Online Reviews: An Integral Part of Auto Body Shop Marketing
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Online Reviews: An Integral Part of Auto Body Shop Marketing

What are people saying about your shop online? Negative reviews require immediate attention and “damage control.”

Barrett has authored numerous industry trade journal/magazine articles, including several cover stories for BodyShop Business. Having grown up in a family-owned collision repair business and owner/operator of two successful collision repair facilities, his ongoing efforts as industry speaker and repairer coach-consultant are geared toward educating professionals and consumers to achieve equally successful resolutions to automotive-related property damage issues. Such issues include proper and thorough repair, reasonable repair profitability for repairers as well as equitable claim settlements for both claimants and the responsible/paying parties. ADE offers numerous professional services nationwide.

A long time ago, I heard a saying that went: “A business without a sign is the sign of no business.” And while this still rings true, today’s most effective “sign” is a business’s website (if designed correctly), and within it, a link to ongoing reviews of those who have used its goods and services. 

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Word of Mouth

Word-of-mouth referrals/recommendations remain one of the most effective methods of deriving customers and their business. Approximately 28% of consumers say that word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) is most effective at making them familiar with a company because it comes from trusted colleagues, friends or family members and even strangers — and it often removes the need for further research. This is especially true for those rarely needed services, such as roof repair, plumbing, electrical, legal and, of course, auto body repair/refinishing. 

Sixty-four percent of marketers agree that word-of mouth marketing is the most effective form of marketing. Therefore, nearly half (48%) of businesses worldwide rely heavily on the power of word-of-mouth marketing and — even more impressive — word-of-mouth is directly responsible for 90% of all purchases of services.

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Word of mouth is a free form of advertising (in most cases) that utilizes loyal customers to spread the word about one’s products and services … and did I mention it’s generally free and extremely effective?

Enhancing WOMM

Because WOMM is so effective, the question is: How can one enhance it?

Because collision and cosmetic repair is not an everyday need for the average consumer and being in a collision event can be extremely unsettling, most people don’t know what to do or where to go for sound advice. As such, there are not many who can make sound recommendations to them. 

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Most who find themselves in such an unusual situation may seek direction and recommendations from their insurance agents or insurers simply because they feel they have nowhere else to turn to for such advice. Then, of course, there are those consumers who will perform their own research to find repairers to help them resolve their needs. This is where an extension of “word of mouth” comes in written form: the online review.

Statistics show that if customers feel satisfied with their experience with a business, 96% will return and will be more likely to tell people around them of their experience. So, what if a repairer could capture a consumer’s written review of that positive experience? Instead of merely relying on speaking to others about that experience, the repairer could use that one person’s experience to tell hundreds or perhaps thousands of others who are looking for a solution to their problems. Multiply this by other satisfied customers’ five-star testimonials over the years, and you could become a powerhouse in your market area simply based on your company’s reviews when compared to others in your market area. 

Today’s businesses need to have the ability to access shoppers’ reviews on various platforms, including their company websites (62.6% of shoppers specifically seek business websites with reviews), social media pages (i.e. Facebook), Google, Yelp and others. 

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Good Intentions

Most business owners have found that even though some satisfied customers will tell them they’ll leave them a review, those customers often get too busy and never get around to it. The absence of these customers sharing with others can be huge over time.

I suggest to my clients that they get an iPad for their offices and have it prepared with links to review sites and, upon completion of the repair, final inspection, approval and payment, hand customers the iPad when they’re filling out paperwork and ask that they take a moment or two to leave a review. You may even further encourage them by letting them know their names will be entered into a monthly drawing for a gift (company swag, gift card for dinner for two at a local restaurant, etc.) as an incentive for completing the review. There’s no better time to capture their reviews than when their repairs are completed, they’re happy with your efforts and have some downtime. This will also incentivize and encourage your staff to make the customer experience the best it can be so customers leave good reviews. 

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One Bad Apple

Business owners/managers can look at their written review strategy as planting a crop in the hopes of reaping a bountiful harvest. As is generally the case, you get what you give. Care for your garden, and it will take care of you.

Once you’ve begun a concerted effort to cultivate reviews, a part of that strategy will be monitoring those reviews. As we all know, not every prospect or customer may be a good one, and negative reviews require immediate attention and “damage control.” Because you may not be able to remove the review, you can try to appease the customer by resolving his or her concerns and/or apologizing so that person modifies the original comments and rating. If this remedy can’t be achieved, you should respond to the review to help cure or reduce the sting. 

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There are always people who can’t be appeased and who just don’t understand, such as the following customer who complained about a price given over the phone for a wrap on a vehicle: “I’ve called around to 10 different shops for pricing and this place was double everybody’s prices. They want $3,000 to wrap a car a single color, which is a total rip-off. I could get my color professionally painted by a body shop for that price!”

Of course, most reading this would know this person is woefully ignorant when it comes to the cost of a professional refinish job. All the service provider needs to do is respond … not necessarily for the review writer but, more importantly, for the hundreds of people who will be reading it in the future.

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The wrap company did respond but not well, in my opinion. It attempted to explain how many variables there are and how it would need to see the vehicle. What it should have done in the first place was decline offering an estimate and instead invite the customer in to discuss specific needs and provide that person a sound quote for the desired services. Now, the wrap company has a one-star review negatively affecting its overall score that could have easily been avoided.

If it were me who made the mistake of providing a quote over the phone (which we’ve all done at one time or another) and had it blow up like this and couldn’t get the review removed, I would likely respond like this:

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“We’re sorry to learn of your dissatisfaction with our quote. We should have invited you in to discuss and determine your specific needs so we could have quoted you properly. We have a great record of pleasing our customers; however, in this instance, it appears we failed. However, we’ve learned a valuable lesson and we will no longer provide phone estimates. Thank you for bringing your concern to our attention. 

“By the way, a quality complete repaint to change a vehicle’s color can often run $10,000 or more, so a quality wrap by ________ may be a great alternative.”

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When able, repairers should always provide a response to customer reviews. This could be from a simple, “Thank you for your review; we appreciate your business and kind comments!” to a more lengthy and personal response, such as, “Thank you for choosing ABC Collision to perform the repair of your 2022 Corvette Z06. You have been great customers, and while we hope you won’t be needing our services in the future, we do hope we have earned your referrals and recommendations to your family, friends and colleagues. Remember, we warranty our workmanship for as long as you own your vehicle!”

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This enables you to market to future review readers regarding the quality of the cars you work on and the warranty you offer.

Repairers should look into such services as Podium or Grade.us to help generate and monitor reviews to ensure that their companies get the credit they deserve and damage control when needed.

There is much to attaining and cultivating reviews, and I’ve only touched on a small portion. I hope this information will encourage you to see the long-term and significant value in reviews and recognize them as an important and significant segment of your overall marketing strategy.

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