15 Jul 2024
The voice of the independent garage sector

Know your audience

Knowledge is power they say, and according to Tina, getting to know your customers better will provide many benefits to your business

By Tina Drayson, Operations Manager, CCM

How many of us really know and understand our ideal customer? Creating positive customer satisfaction and trust is paramount. It will enable a business to be successful and have long-term relationships with its customers.

How do we learn about our customers? Study the demographics and characteristics of your own customer base. This is the best tool and at your disposal, and will provide great lead generation. Think about gender, age, families, occupations and location. These variables will give you insights into the type of customer that you serve.

How do you do this? It’s simple; Collate the customer information that you already have.
Age of vehicle
Service history
MOT due date
Preferred method of booking (phone, online, in person).

Produce and send a survey asking for basic information that will help you to group data, such as age, occupation, earnings (not specific but perhaps earning bands), preferred vehicle make, type of driving that they do. All you need to do is ask. Just put the question to your customers when they are in your reception. Customer feedback is vital. Good or bad, this information is invaluable. It shows what your customers do or do not like. Follow this up with emails and calls. All the above will show patterns of behaviour from customers, giving you a better understanding of your audience. Do not just do this once, continue to collect and analyse, to keep it up to date.

Then you have customers with different needs. There are those that are safety-conscious, maybe they are parents and are carrying around their children. Vehicle safety is key, so health checks and reminders when different services are due would be particularly helpful for this type of customer. Collection and delivery to reduce the stress of dropping their vehicle off with children in tow.

How about those newly qualified drivers? They may not be focused on their vehicle maintenance, but their parents will be. Then there are those that have heavy work commitments and use their vehicle for commuting or even work travel. Good maintenance on their vehicles would be a must to ensure their vehicles run efficiently and without breakdowns. Offer appointments that minimise disruption to their schedules and provide courtesy cars when necessary.

Those customers that have a bit of knowledge about their vehicles and our industry, require more information. They need an explanation; a breakdown of what work is being done on a more technical level. Then you have the customer who is driven by price. They want the cheapest, the quickest and the least work done. Ask yourself if this is the customer that you wish to serve.

How you communicate to your customers is vital. Do not use technical jargon that they do not understand. Some will ask for an explanation, others would be overwhelmed. Explain in simple terms what the work is that is being done, take the time to make sure that your customers feel important. Generally, customers will fall into two types, tasks driven, or people driven. Those that are task driven will need more information and detailed explanations. You can identify these types as they will ask more questions when making a booking or studying their invoice. Those that are people driven, just want a price for the job and would prefer to be making idle chit chat when collecting their vehicle. Adjust your communication to that of the customers.

With so many marketing tools at our disposal and with the digital world at our fingertips, knowing your audience provides you with the best method of reaching your ideal customer.

Sending reminders for MOTs, services and other routine work helps to build those relationships. Keep records of customer preferences such as how they prefer to be contacted, and if they wish to receive marketing information from you. Taking this approach and connecting with your customers will help to build trust and long-term relationships.

If you wish to exceed customer expectations, then you need to go above and beyond by getting personal, knowing the individual needs and preferences of your customers and interacting with them in a manner that is best for them.