Auto Service World
News   January 18, 2024   by Adam Malik

How to keep up with consumer change

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Consumer behaviour around what they expect from their local automotive repair shop has changed. Your shop needs to keep pace, urged an industry expert.

Customers are looking for ease of doing business with you online. Ben Johnson, director of product management at Mitchell 1, cited a survey from MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers that showed 95 per cent of customers research online before they buy anything. And when it comes to what they want most from their local automotive repair shop, two-thirds said it’s the ability to book an appointment online.

That’s not a surprise to him. Johnson told attendees of AAPEX 2023 that he does the same when making restaurant reservations or booking medical appointments.

“The younger drivers, the younger customers — everybody has a phone now. Nobody uses that as a phone,” he said. “It’s messaging and social and this and that. Phone calls are actually down. So this is the way these folks like to be communicated with.”

Johnson grew up in a time when people found his shop through the Yellow Pages. They called him and they had a face-to-face conversation. Both sides valued that. Young people don’t care for that as much anymore.

“But what hasn’t changed is the expectation that when a car is brought into your shop that they’re either going to pick it up the same day they dropped it off or, at worse, the next day,” Johnson said during his presentation, How Shops Build Trust and Transparency with their Customers. “That’s a promise that the aftermarket has kept for years of years. It’s amazing, actually, when you think of the supply chain issues that can happen that we’ve been able to do that.”

And if 95 per cent of people are searching online, they’ll eventually click on a website. Will yours be appealing to potential customers?

“And so we want to make sure that our website is as clean and spruced up as the front of your shop when that customer finally drives up there,” Johnson pointed out.

“Think about the guy or gal that’s never seen your shop and make sure there’s information up there that will help them make the right decision about picking your shop.

That means if you have an online booking tool, that your calendar is refreshed as slots are booked. It would be frustrating and drive away customers if they make a booking only to be told that time slot wasn’t actually available. Or they get a phone call a few minutes later from the shop’s service advisor saying their team can’t actually accommodate the customer at that time.

“It’s kind of a first negative impression,” Johnson said. “Communication is key. Take care of them. Let them have their online appointments. That’s how they want to deal with you. If you don’t do these things, it’s giving you a much bigger chance of them looking around until they find somebody that does.”

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3 Comments » for How to keep up with consumer change
  1. Fred Del Pero says:

    When it is -36C like we just had here in Edmonton and every shop is very busy , do you really think the shop or the client are going to use those method? theory is great but the real world is different , get out there and see the front line.

  2. Geoff says:

    There is a severe flip side to this. We tried using an online presence, it generated a lot of no shows and wasted time. Without a personal contact of some kind for our first interaction, I have no idea if I’m talking to someone I even want to deal with. I took our website down and never looked back. Same with sales tools like tire quote requests through our distributors search tool. I think I converted 1 quote request out of the hundreds I wasted my time on – and I know its wasn’t because of price. Came to realize later we were getting quote requests from people 100’s of kilometers away. I’m an older millennial, not some old curmudgeon afraid of the interwebs, but I have come to absolutely despise that way of doing business, and my appointment backlog doesn’t seem to be shrinking.

    Call me, set up an an appointment after you explain the nature of your requested visit, drop the car off and leave it with me. There are very few exceptions to this model for me. And it is working fantastic. Go somewhere else if you don’t like my way, but it hasn’t been a problem yet.

  3. Robert Nurse says:

    Thank you Fred & Geoff. Too many people think they can run this industry with never experiencing the front line or failing at doing so. Its great to have all these techniques in place, but the real world is not a fantasy. The automotive industry should be promoting consumers to leave their vehicle for service and repairs, not promoting a quick service lane that one can wait for. When people tell me they would LIKE to wait for their car, I say “that’s a good thing because that’s exactly what you are going to do.” A simple quick wheel swap can easily turn into a half a day of $1000-$2000 in revenue. How do you estimate that on your online booking system until you get the car on the hoist? We should be taking a page from the TV repair industry. When your TV is broken you don’t get to wait for it to be repaired. You have to leave it with them and in two weeks you get a phone call stating your TV is not worth fixing that will be $100.00 please. The problem is people do not want to give up their freedom of transportation or being inconvenienced without their cars. We have to educate the consumer that these cars are complicated and there is just to many variables that can jeopardize the timeline of repairs or services being completed.

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