AKRON (July 1, 2014) — Every so often I think of how far I have come from the young woman who knew little about tires just a few years ago.
Now when I need to go into a tire/automotive service shop for repairs, I know some of the shop lingo and I honestly feel more comfortable in my own skin going in. However, I keep the person I used to be very close to me because I still want to know how she thinks, so I can help you.
Women are big-time consumers in the automotive aftermarket, but the industry might not yet be catering to their needs. Same goes for millennials. It might be difficult to anticipate the needs of these groups, but I thought as a member of both of these demographics, I might be able to help you out. Here is some food for thought.
One of my pet peeves when going somewhere considered predominantly male, the staff speak directly to my boyfriend instead of me. If it is something to do with my car, then I want to understand the purpose for the money I am about to hand over. I know that I may not understand everything, but I am never going to if it is not explained to me.
When I moved about two years ago, my goal was to find an auto mechanic I can trust — and I succeeded. Why? Because every time I need to take my vehicle in for work, my mechanic goes over everything with me: every price and every reason behind the repairs. Then if my boyfriend has any follow up questions, those get answered, too.
I know sometimes millenials get a bad rap about not having brand loyalty, but I do not think this is necessarily true. I think we just ask different questions. And as a woman, respect goes a long way. I have been places where I am disregarded and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
So my advice — follow the cues from each customer. I was just explaining to a co-worker that I follow this logic on airplane rides. If the person next to me starts talking, I will try to keep up my end of the conversation. If they give a head nod, so do I. If we are going on this trip together, might as well make everyone comfortable.
For your company, you are providing a service, so if your customers are asking questions, answer them. If they look confused, ask them if they have any questions. They may be nervous to speak up or take up too much of your time. If they hand over the keys and tell you they trust you to do whatever needs to get done, than get the job done without breaking that trust.
While treating your customers with respect may seem like a no-brainer, some of these other suggestions are ways to add to the showroom experience. As a girl on the go, I am constantly using my phone. So much so that if I walked into your shop, I will probably be on it at least half the time. This is in part because much of my job involves being on my phone when I am out of the office, and also in part because many of my hobbies — social media, technology, games, books, etc. — are also on my phone.
If my phone battery starts to die while I’m at a shop, I would be upset. How much would I like your business if you had a mobile device charging station? A lot.
I think this is probably something all generations can appreciate these days. I am sure a lot of businesspeople who come into your shop are working on the go. Not everyone carries around portable chargers, so offering a charging station can come in handy. It does not necessarily have to be anything fancy, but just a few extra phone chargers to make time spent at the shop more productive.
If it makes you nervous to leave out the chargers on an unsupervised table, publicize that you have chargers available, but keep them behind the counter.
I have started getting allergy shots, and anyone who has gone through this process knows that you have to go to a doctor’s office every week for the first couple of months. Once you get the shot, you have to wait around for at least 20 minutes afterward each time to ensure you are not going to have a reaction.
I thought I would get frustrated at this practice each week, however it has allowed me to check out what’s new in my favorite guilty-pleasure magazines each week. They have a variety of magazines on topics across the board. I would be bored if they just had nasal and allergy magazines.
Do you only have auto-related magazines in your showroom? Maybe you should re-think your magazine selection. These types of magazines will be popular with some of your customers, but you want to start pleasing all of your customers. And also try to keep the issues you have on display as up to date as possible. No one likes browsing a three-year-old or older, well-worn magazine.
Magazines like Highlights or other child-friendly publications might be helpful, too. Child play areas in general are a big help to moms on the go because it assists them in keeping their kids happy. I cannot speak for myself since I do not have children, but I have been in waiting areas enough times to see children interacting with play toys, and those who are sitting impatiently. As a business owner, you want your customers to have the best experience as possible, right? Maybe during a quick oil change some children can sit patiently, but with a longer service they might need something to help keep them amused. Do you have a television in the show room? If so, is there a remote control for guests to control what channel is on? The television is not helping keep people less antsy if there is something on all day they do not want to watch.
Food and coffee
This might seem like a no brainer: You might think that all you need to do is get a vending and soda machine and you are set. But maybe not. Food and drinks that are complimentary might be a big help. I say this because the majority of my friends do not carry cash on them. They may sit there in your shop and stare at the bag of Doritos hanging there in the vending machine…taunting them.
While adding a few magazines and play toys might be a cheaper fix than adding free food everyday, there are some options that might be cost effective. Coffee and water can be bought in bulk if the shop adds a coffee pot and water cooler to supply customers with complimentary beverages. Tea bags can be put out as well if the coffee pot has a hot water spout. I have seen a few dealers with popcorn machines or even hot dog rollers in their showrooms.
If you think that you cannot afford these amenities on a regular basis, maybe have special days—such as “Fridays are food days,” etc. For instance, I saw on Facebook that TRAX Tires in Mobile, Ala., had a Blue Bell ice cream truck show up at their shop last week. They posted it to social media and got some great engagement from it.
It is always good to let your customers know that you are thinking of their needs, both with their vehicles and while they wait.
What kinds of ways do you spruce up your showroom? Tweet Jennifer at @jenniferkarpus. Tire Business reporter Jennifer Karpus readily admits Doritos bags regularly taunt her.
Where can you expect to see the most growth in 2019?
45% (34 votes)
|General automotive service||
15% (11 votes)
|Brakes, shocks and other undercar services||
7% (5 votes)
15% (11 votes)
|Anywhere we can get it.||
19% (14 votes)
|Total votes: 75|