Auto Service World
Feature   July 1, 2002   by Gordon Cameron

Marketing for Results: Brand Marketing – Part 2

What do your customers and potential customers perceive about your business? That perception is called your "brand." Sometimes we call it "word of mouth."The previous article asked you to discern how ...

What do your customers and potential customers perceive about your business? That perception is called your “brand.” Sometimes we call it “word of mouth.”

The previous article asked you to discern how you want your business to be seen. Because of the nature of your business-serving the public through vehicle repairs-obtaining and maintaining a positive brand is challenging. You often start off behind the positive perception curve. Your customers seek your services because something on their vehicle is broken, and they must spend money to fix it. Those people don’t blame us, but are they upset at their situation. Customers must also pay to maintain their vehicles, and it’s often difficult for them to see the value in preventative maintenance.

You can understand the challenge of building a positive image or brand upon the negative experience of an unhappy customer having to spend money for repairs.


You can proactively create your brand, or maintain or modify the existing one. A positive brand provides a competitive advantage, and enables us to grow our business and increase our profits. Here are areas of your business that merit strong concentration.





Quality of Work

The sum of these areas creates your brand. Examine each of these key areas; develop a plan to project what you want your customers to perceive.


Safety is an important issue. When your customers don’t feel physically safe on your premises, that uneasy feeling will spread throughout your community. If you have a safety committee as part of your provincial government requirements or WCB requirements, ask the members to extend their mandate to include the customers.

You must be aware of potential hazards, e.g., ice, waxed floors, doorsills, or mats that could cause falls, slips, or perilous feelings. If one of your senior customers were to fall and break a hip, what damage would be done to your good name by the gossip about the unfortunate event-over and above the bad feelings and your obvious legal liability?


To have a good image, you need not have the most modern or newest facility. The overall appearance of your facility speaks about how you value the people who are using it. Is it clean and tidy, comfortable, attractive, and practical? If it looks like you don’t care about the appearance of your premises, by extension, people will think you don’t care about the customer or your quality of work, either.

One fine facility I have visited recently is in a 50-year-old building. Great care is taken to keep the building clean, tidy, uncluttered, and nicely painted-you truly can eat off the floor. I always enter that building through the back door. As consultants, we know that if the back of the facility is well tended, the level of caring in that business is very high.

Develop an inspection checklist for your business. Include interior and exterior areas. If you would like a copy of the facility checklist we have developed, please email; we will be happy to send you one.

A visual inspection should be done by you and members of your staff, on a monthly basis. Identify a problem when you see it, then fix it or develop a plan to do repairs or renovations in a timely fashion. Your service customers face the same dilemma-finding the money for repairs that must be done immediately, and providing a fiscal plan to carry out regular preventative maintenance.

Suggestion: ask a customer to accompany you on your inspection, so you can see your premises through his or her eyes.


If you are part of a franchise, the franchiser may control the advertising content. If you have control, make sure your advertising is helping your dealership create the desired impression.

Don’t confuse your customers. If you are a specialty shop that does transmissions, why advertise oil changes? If oil changes are a sideline, decide if the oil change attracts the transmission customer or vice versa, and advertise accordingly. If you believe cheap prices are not what your business is all about, then you confuse your customers when you feature cheap prices as a come-on. If you use sale prices to attract business, your regular prices will repel customers.


The way your staff members interact with customers is vital to your brand. It would be safe to assume you don’t want customers to feel your staff is rude, uncaring, or negative.

Research to see what your customers currently think. How can you change or maintain that thinking? The three best ways are example, training, and coaching.

If you are gruff to your staff, they will believe you don’t care about them-and you can hardly blame them if they are treating your customers in a similar manner. Leadership filters from the top down. Lead by good example; talk to your staff regularly about the importance of good, open communication with customers.

Send your staff members to training. Training can improve the perception of your business, and it need not be costly.

In all customer service training, the principles are constant. So what if your staff take a bartender customer service course? If they learned how to be friendly, like a good bartender, how much more business would that produce from receptive customers? Inexpensive evening courses in customer service may be available locally through the chamber of commerce or community college.


None of my vehicles has ever needed to be fixed at a time convenient to me. My muffler, brakes, and plugs never seem to wait till I have a day with nothing planned.

As a service center, you cannot reverse the fact that most trips to your shop are inconvenient for the customer, but you can help smooth out some of the rough edges.

Arrange a drop-off process whereby customers can drop-off their vehicle, complete a service form, then put the form and keys in a safe place, for you to retrieve later.

Open for write-up prior to the time most people go to work in your community.

Stay open late enough for customers to pick up their vehicle after work. Establish a process to accommodate people who will be arriving late.

Your brand can be tarnished if you do not provide a convenient method of payment.

Up front, communicate the payment choices you accept, including your policy for accepting cheques.

Make an arrangement with a local financial institution to provide terms for larger repair jobs.

Provide a debit machine service to facilitate direct payment from the customer’s account.

Quality of work

Consider this situation. The second-largest purchase people ever make-their vehicle-needs repair. The only thing that could make an already tense situation worse is for customers to spend money and not have their vehicle fixed properly. No technician is perfect. A repair may be done wrong, poorly, or the wrong part may be replaced. It happens.

The issues for maintaining your good brand are:

the speed at which you discover the problem,

what you do to counteract it.

To ensure that your image is positive in the community, set a dollar amount that triggers a follow-up call to the customer, 24 hours later, to determine if your work was satisfactory. By making that call, you will create a feeling in the mind of your customer that you do care enough to check on his or her level of satisfaction.

1. The customer will know you care-that you are good people to deal with.

2. Even if the vehicle has not been fixed properly, the customer will be less upset because you cared enough to make that follow-up call. The customer will feel confident that you’ll do the right thing to fix the problem.

Note: Do you have a process for checking all your work before it leaves the shop-or at least to check repairs above a certain dollar amount?

Customer perception-word of mouth-is the best advertising to have and the hardest to get. Negative word of mouth is easy to achieve. Positive word of mouth takes care and attention, plans and processes, staff training, and customer follow-through.

Remember: your brand image doesn’t rest in y
our mind but in the minds of your customers. They judge you not by what you intend to do for them but by their actual experience with you.

About Results Consulting Group Inc.

Results is an international full-service business consulting company with special expertise and experience in the automotive industry. In the past five years alone, Results’ team of automotive professionals has trained more than 20,000 automotive personnel-and logged thousands of in-store consulting-project days, from independent operations to national and international chains.

Senior Partners Ken Keis and Gordon Cameron have over 45 years of combined business-ownership experience and 15,000 hours of automotive consulting experience.

The Results Performance Institute provides a full range of information products and services designed to increase your business and individual performance, including personal one-on-one coaching, in-store consulting, on- and off-site educational sessions, tele-conferences, videos, and audio solutions. Results also provides appointment-scheduling and dispatch software solutions-ServiceMate-specifically designed for the independent maintenance and repair sector. Results’ copyrighted service marketing and operational system, “0% Customer Defection & 100% Customer Retention,” has a proven track record of increasing service gross by 10-20% and beyond-in less than six months.

For further information about Results and its automotive and business solutions, call us Toll Free at 1-866-852-4347, email, or visit our Website at