CRM Strategy: Connection and Retention

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CRM text message auto industry mechanical
Text messaging has become a key part of an effective CRM solution for service providers. PHOTO Huw Evans

Today, there are more options than ever for building a successful CRM strategy in auto repair.

For aftermarket service providers, customer loyalty and retention are the cornerstones of the business. If you can’t get customers, you can’t generate revenue and to create a sustainable revenue strategy you need those customers to keep coming back and referring others.

When presented with a situation such as a global pandemic, where face-to-face contact is often minimalized due to the need for social distancing measures, how businesses interact with their customers is absolutely critical.

For service repair shops, understanding how their customers want to be communicated with is absolutely critical.

Tim Cifelli, Chief Revenue Officer at Bolt On Technology, which provides auto repair shops with software solutions, says that when it comes to communication mediums, today SMS text is often, by far, the most effective. “It’s not just millennials doing it anymore, it’s everybody,” he says.

Backed by data

Cifelli says the effectiveness of texting is backed up by data findings. “It often takes three hours to respond to an email or phone call, but with a text message, it’s often three minutes.”

He notes the fact that you can often respond via SMS text while you’re in the middle of doing something else, like performing an oil change, doing a brake inspection, or assisting other customers, makes it a highly efficient method of communication.

Cifelli also notes, that texting promotes transparency. The service advisor or even the technician can actively relay work being performed on the vehicle in real-time to the customer, showing the scope of work, and comparing before and after the service or repair. All of this can be sent via simple text message to the customer’s smartphone or tablet.

Modern CRM tools also allow service advisors to utilize digital inspections, pulling the data that shows what maintenance and repairs were performed previously and what is recommended in the future, both short and longer-term. The digital inspection format allows this information to be relayed to the customer easily and concisely, with colour indicators such as green, yellow and red to show the condition of various items on the vehicle.

Modern CRM solutions also allow shops to pre-set appointment follow-ups with their customers, meaning that once an existing service is completed, the service advisor sets the next appointment before they even leave the shop, much in the same way a typical doctor or dentist’s office does with their patients.

Useful tool

Although not currently offered in Canada due to privacy and CASL regulations, Mitchell 1’s SocialCRM solution has, for U.S. service providers at least, given them a useful tool to communicate with their customers before and after their service visits to the shop.

Not only does it provide the ability to show the customer what work is required on their vehicle for the next visit, but also allows the shop to express gratitude by thanking the customer for their business.

SocialCRM is designed to boost search engine optimization for those businesses that use it by combining a custom business website with automated content that’s also embedded with call tracking phone numbers.

“This makes it easier for prospects to find information about the shop when searching the Internet, and helps shops convert prospects into new customers,” says Marcus Mackell, Product Marketing Manager, Mitchell 1 SocialCRM.

At Epicor Software, solutions such as MechanicNet Cloud CRM help shops build a professional, custom website that includes online appointment setting, allowing service staff to communicate with customers using industry-leading tools.

This is essentially creating a pre-emptive and proactive approach for vehicle service/maintenance, enabling the shop to virtually anticipate the needs of the customer before they themselves, are actually aware of it.

Every aspect

“Epicor’s MechanicNet Cloud CRM can help shops master every aspect of the customer relationship, from offering a professional website with online scheduling, to tracking their vehicle service history and upcoming service needs, to offering timely promotions, to providing seamless digital communication with the customer throughout the repair process,” says Don Landrum, Senior Product Manager, Epicor Software.

He notes that these types of technology-enabled services provide an effective remedy to an age-old problem in the aftermarket service industry.

Namely through communication, they allow shop staff to cultivate customers who are likely to rely on them for repeat business, rather than attracting one-time bargain hunters, who simply shop around for the lowest price.

CRM and COVID-19

Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted just about everybody on the planet. Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders forced many businesses to close their physical locations and shift to online service models.

For businesses like automotive repair shops, which were deemed essential and permitted to remain open, it still required a major pivot in the way they interacted with their customers.

In many cases modern technology and CRM tools allowed savvy operators to enhance relationships with their clients via text and video chat services, promoting even greater transparency and trust than before.

COVID also saw many shops adopting practices they had not utilized before. “We’ve heard of shops offering touchless service, handling all estimate discussions by phone, text or email, with customers never setting foot inside the building,” says Mitchell 1’s Marcus Mackell.

At Epicor, Don Landrum concurs. “COVID has brought fundamental changes to the relationship between the repair shop and vehicle owner,” he says.

“First, millions of consumers dramatically changed their driving habits, which has led to a subsequent breakdown of their auto care habits.” As a result, he says there is now a huge opportunity for service providers to connect with consumers whose business is available to them, provided they’re able to connect with them effectively and offer a seamless and professional auto care experience.

“Technology is absolutely vital in this new reality,” says Landrum. “Consumers have been conditioned by COVID to shift to digital communication and online ordering. They will expect the same in terms of auto care.”


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