Between supply chain disruptions, parts shortages, advanced point-of-sale technology, and customer invoice trends, there's no doubt that changes in the economy and consumer needs have been keeping the auto industry busy.

However, the industry has not weathered the storm undamaged. In fact, a recent survey by the American Customer Satisfaction Index found that customer satisfaction rates have reached the lowest level since 1999, which is not a good sign for businesses that rely on repeat customers. Fortunately, there are tools to help auto businesses identify and address customer needs, starting right from the customer invoice. The right invoicing system will enable businesses to build strong customer relationships, estimate fixed costs, manage variable costs, and provide a more satisfying customer experience.

Here's how "tuning up" your customer invoice experience will help you grow your auto business.

Building strong, loyal relationships.

Existing customers are crucial to the success of local businesses. Providing attentive, personal service builds trust and makes your customers feel valued, encouraging them to return. In fact, improving customer retention by just 5% can lead to a profit increase between 25% and 95%. Additionally, 95% of consumers who rate a company's customer experience as "very good" are likely to recommend the company to friends and family, according to HelpScout.

Solid customer relationships are built by avoiding or adjusting potential issues as they come. For example, hidden or undisclosed fees are one of the biggest customer complaints, as noted by MyBankTracker. A system that generates an easy-to-understand, itemized customer invoice will help them feel more informed and build trust. In addition, software that enables businesses to customize invoices by including vehicle information, reminders for upcoming services, coupons for needed services, and specials will personalize their experience and make them feel valued.

Another way to build relationships is by using an e-invoicing system that sends a digital invoice to customers and provides options for making payments virtually, such as a bank transfer, credit card, or e-check. Giving customers the flexibility to choose the payment option that best suits their needs and streamlining the payment process is an effective way to strengthen the relationship.

Balancing fixed costs, managing variable costs.

Managing costs is one of the most critical aspects of running a business. But, what you might not always realize when you first get started is that there's a big difference between fixed costs and variable costs. While identifying and managing fixed cost expenses, such as leases, utilities, or rental agreements, and insurance premiums is reasonably straightforward, variable cost items, such as parts and labor, can be difficult to predict.

Technology solutions with reporting capabilities can make it easier to manage costs with the ability to access historical data needed to make informed decisions. An integrated invoicing system that connects to payroll and inventory functions gives businesses a more holistic financial picture to effectively budget fixed and variable costs.

For example, an auto service business can identify where changes need to be made with access to reports that provide visibility into sales, revenue, and spending patterns. If the reports show the cost of certain parts has increased over time, it may be time to look for a different supplier.

Prioritizing and boosting convenience.

Customers today are all about convenience, especially when it comes to "lifestyle maintenance" tasks associated with owning and maintaining vehicles. The easiest option almost always wins—which is why customer invoicing options that are digital and convenient are so critical in becoming your customer's preferred provider.

Enabling customers to book a service from anywhere, any time, will not only save both business and customer time, but it can also even increase sales by as much as 40%. Further, automated email and text reminder capabilities have been shown to reduce the number of no-shows by 40%.

An online tech solution that goes beyond estimating and invoicing and allows customers to book appointments online provides a seamless experience from the first step. Almost half of the consumers surveyed say they prefer to schedule online—and the majority of millennials who do it use mobile methods. So, an online calendar system provides the scheduling experience that today's consumers are seeking.

Improving the bottom line with a seamless customer experience.

Delivering a smooth, useful experience is a powerful way to improve consumer sentiment. With easy online scheduling, clear and accurate cost information, and the ability to pay from anywhere, your business is sure to benefit. In the end, providing customers with the convenience and clarity they need will help auto businesses foster solid relationships and increase their bottom line.

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