Hate the Thought of Dealing with an Auto Repair Center?
By Jody DeVere
Love or hate your auto repair center? I came across a great article in the Automotive Management Institute Instructor Blog and thought I would share some this and get your thoughts on what level of customer service you are looking for at an auto repair center? Share your good, bad and mediocre experiences at automotive service facilities and suggestions to make your experiences better by commenting below.
It’s common to hear or read about the growing influence of women in today’s society. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that three in 10 households were maintained by women in 1996. According to the National Foundation for Women Business Owners, women-owned enterprises are growing faster than the economy in general. The National Automobile Dealers Association’s latest quarterly survey shows evidence that women are a growing part of the dealership sales force. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence reports that women are not only becoming more influential in deciding what car to buy, they are also taking over the traditionally male-dominated responsibility of maintenance and repair. With this increased buying power of women comes an increasing need for automotive service employees to understand women’s likes and dislikes, as well as their buying habits.
Big and influential
Logoase ASE reports that more than 65 percent of customers who take their vehicle to a repair shop for service and repair are women. AutoInc.’s annual How’s Your Business survey of Automotive Service Association (ASA) members recorded slightly lower figures, with the gender distribution of customers balanced at 50 percent female and 50 percent male. This increasing presence and buying power of women in the automotive industry is the result of a rise in the overall percentage of female drivers, while the overall percentage of male drivers is decreasing; and research that shows nearly half of new car purchases are made by women, and 53 percent of used-car sales can be attributed to women. In addition, Ford Motor Marketing reports that women influence 80 percent of all purchases and have 95 percent veto power regarding automotive purchases.
Customer service/politeness count
Nine out of 10 women responding to a recent Car Care Council survey said they believe repair shop operators and technicians treat them differently because they are women, and the difference is seldom positive. According to the survey, women want to be informed customers, understand the repair in layman’s terms and receive quality repairs and customer service … not really any different than the expectations that men have for automotive repairs. “Repair businesses that respond to women’s needs and expectations by providing clean waiting rooms, timely delivery, and repair orders that are easy to understand are making smart business decisions,” said Lyn St. James, famed Indy car driver.
A Bozell Worldwide and U.S. News & World Report 1996 study showed that politeness is extremely important in a woman’s buying process. Nearly 60 percent of women say they have left a store, stopped buying products or hung up a telephone at least once in the past year due to poor customer service. Of that total, 49 percent have done so one to five times; 7 percent, six to 10 times; and 3 percent, 11 or more times.
The same study identified an overall lack of civility in U.S. residents’ day-to-day lives, with 78 percent of both men and women agreeing that rudeness has become more rampant in the past decade. Ninety-one percent see this downward shift as a very serious problem. This data suggests that common courtesies and the basic rules of etiquette extended by shop personnel will go a long way toward satisfying customers, especially women.
According to About Women and Marketing magazine, service with a smile and a “can do” attitude make women customers feel welcome. Women like to know that someone is available to answer their questions with “yes,” “no” or “I’ll find out” responses instead of “I don’t know” or “I don’t think so” responses. When women complain, they tend to be forgiving if they see progress toward resolution. If the complaint turns out to be a lengthly process, offer them frequent updates and invite them to use your complimentary services (i.e. coffee, shuttle, etc.).
Women with small children in tow will appreciate a play area for their children while they wait; older women customers will enjoy comfortable benches or chairs on which to rest. When their vehicles are ready, women customers like an efficient, expedient process at the front counter (unless they have questions about the repair; if this is the case, be ready to provide a lot of details).
“There is a growing appreciation of female customers. Technicians report that females ask more questions, inquire about details, and are more willing to look under the hood, or check out parts,” said Diane Hohman, an automotive consultant in Herndon, Va.
After the repair, make sure women are part of any customer follow-up program. The Council for Marketing and Opinion Research reports that most women (64 percent) find answering surveys an interesting experience. Nearly the same amount like to see how their responses compare with those of others. Overall, women answer surveys because they see it as a way to provide feedback to companies.
Ultimately, all customers want value, whether they’re using the services of an automotive repair facility or shopping for clothes. Value is difficult to assess, however, fair prices, respectful service, convenience, quality repairs and a pleasant atmosphere are good starters for creating value in any customer’s mind.
Share your good, bad and mediocre experiences at automotive service facilities and suggestions to make your experiences better by commenting below.