Have you ever put yourself in your customers' shoes when it comes to auto body shop invoicing and costs? Many customers find it difficult to plan for the unexpected, especially when "the unexpected" affects your mode of transportation in the form of a fender bender or that necessary but hard-to-remember quarterly oil change.

These seemingly small financial transactions can be difficult for consumers to handle last minute. As reported by CNBC, as many as 40% of American consumers would struggle to handle an impromptu $400 bill, and the average car repair bill as of the last couple of years comes close to $400, noted SuperMoney.

Bottom line: customers in these situations are often daunted by how much money they need to spend, without warning, to get their cars back on the road. So, as they navigate the payment process, how and when you conduct your auto body shop invoicing can be a powerful aid—or a heavy burden. Here are three things auto body shops can do to help customers afford the car services they need.

1. Send automated marketing messages.

Can effective marketing really help customers with their spending or auto body shop invoicing? Absolutely. Because how and when an auto body shop connects with their customers is a powerful force in building brand recognition, trust, and loyalty. The more regular and the more personalized your outreach, the more comfortable customers will be working with you when the time comes to have their car repaired.

Let's look at a simple example featuring two local auto body shops:

  • Shop A sends regular, personalized marketing messages to customers regarding the shop's activities in the community, upcoming promotions and sales, and tips for maintenance that lowers the overall cost of owning a vehicle.
  • Shop B sends an email receipt after transactions throughout the year.

Which auto body shop do you think has built trust, drawn interest, and stayed top of mind? Definitely Shop A.

It might seem like a big commitment to send regular monthly or bi-weekly emails starting conversations with your customers, but automated marketing technology can do most of the heavy lifting. An all-in-one platform that acts as a point-of-sale (POS) system, customer relationship management tool (CRM), and email platform can streamline your system efforts while maximizing the benefits you see in customer loyalty and retention. When it comes time for that quarterly oil change or after a parking lot scuff, customers will know exactly who to take their vehicle to: you.

2. Establish loyalty programs.

Speaking of loyalty, auto body shops can also greatly benefit from operating holistic loyalty programs that are built into their POS and CRM. Loyalty programs keep track of all the details so customers can feel confident that they're getting the best possible deal—eliminating the need to shop around for alternative shops or clipping coupons when that surprise bill arrives.

Loyalty programs also offer a benefit to the auto body shop invoicing teams who have the most recent promotions and customer data at their fingertips. When it's all automated in one platform, there's no second-guessing or calling in a manager to approve a discount—it's right there in the system.

The best loyalty program for your auto body shop will depend on the most popular services you offer and the types of customers you interact with, so it's important to choose a platform that gives you flexibility in implementing and updating your loyalty program. But no matter which type of program you choose, you can be sure that investing in loyalty always pays off. In fact, auto body shops that implement loyalty programs see as much as a 50% increase in the purchases of new services from loyal customers.

3. Offer e-invoicing and customized payment plans.

Take a look at your invoicing options. If you're like the majority of small businesses, 80% of which have not adopted contactless payments, according to Visa., the only way a customer can pay you is when they're standing in the lobby and ready to pick up their car. While any paid invoice is cause for celebration, in reality, this represents a payment bottleneck that simply doesn't have to exist anymore.

Offering payment options wherever your customers are—whether that's in your lobby, curbside, or online when they're at home via an email invoice—frees up your front desk staff to be more present and proactive, and allows customers to take care of their invoices on their own schedule. You can also go a step further to offer customized payment plans, allowing customers to pay not just on their own schedule, but also on their own terms.

If you're used to a more traditional style of invoicing, this might seem like a big leap forward. But in reality, this kind of technology comes integrated with modern POS and CRM platforms. When you take a more holistic, one-stop-shop approach to how you interact with your customers, today's technology gives you easy, seamless options for payment types and terms that position you as the provider of choice. They also make it easy on your staff by keeping all of the transactions, data, coupons, and options in one place.

Building trust and loyalty gets you paid.

The most effective approach to auto body shop invoicing is the one that gets your shop invoices paid. Still, the process of building trust, rewarding loyalty, and getting paid doesn't have to be at the expense of your customers' financial comfort and security. Thanks to advancements in payment technology, how you invoice can now be one more way you serve and support your customers—being there for them for the big fixes and the small maintenance they need throughout the life of their vehicles. The options shared here make it easier for customers to stay in touch with your shop and pay their bills on time, which translates to a better customer experience and smoother cash flow for your business.

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