Many motorists (and not just women) feel intimated when taking their car into their local garage.

The days of car DIY are practically behind us as most vehicles on the road now have some level of electronics making it difficult for motorists to carry out their own repairs the way in which it was much more common a decade or two ago. Thus, it stands to reason; there are increasing numbers of people for whom the workings of the car under the bonnet are a complete mystery.

With a lack of knowledge comes apprehension, when you take your car into the garage for a service and you receive a list of issues which need attention, it might as well be in another language for all the sense it makes. Not surprising, motorists find a trip to the garage a little daunting.

As the garage owner, you will have to work just as hard at making your customers feel welcome as you do fixing their vehicles to build a relationship, boost the chances of them coming back and referring your business to friends and family.

Our five-point check list is by no means exhaustive but gives you a quick run-down of how to make your customers feel at home.

1. Keep it simple

Whenever you are speaking to a customer, be it on the phone if they are booking in their vehicle or in person when they are dropping off or collecting their car, explain issues clearly and succinctly. By all means, provide them with as much information as they require, but don’t blind them with science. Your aim is to ensure they feel informed and thereby they can entrust their vehicle to your care, but baffle them with jargon and you could turn them off.

2. Keep in touch

Even if a vehicle doesn’t need any extra work when it comes in for a service or MOT, it’s good practice to keep people informed of their car’s progress in the workshop. It doesn’t have to be by telephone, many garage management software systems include the ability to email or text meaning you also have a permanent record of the communication. From the customer’s point of view, they can plan their day better and feel like they have not been forgotten.

3. Explain the invoice

You may think it’s self-explanatory and easy to understand, but your customers will appreciate a quick explanation of the bill. If nothing else, your customers are less likely to question the amount or think they have been overcharged if you take a few minutes to run through the detail.

4. Welcoming environment

Although most customers will quickly pop in to drop the car off and then again to pay and collect, some will wait for work to be completed. Either way a relaxing and friendly environment is a must. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just clean and comfortable. Make sure you have enough seating and don’t be tempted to try and get away with ripped seats or chairs which look like they have been rescued from the nearest skip, likewise, nothing too plush, your customers may start to query your prices! A simple coffee table with a few magazines (not too out-of-date) and the day’s newspapers are a welcoming sight and consider investing in a coffee machine, complimentary for your customers, of course. The television adds a more living room feel but keep it switched to the 24-hour news channel to avoid banal daytime quiz shows.

5. The personal touch

Finally, people always remember the little things so don’t underestimate the power of the personal touch. A lightbulb which needs changing fitted into your schedule as soon as the customer drives into your carpark with just the cost of the bulb itself charged, making sure a busy mum has her car back in time for the school run or just simply positioning the car in a place so it’s easy to drive straight out of your premises are all the little things people will remember which will keep them coming back.

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