Written by Craig Baills, SafeTstop Partner, Toowoomba
Our industry, Our trade is at a crossroads! A crossroads of progression, technology, change and development. We have seen more change in the past ten years than ever before and the next 10 will be a whirlwind of technological advancement, system changes, and vehicle developments along with major changes to our most important asset, the Customer.
Our customers are our life blood, and the hard truth is, they pay our bills and help us become profitable, keep us in business and keep our industry turning. Why do we need to educate them? haven’t we always tried to do this?
In the past, we have educated our customers on consistent vehicle maintenance schedules, expecting reliable service and advice, offering value and quality, and to expect an above average service, all quite normal!
Now, at a crossroads we have other stakeholders jumping on board our industry, wanting a piece of the pie, wanting us to share our customers. Wanting us to believe that they have good intentions, all whilst driving prices down and promoting more service whilst taking a cut of what we work hard to earn. Meanwhile, the customer is being educated that “online” is the way to go, and yes, I am talking third party booking platforms, again.
I am a great advocate for online visibility and awareness to our customers, but on our terms, and not via dictation from external third parties. So we, as an industry, need to educate our customers, and also many others in our industry, in the following areas.
1. We are professional, highly skilled, educated trades people
2. We are a professional alternative to dealers
3. We will not devalue our services and repairs or be cheap to get jobs
4. We offer quality and value that comes at a price
5. We can be easily accessed through technology
We are one of the most technical and advanced trades. We are required to know more and deliver more, our knowledge base is massive, our cost of operation does not decline and yet we have external businesses expecting us to slash our hourly rates to buy a customer that they want to supply. “NO DEAL”
We are specialists in our field, and we need to recognise this and price ourselves accordingly. Go and buy a solicitor for an hour and expect to pay $450 + GST / hour for a cheap one. Go to the dentist and expect to pay they same, go to a specialist doctor and again, brace yourself. I want our industry to realise that we are valuable, knowledgeable and needed, and as such, we need to very closely consider what we are worth per hour.
Technology is our friend and makes it easier for us to access our existing customers, our new customers and regularly communicate with them. Take the time to set up your business infrastructure to make your customer more accessible to you, without the use of third party booking platforms. Talk to your database provider, your IT specialist and utilise the technology. Give your business an online presence and educate your customer to know that you exist in the IT world, Let them know that you:
1. Have an email address
2. They can reach you via SMS
3. They can book online via your website
4. They can reach you via messenger or social media
5. They can find you on Google
6. You still have a phone number
7. Or call in and talk face to face
These are seven immediate ways a customer can communicate with you, why do we need an external third party platform? My advice, use the technology to make your business easily accessible, convenient to book into and a pleasure to communicate with, all while securely keeping their data in your business and not giving it to an external source. Build customer trust on your terms and not someone else’s.
And don’t forget, its ok to
1. Call your customer
2. SMS reminders to your customer
3. Email your customer
4. Let them know you still exist
5. Communicate with them, they will appreciate it
Embrace the technology, embrace the future and keep up with the times, but most of all, your customers are your lifeblood. Work with them, communicate with them and deliver to them the service and expectation that you would expect if you were in their shoes.
Here’s to the future.