GET COMMUNICATING

In this article, ARCA’s Mike Smith takes a look at some communication tips workshops can use to boost bookings

It is always true that proactively communicating with customers in a well-considered manner should be a key pillar of every workshop’s business plan. This fact has been thrown into even sharper relief as businesses have been faced with a downturn in demand due to COVID-19.
In talking with workshops around the country and members of the ARCA Committee, I have been hearing some great examples of businesses proactively reassuring their customers and encouraging business through their doors as a result.
While there is now light at the end of the tunnel, communication must always be a top priority. Because of this, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some key takeaways from conversations I have had with four ARCA committee members lately.

Show and tell
“I have been taking snap shots of what we do on
a day to day basis and creating regular slide
shows for our Facebook page,” Hendon Automotive Services and Repairs’ Joe Musolino of South Australia explained.
“These snapshots reassure customers we are open for business while informing them of the in-depth and proactive procedures we have in place to look after their wellbeing. We have had quite a good response, with some customers even telling their family and friends about what we are doing which has lead to some new clients.
“In that first week we had 35 cancellations which is something I have never experienced in my 25 years of owning this business. But we dug deep and are pleased with what we have been able to achieve – I definitely think without our communication efforts, we would not have the respectful levels of business we have and I recommend all workshops make sure they are keeping their customers in the loop.
“I would also like to remind everyone the ARCA committee is here and happy to chat if you need some advice or just someone to listen. We have a lot of experience and there is a committee member in every state. At the end of the day, in times of need we all need to be each other’s strength and while you can be there for your customers, we (the ARCA committee) can be there for you.”

Think carefully about your messaging
Queensland’s Ron Atkinson, Managing Director of Northside EFI Centre (a member of the Future Auto Service Centre network), says it is important to think about what kind of messaging you are putting across.
“While most of our tools were already in place, what we did do was up the ante on our digital communications as many of our clients were suddenly working from home and getting their news on their computers; so Facebook, news streaming and Google was where we needed to be active,” Ron said.
“We recognised people were getting plenty of bad news, so we delivered our messages in a good news, light-hearted format. On the advice of our media company, we avoided sales pitch based messaging and focused on social interaction which has helped us build our reputation in the local communities. We also adopted a ‘support your local businesses policy’ to assist our supplier network and other businesses in our area.
“When going down any social media path, it is important to not think of it as a traditional marketing method – if it looks like a great advert to you, it probably isn’t good for social media. Focus on ‘what do people want,’ versus ‘what do I want to sell,’ keep your message light-hearted, and work on building online relationships and providing solutions. Finally, remember it is not a fast process – you must give it plenty of time and content to work for you.”

Think about the various tools available to you
Repco Authorised Service’s Dave Lyall, based in Victoria, says that while email is a popular communication platform, in times like these SMS can offer great cut-through when done correctly.
“A key challenge early in this situation was customers being unsure of what they were allowed to do, so communicating to them about this was very important and definitely had an impact on bookings,” Dave said.
“We have also found those workshops using well-considered and engaging SMS for this purpose seemed to be experiencing great cut-through and booking results, as customers struggle with an avalanche of emails.
“There is no one size fits all approach, but consider all of the tools available to you and what will help your audience most.”

Utilise your resources
“For any communication efforts, I highly recommend going through your system files and identifying who is due for rego check-ups, who has outstanding repairs waiting etc, and pull out that data and make sure you are contacting your customers,” Anthony Dack of Anthony’s Car and Head Centre in Bega said.
“Even when not in crisis, this is an important strategy for workshops everywhere to proactively keep in touch with customers and help them keep up with their car maintenance and repair.
“Our communication efforts have been a big plus for us and have kept us active – we are booked out two weeks in advance which is just brilliant given the situation and shows the importance of communicating effectively with customers.”

In conclusion
Whether in crisis or not, simple messages of hope, camaraderie and empathy can go a long way while practical messages that inform, educate and create understanding about the how, what, when and whys can also be extremely helpful. Utilise the resources you have at your disposal, plan ahead, communicate early and often, and engage with your customers while continuing to deliver on your brand promises.
And do not forget – we are all in this together and we will emerge on the other side of this situation wiser, tougher and more resilient. To this end, myself and everyone on the ARCA Committee are here to help you – committee member contact details were emailed to you recently so please do not hesitate to call or send any of us an email if you think we can help. You may also want to check out the AAAA’s recent Local Marketing Webinar, which is available to view on-demand now in the Member Portal of www.aaaa.com.au

In this series of articles, Automotive Repairers Council of Australia (ARCA) convener, Mike Smith, will take a look at issues that will affect automotive repairer workshops and topics of interest to the sector including occasional profiles of mechanics and other key personnel. msmith@aaaa.com.au