You decide to advertise to keep your shop’s name in front of both current customers and to attract potential new customers, hoping that they will come in soon for service. To further entice these customers, you decide to have a special offer with a deadline to help persuade your customers to come back sooner rather than later.
You choose to send postcards to 1,000 customers. You pay to design, print, post, and send these postcards out into the world and then wait for the work to come rolling in. You figure it will be a week before the cards start coming back. So, you wait. And you wait.
Did you know that the marketing world gets excited over a three to five percent response on any marketing endeavor? So, in essence, out of the 1,000 post cards sent out, that would represent 30 to 50 of them coming back to your shop. The other 900-plus cards were trashed or possibly recycled.
Even worse, each one of those returned postcards offer a discount on some service, which if no upselling occurs, adds more to the overall cost of your marketing exercise. The bottom line is, to just break even on what you spent on this campaign, you need to upsell enough work to pay for every aspect of the postcard process from design to return and service. Count yourself fortunate if you actually make a decent profit on it. But is it really worth it?
Taking advantage of the invoice
Unlike advertising, the invoice, with the cost of paper and ink, is already a current expense for your shop. It is part of the service process. And there is the customer expectation of getting it when they pay the bill. So why not make it work for your shop?
Your invoice should 100 percent be going into your customers’ hands. Additionally, there is a very good chance that your customers will be looking over it once they have it. Minimally, all they may look at is the bottom line, the total costs of the repairs. While others will look over the invoice in more detail.
An invoice is expected to list all the services and parts items used during this visit to the shop, adding all the costs up and billing the customer. The invoice can also be paid immediately or have terms on paying it over time.
Since the invoice is a statement of what was done, why can it not list what will need to be done in the future? This way the customer can make the mental and financial plan for getting this work done when needed.
Because the invoice is an informational document, future recommendations should be featured prominently on it. They should also list the time and mileage that these items are due. Better yet, listing the actual due dates, based on the customer’s actual driving habits, can further help prepare the customer to return for the work.
Take this a step further with the invoice giving the customer the option of automatically setting appointments for these recommendations. They can put it right in their smartphone calendar by scanning a QR code printed on the invoice. This will keep these items in front of the customer, increasing the chance that they will return for the service when it is due.
Reaching new customers
You might be thinking, “Well this is all good for current customers, what about getting new customers? They don’t see the invoices.”
This is true, but the invoice can help bring in new customers through social media. By getting your current customers to give your shop reviews online, that will help make your shop place higher on the list that comes up when someone searches “Automotive Repairs” on the internet. Making a digital invoice available to your customers can also save you money on ink and paper.
You can have it so that your invoice can be sent electronically to your customers through text or email. This can also make the invoice and payment exchange paperless while reducing your exposure to others during these COVID times.
When sent digitally to your customers, you can design live links into your invoice pointing not only to your shop’s own website, but also with direct links to Google, Facebook, and other social media. The more customer reviews your shop gets, the higher up on the searches it will rank. Realize that the phone book is pretty much dead; customers find businesses by doing online searches. Being found on Google or Facebook when customers search in your shop’s local area requires that you be an active participant in social media.
93 percent of customers read online reviews before they buy a product. 76 percent of them trust online reviews as much as getting a personal review from a friend or a family member. I suggest that you take a few minutes and do an online search for the importance of reviews to businesses to see for yourself why your shop needs to go social.
Other invoice advantages
Being able to send the invoice electronically and having the customer pay the bill via text from their phone before they come to pick up their vehicle gives you more time to have an “exit interview” with them. During the exit interview, you can go over all that was done on this visit, answer any customer questions, and prepare the customer for what work will be due in the future. Doing this will help your customer to again be prepared and ready for what needs to be done. Eliminating surprises builds trust with your customers.
Putting coupons on your invoice will also make it work for your shop. Coupons take advantage of the fact that all customers should get an invoice and that they generally look it over. Being placed at the end of the invoice, even those that just look at the total costs of the invoice cannot help but to see them there.
Yes, coupons can give customers a discount that brings them back for more service. In reality, though, coupons do not have to give discounts. Your coupons can show your shop’s everyday low prices for the services you offer. (Of course, you can also offer some discount coupons, too. Mix it up.)
As long as the verbiage used on the coupon does not state that there is any offer of any kind of discount, it can be used in this manner. For example, a coupon for a four-wheel alignment can start with this terminology. Then list the price and any disclaimers you may have for an alignment, like “parts extra.” You might even say that this is your “everyday low price.”
“Why bother?” You may ask. Well, I see it as another way of educating your customers on the cost of the services you offer. It’s yet another way to prepare customers for any future work and the prices for them.
If your invoice software provides what might be called “Smart Coupons,” you might want to consider using them. Smart Coupons look at the current recommendations on the invoice and if they match any, they automatically appear on the bottom of the invoice. So, if there is a recommendation such as a transmission flush or service in the near future and a coupon exists for it, it will appear on the invoice. During an exit interview as you point out the upcoming recommendations, you can also show the customer the smart coupon hopefully getting them to get the work done on the next visit.
Now you have a few different ways to make your invoice do the work for your shop. Realize that much of what is discussed will save your shop money. Used properly, these additions to your invoice can add to your shop’s bottom line at the same time.