By Ed Sunkin
Female motorists are making more automotive service and repair decisions these days. Your shop needs to take certain steps to ensure that their repair experience is a positive one. In this article, I’ll highlight a few simple things that you can change or improve at your shop that may make your female customers feel more comfortable.
Waiting area: Women, and even male customers for that matter, expect to have a clean waiting room. It doesn’t take much to clean up an area or slap some fresh paint on the walls.
If you have the space, maybe look into adding a television, comfortable chairs and a coffee pot (and offer other refreshments as well). Some shops provide a play area with automotive-related coloring books and toys to keep customers’ children occupied. Others even provide a computer with Internet access in the waiting room.
Understand that not all customers can drop off their vehicles and pick them up later. Sometimes, they may just want to relax until their car is repaired or serviced. In fact, as one respondent to a recent survey said, this may be the only chance she has to relax all day. “They had magazines, however, it was nice just to take a break and watch the traffic,” she said.
Note: Click here to view the entire "What Women Say …" survey from Issue 30 of AUTOCAREPRONEWS.
Magazines: For the waiting area, make available various general interest magazines and some that cater to women. Many of our respondents took notice of what reading material was available during their last service visit. “The magazines at the shop I used were only geared toward men’s interests,” one respondent wrote.
Another offered suggestions, “Magazines that interest women are a nice touch Oprah, Southern Living or something similar. Or general interest like National Geographic, but not just Car and Driver.”
Another respondent suggested keeping the magazine content G-rated. “It doesn’t help your trade that so many of the car and motorcycle magazines have porn stars or porn star look-alikes on the cover. There’s a bad association that men who like cars see women in that light. I don’t imagine you can do much about that, other than not to have those kinds of magazines in your waiting area,” she said.
Clean bathrooms: I don’t think I need to be any more specific here women notice. A few respondents said they did not go back to a repair facility because of the conditions of the shop’s customer bathroom.
Return their vehicle clean: Respondents said they like it when shops used disposable floor mats and seat protectors. I’m sure you have fender mats in your shop, so make sure your techs are using them. One respondent wrote about a bad experience she had when it came to picking up a repaired vehicle. “It looked as though they got grease or something on the outside door handle, and tried to wipe it away with a dry paper towel because a day later, I noticed some swirl marks in the area. It initially looked like they scratched the area, and I wasn’t pleased that they didn’t tell me about it.”
Offer evening or weekend drop-off service: Sometimes, it’s more convenient for busy customers to drop off their vehicle on the weekend or at night when your shop is closed. You may want to look into offering a special secure key drop off and provide repair forms for your customers. Then, contact them the following day to discuss the repair details. Many new car dealerships offer this type of service, and our respondents said it works well for them.
Affordable car rentals: There may be occasions when a customer might need to leave his/her vehicle at your shop for more than one day. Look into making arrangements with a local rent-a-car business so the customer pays a small fee (i.e. $10 a day rentals) and your shop makes up the $10-15 a day difference for that rental a small price to pay for gaining a customer for life.