews
Most customers tend to look at reviews before they decide to choose a new business for a service. Most people are willing to leave reviews for a business they like, but many of them won’t think to do it themselves. So, ask! Chances are, your loyal customers will have no issue with writing a quick review. You can make it easier for them by sending a link to your preferred review site with a digital invoice. An on-site comments box is another way you can collect reviews. Create a form for them to write their comments and provide a box or place to initial for permission to post their comments online.
With online reviews, there’s always the chance you’ll receive negative comments. If you do, you should respond promptly. This shows that you listen and care enough to improve your service – or even that there’s another side to the story. It also shows transparency! Potential customers are more likely to forgive a bad review if you’ve taken the time to respond honestly. Be sure to address their concerns in a professional, gracious, and non-confrontational way.
7. Provide Solutions to Your Customers’ Challenges
This is an area that many auto shops tend to overlook, but it can be very effective in a customer’s decision to go with your shop versus a competitor. What are some roadblocks for your customers to come to your shop? Are you located on the outskirts of town, with little to no public transportation options? Is your waiting room uninviting or uncomfortable? What types of conveniences can you offer your customers to make your shop more appealing? While you should tailor these solutions to your shop and customer needs, here are a few extras that will benefit any shop:
- Offer a shuttle service or a rebate for Uber or Lyft
- Offer free towing with service
- Make your shop convenient and comfortable for customers who decide to wait. Offer free (good!) coffee and free Wi-Fi. Clean your waiting room and bathrooms regularly.
8. Establish Yourself as an Expert in Your Field
While this can take time, establishing yourself as an expert can help your business in both the short and long term. People are drawn to useful information, and your customers are no exception. By providing them with information like technical service bulletins or DIY auto repair tips, you’re showing your customers you have valuable, expert knowledge. It also shows that you care about what happens to them and their vehicle when it’s not at your shop. This builds trust, and they’ll know when they visit your shop, you truly know what you’re talking about!
What do your customers need to know? Are there certain weather conditions that affect the vehicles in your area? Are there common questions you get asked repeatedly? Address these in a weekly blog post, monthly newsletter, or social media posts. You can even host a community workshop on subjects like how to change a tire or check a vehicle’s fluids.
Many of these tactics are easy to implement right away; some of them, such as establishing yourself as an expert will take more time. Mixing your tactics will ensure that you’re casting a wide net for current, past, and potential customers. Find what works for your shop and eliminate anything that doesn’t! With a little effort, you should be able to increase your car count in no time.