Searching for new customers
Like most shop owners, you’re always looking for opportunities to expand your client base and fill the appointment book. Advertising and promotions are costly with no guarantee of results; ‘there has to be a better way,’ you think to yourself. You might be surprised to learn that the key to future sales isn’t always a splashy ad campaign, but the tried and true strategy of customer referrals.
As a business built on service, your customers are your strongest form of advertising. Customer referrals are an effective, low-cost way of generating new leads. Read on to learn how you can harness the power of the customer referral to build a strong network of new and repeat business.
Ask and you shall receive
Word-of-mouth referrals are a powerful tool for generating sales - now is the time to get in the habit of asking your customers for them. Don’t feel awkward or apprehensive about asking for referrals; you provide a valuable service and your satisfied customers should want to help grow your clientele.
There are many different ways you can go about asking your customers to refer your services to their friends and family.
- Business review sites – Ask customers to leave testimonials on social media and online review sites such as Yelp.
- Email – Send customers a message after they’ve had service performed at your business. Thank them for their patronage and ask them to pass the word along about your shop. Stress that if they are unhappy in any way with the visit to contact you so you can make it right.
- Online – Devote a page on your website to customer testimonials. Here you can not only ask for people to share their experiences with your shop via an online form, but also ask customers to share their positive experiences with others on a dedicated page.
- Newsletter – If you have a monthly newsletter keeping customers updated about your shop, have a featured spot asking for referrals. This is a good soft-sell approach.
- Social media or blog post – A post on your shop’s blog or social media pages is a great way to solicit referrals. Put a link back to your testimonials page to help remind customers the value you provide to your clients.
- Business cards – Give loyal customers a few business cards with your shop’s information and “Referred by _____” at the bottom. This makes it extremely easy for customers to refer your shop – they just have to hand out your business card.
Once you’re ready to put customer referrals to work, keep these tips in mind to make your efforts successful.
Give them something to talk about
Before you can expect your customers to recommend your shop to friends and family members, you have to give them a reason to refer you. This is where your commitment to quality service can make or break you. In each encounter with a customer, strive to exceed your customer’s expectations.
When a customer has a positive experience, they’re excited to share the details with others. Keep in mind, however, that this also holds true with customers that have a negative experience; they can be motivated to warn others about the poor outcome they had at your shop. Be sure you give them something good to talk about!
Make it worth their time
You need to make it worthwhile for your customers to refer others to your shop, and implementing an incentive program is a great starting point. You could offer a percentage off future work for every referral or set it up as a punch card program where they receive a free oil change or similar service for a specific number of referrals.
The more people they refer, the bigger the reward for them and your shop. Giving a financial incentive could be the extra push your customers need to help promote your shop. A minimal investment can pay off in big ways for your shop.
Mind your manners
We all like to feel appreciated when we do something nice for someone; your customers are no different. Show your gratitude for a referral by thanking and recognizing customers who take the time to help you out by sending new clients your way.
The medium can vary from a phone call or text message to an email or handwritten note – use whatever form you feel will be best received. The important thing is to do something to show your gratitude. This small act not only makes your customers feel good but also may motivate them to continue spreading the news about your shop.
Make sure they know all about you
It’s easy to assume that your customers know about all the services you offer. But if a customer has only come to you for oil changes, they might have no idea that you do steering and suspension and other engine repair work.
Create a brochure or flyer highlighting all the different repair jobs and services you provide and include it with each customer’s receipt when they check out. Once your customers know the full range of your services, they will be able to refer you to others or even come back themselves for different repair work.
Pay attention to your reviews
Negative reviews can sting but they can actually be a good learning tool. If you get repeated complaints about an issue, be sure to fix the problem and reach out to those who were dissatisfied in an attempt to win them back. For more tips on handling negative reviews, check out the ‘Responding to Negative Feedback’ section in this article.