Inside Tips on Auto Shop Marketing From Harley Bryant

The “Meet Your Support Agent” feature provides an inside look at the SocialCRM shop marketing service from the support agent’s perspective. In an interview format, they share expertise, insights and best practices to help your auto repair shop use digital marketing & social media strategies to gain a competitive advantage in your market. This time we had the opportunity to sit down with Harley Bryant. Harley has been a part of the Mitchell1 SocialCRM support team for about 3 years.

What do you like most about your interactions with your shops?

My favorite thing is getting to know my customers. It starts with an intro call that lets the customer know how the program works and setting their expectations. Then, as I reach out during follow up calls, I have a chance to get to learn more about the shop and what they are about.

I like getting to build a relationship with them; that’s an important part! Having that great relationship actually helps me do an even better job with their marketing because I can get a sense of what their brand is about, what they truly need for their particular shop and what recommendations to make.

So getting to know the customers, who they are and what they do helps you to help them?

Yes, exactly! I have one shop, for example, that likes to send out email blasts. We do them pretty frequently— on a 30-day rotation. They are in a college town, and the way to get to the attention of the college students is to send out funny memes. Jerry and I work together to find great memes.

This strategy really works for the shop, so when they were having really bad weather in February and March, we would find memes that were owls covered in snow or a car stuck in the snow. This is a really great example of how getting to know my customer’s business, their customers and what works and doesn’t work for them helps me help them.

Do they get good responses?

Oh yeah, he gets great responses. People have actually taken the email and posted them on Facebook saying, “Check out what my auto repair shop sent me.” This is awesome because that person’s friends also become familiar with the repair shop, which increases the likelihood they’ll come in for a service when they are ready. My shop loves it.

What feature of the service do you believe is the most valuable?

I think the OEM reminders provide the most value. Because the reminders go out consistently, it makes it easy for our newer customers, who have not done a lot of marketing before, to really get their marketing program running. It is also the perfect way for the shop’s customer to see the shop is taking care of them and watching their maintenance even if they skip it. It makes the shop top of mind when that customer is ready for their next service. Also, being that friendly reminder provides a lot of value to the shop’s customer.

What advice do you have to offer shop owners, so they get the most out of their SocialCRM service?

They have to interact with their customers. This means both on and offline. We definitely understand that shops are busy, and many are only two or three-man shops. But if shops want to increase the number of repeat customers they get, they will have to take some time out to nurture the ones they do have by interacting with them. It’s not enough just to do a good and timely repair anymore with all of the competition.

Without building that relationship and communicating with your customer, customers without a second thought will move on to another shop that’s offering a good deal because they don’t have any connection with you driving them there.  I always tell shops; all it takes is less than twenty minutes. And that twenty minutes can be the difference in hundreds of dollars of revenue in repeat business that they otherwise may not have gotten.

What do you mean by interact with customers, and what should they do in that 20 minutes?

By interact, I mean responding to reviews, looking at reports, making phone calls. Because our customers obviously have the SocialCRM service, they have access to some great reports. This allows them to know exactly where to go to find reviews and what customers need to be contacted.

Responding to Reviews: Taking a couple minutes to respond to both positive and negative reviews, allows the shop to touch base with the customer and “keep the slate clean.” It also gives that customer some warm, fuzzy feelings when they think their shop is run by humans who actually value their opinion and want to hear how they are doing.

Reaching Out with Communications: With my customers and maybe with other shop’s marketing programs outside of SocialCRM, communications, like smart service emails, are sent out automatically. This is great because it takes away the stress of manually having to send out individual emails based on different service milestones. As great as this is, I encourage my customers to look at their reports and their dashboard to keep up to date on what communications/emails are being sent out.  

I tell my shops they can be more proactive about looking at emails that were sent out based off of service and just give that customer a call as a second way to notice that you are staying on top of their service needs. For example, if you see a timing belt reminder was sent out to Bill’s Auto, the shop can give Bill a call and say, “I know you’re coming up to for timing belt replacement soon. Stop in, and we’ll just check it out to see if you need it done now or if you can hold off.” This saves Bill on a broken timing belt and lost money on a towing bill, and it raises revenue for the shop that might have gone somewhere else.

In your opinion what feature of the service is the most underutilized by shops?

I think that Sure Critic coupons are very much underutilized. I try to get shops to really pay attention to their SureCritic coupons because it helps bring in new business and the wording in them is being picked up by the search engine searches, helping improve their ranking in search results. If someone is searching for an oil change, and you have this oil change coupon on your SureCritic Business Review Page, it is likely to show up on those local search results. Also, if someone has never been to your shop before but see a $10 off coupon, there is a better chance they will pick you.

What are some tips you routinely pass along to your shops about customer communication?

I tell my shops to take a more personal approach with the customers because this industry is so competitive, and they have to do something that sets them apart. So building that relationship is imperative to creating that “glue” that keeps my shop and their customers together. If I go into a shop and they say, “Okay Harley, we will see you in a few months; it was great to see you again,” even that little personal touch is going to keep me coming back. And the same is true with other customers. They do notice. Another tip I pass along is to be professional while being personable. They should make sure they hone in on that perfect balance.

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About the Author

Chris Bonneau

Chris Bonneau is the Support & Sales Lead for the Mitchell 1 SocialCRM product line. He joined Mitchell 1 in 2006 and has been in the automotive marketing business for over 8 years.