Does it ever feel like your customers always need help just before you open or after you close your auto body shop?
You're not alone.
Many small businesses try to set convenient hours for their customers, only to find that it's not enough. Customers expect around-the-clock access to their information and invoices. Businesses usually handle these requests by capturing voicemail messages and responding within a business day. But leaving customers with an unfinished to-do list isn't a great way to kick off a relationship. Fortunately, technology allows your auto body shop to offer scheduling, communication, and e-invoicing to your customers—without adding to your team's existing workload.
Here are three advances in technology that could make it easier for you to serve customers better after hours:
1. Lockbox drop-off and digital status updates.
There's nothing worse than turning away a paying customer when they're ready to buy. But that's exactly what happens when a customer has a car that needs servicing, and they can't make it into the auto body shop during a 9-to-5 schedule. Enter the lockbox drop-off, which allows customers to securely deposit their car keys and make a request for services before an auto body shop opens or after it closes.
The lockbox drop-off is a standard convenience feature that's important to include for customers who have a hard time keeping appointments during business hours, whether that's due to a busy home life, commuting, or late-night work hours. But it becomes even more convenient and seamless for customers when it's paired with automated digital status updates. Together, these two tools allow customers to get their cars to your shop for service completely on their schedules and understand the progress being made on their vehicles without having to receive or return additional calls.
This combination also greatly benefits your employees. Lockbox drop-off streamlines new client intake before and after hours, and automated updates allow mechanics and service technicians to go about their work without pausing (and breaking flow) to reach out to customers. Overall, the administrative workload of taking service requests, sending updates, and accepting payments is significantly streamlined—which directly benefits your bottom line.
2. Digital loyalty programs.
Many auto body shops operate manual loyalty programs. This is a great first effort in rewarding customers for their long-term loyalty, but it's not the most effective way to do so. After all, these programs still require customers to find, print out, and remember to bring coupons into the auto body shop at the time of purchase.
A much more customer-centric option is to organize all your customer data and loyalty benefits into one place with an digital loyalty program. These programs allow customers to plug into your brand and see the benefits of loyalty all in one place. Promotions are saved for them and applied to purchases automatically, and every purchase moves them toward a long-term promotion or benefit.
Digital loyalty programs also save time and convenience for your staff. Team members can skip the frustrating process of checking the date or validity of the coupon and saving a physical copy and just deliver good news at the till. This benefit is multiplied over time as your auto body shop can generate new incentives and offers without making the checkout process more complex.
3. E-invoicing for after-hours payments.
One of the most important steps you can take to improve cash flow is to make it easier for customers to pay you. In fact, many small businesses have seen firsthand the benefits of adopting digital point-of-sale (POS) systems and contactless payment options like Apple Pay and Google Pay. But when it comes to servicing customers when your shop is closed, take a page from e-commerce retailers and remove your store and your POS from the equation with e-invoicing.
E-invoicing is the practice of sending a digital invoice to a customer and providing payment options outside the store, such as a bank transfer (automated clearing house, or ACH), credit card, or e-check.
Not only is this an important way to let your customers take control of their experience with you, but it also takes the load off of your service staff. Payments can come in around the clock, even during off-hours, and keep your business running smoothly.
Turn new customers into regulars with extraordinary convenience.
Today's auto body shop customers have busy schedules, high expectations for convenience, and cars that need to be fixed. Building a customer experience that regularly turns new customers into loyal regulars starts with making it easy for them to book an appointment, drop off their car, and pay for your services at a time that's convenient for them—regardless of your operating hours. With lockbox drop-off, digital status updates, and e-invoicing, you finally have the means to deliver an extraordinary level of convenience without adding too much time or complexity to how your business runs today.