The Fickle Pickle - BodyShop Business
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The Fickle Pickle

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I would like to start off this month with a quirky and unsettling statement: “Customers are fickle.” There. I said it.

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To some, that may seem obvious. Others probably haven’t thought much about it. For those of you who know what I’m getting at, you’re on your way to overcoming the problem. For the rest of us, it’s time to take notice. Every year that goes by, it becomes increasingly more difficult to keep our customers interested in or even aware of us.

This concept of customer loyalty, which I sometimes refer to as the “fickle pickle,” isn’t a new one. And I’m not necessarily talking about
loyalty itself. My concerns are a level under that: the thought process that goes through a consumer’s mind when they’re making a decision about a given product. This is where those of us in the collision repair business are severely challenged. Like it or not, a consumer doesn’t consider the process of getting their vehicle repaired a positive experience. It seems like no big deal to those of us in the business because we deal with it every day, but that’s because we understand how it works and we control the process. For those outside the business, it’s nothing short of painful. Think of what goes through their mind: How long will it take? Will it be done right? Will it look good? What about diminished value when I go to trade? The list of unknowns for a customer goes on and on.

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So you ask, “What does this have to do with customers being fickle?” Well, if a customer isn’t looking forward to experiencing the good or service you provide, it makes them tend to search for something better. In the automotive production world, product life cycles used to be five to six years, and there might have been a refresh every three years. Development time on those products was about 36 to 40 months, so it was important to get it right. Today, customers want the vehicles to change every two years, and the industry is working with development times around 24 months or less. Consumers are searching faster than ever, and with it goes decreased brand loyalty. Searching by your customer is a bad thing.

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What are you doing in your business to stay in front of your customer? Do they hear from you when they don’t have a collision-related issue? Is there any positive communication to keep your brand front and center so that when they or their friend needs a repair, they think of you? Something as simple as a birthday card or a sticker in the owner’s manual can be a friendly reminder. I’ve seen shops that offer a free clean-up on the customer’s birthday or a free oil change once a year. The options are endless, and they don’t need to be expensive. We just need to be sure our customers associate our businesses with positive things.

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Whatever your strategy is, it needs to be often and upbeat. Give that customer a reason to think positively about your place of business. Be sure they understand what to expect when they do need you and you’ll have gone a long way toward fighting the fickle factor.

Here’s to long and prosperous relationships!

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