I meet my fair share of shop owners who have a stick-with-what-works kind of attitude. They’ve had success in the past, and they feel that the way they do things is the best way. There’s no reason to change things up.
I fear that those shops will fall by the wayside if don’t look for new ways to accommodate their customers.
To achieve success in this industry, we must be willing to tweak our systems and procedures to reflect the constant change in technology.
For example, how do you communicate with your clients? Are you texting?
We had a situation recently where a customer refused to pay his invoice, saying that he had not authorized the repair. We had a signature authorizing the initial inspection and diagnosis, but the actual repair authorization was given over the phone. That might be standard procedure in our industry, but we had no way of proving that the customer had given verbal authorization.
I suppose we could start recording every phone conversation, but that would require us to inform clients ahead of time about the policy, and it feels a little intrusive. Maybe even distrustful.
We knew we needed a solution that would prevent this from happening again, so we created the authorization text. Immediately after the service advisor has received authorization over the phone, a text is sent out. It confirms that authorization was given and requires a reply – simply the word “yes” – to confirm the amount. This also serves as the customer’s agreement to the terms and conditions of the work order.
This may not be as good as a pen-to-paper signature, and it may prove to be problematic from a legal standpoint. But at the very least, it creates a digital paper trail. If there is a dispute, we have some evidence that authorization was given. In the case above, an authorization text could well have settled the dispute before it escalated.
We’ve had no pushback from customers over our authorization texts. It has become standard procedure around here. And its simplicity and effectiveness have even inspired us to use texting for other purposes. We have developed a great customer follow-up text. Sent out 30 minutes after clients pick up their vehicles, it thanks them for their visit, asks if their experience was a positive one, and provides a link to our Google page so they can leave a review. With two clicks, they’re able to provide a review. If we followed our usual systems and procedures properly, we’re confident that review will be a positive one.
We haven’t gotten rid of our follow-up phone calls because they offer a more personal touch. But texting is a more immediate tool, and one that a lot of clients prefer. It’s been a game changer for our business.
Shops need to embrace new systems and procedures. In a business like ours, we have to stay abreast of the latest technology. We can’t just stick with what worked years or decades ago. We have to ride the wave of change.
Doug Hoy is the owner of Highway 33 Autopro in Kelowna, B.C.