Simple communications that will drive revenue to your auto shop

Auto Shop Communications Driving Revenue

Your customers are most likely driving their car everyday, and all that truly matters to them is the vehicle takes them to point A and point B when they need it to. It’s up to your auto shop to keep them informed on what their vehicle’s make and model needs to keep moving, and remind them when the time has come. Customers are more likely to want to receive communications from their auto shop than some may realize!

Research indicates 67% of vehicle owners are open to receiving text updates.

These days most people have their phone in their hand, or nearby, at all times. All you need to do is have their consent to send their number text messages recorded in your business management software. One way to receive consent is a checkbox on a new customer sign in form.

Using a simple software, your shop can easily send maintenance or service reminders pulling from the Mitchell database so they are specific to your customer’s vehicle. You can also segment these texts by active and lost customers in order to personalize the message. For lost customers, you may consider including an incentive in the reminder to further persuade them to bring their car into your shop for maintenance.

 

Cox Automative reported 45% of customers who did not take advantage of online scheduling did not know it was an option.

Don’t let your shop miss an opportunity to get an appointment scheduled, whether it’s from a new customer or current one. An online scheduling widget can bring in substantial appointments when placed on your website, or a popular social media channel like Instagram. According to WardsAuto.com, 23% of online customers schedule their visits outside of the business hours of a dealership. If you’re not offering online scheduling, your competitors may be getting those appointments.

When you are proactive and consistent in communicating with your customers, you can ensure that you are always driving revenue to your auto shop. Make it easy for them to choose your business, and then wow them with your high-quality services.

 

http://wardsauto.com/fixed-ops/car-dealership-vehicle-sales-down-now-what

Don’t be afraid of customer surveys

Don't be afraid of customer surveys

Customer satisfaction is the most important aspect of your business because without loyal customers your bottom line will suffer. The strategy behind keeping your customers coming back is ensuring that each touch-point in their journey is positive. Your business can track their satisfaction with customer surveys, a method that may make you nervous. But don’t be afraid of customer surveys. They can expose issues you may be unaware of like long hold times for phone calls.

Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid of customer surveys.

Your online reputation will be protected

As customers are checking out at the end of their visit, have your front desk hand them a customer survey. Keep it short with 5 questions or less to ensure they complete it before they leave. This will give them the opportunity to critique any part of their visit that didn’t go well, and most likely prevent them from complaining about it on social media since they already got it off their chest.

For customers whose satisfaction surveys are positive, your front office can utilize that to boost your business’s online reputation. The strategy is simple: send a daily or weekly email to happy customers asking them to leave you a review on Yelp, Google or any review site that is important to your business. Link directly to that site within the body of the email to make it as easy for the customer to complete as possible. This can be done more efficiently with an automation software.

The feedback can help your business

Surveys can expose process or team issues, as well as highlight an employee’s exceptional performance. Review your customer surveys once every quarter and meet with your team to go over good and bad experiences that stood out. It could serve as a training session in ‘what to do’ in situations that have arised, or may arise in the future.

At the end of the year you can also recognize an employee who handled a difficult situation well, or helped pave the way for a more efficient process that needed adjusting.

Customer surveys are a way to empower you and your staff with information on what your customers are truly expecting. Spend time perfecting the questions you will ask, and consider leaving the last question as a free form field so that the customer can be specific in what worked or what didn’t.

How to Have a Successful Conference Experience

How to have a successful trade show experience

Attending conferences is important for professionals in every industry. It’s a great way to dive in and hear about new technologies, tricks of the trade, and more. However, because conferences are jam packed with learning and networking for 1 to 3 days, it’s important to make a game plan so you can have a successful experience.

Here are some helpful tips to leave your next conference with an implementation plan.

Prepare for note taking and networking

Some attendees go to trade shows for one or the other, but really everyone should be soaking in the new information and getting to know their peers.

Prepare for note taking by bringing the tools that work best for you. That could be pen and paper, a laptop or a tablet. Taking notes helps improve attention to detail, promotes active learning, boosts comprehension, improves organization and increases creativity. This is all necessary when you’re on a learning spree attending back-to-back sessions.

Next is networking – something many people cringe at. But networking can be easy if you do it in the best way that works for you, and sometimes one conversation can help you solve a business problem you’ve been stuck on. Different networking methods include talking with attendees while you’re sitting waiting for a session to begin, attending networking events, or sitting with peers at lunch. Make sure to bring your business cards with you, and make a networking goal. It could be to swap cards with 4 peers, or to find a solution to a business issue.

Pick three topics to take away

Learning this much in such a short time frame can be overwhelming. Your best bet is to look at the conference agenda a couple of days before, and start picking each session you want to attend for each time slot. Some conferences actually require this because sessions book up so quickly.

Attend the sessions you feel you will get the most out of. Your choices should be a mix of new topics to learn, challenging topics for skills you may need to strengthen, and topics you may be knowledgeable on but want to make sure nothing has changed.

As you complete your schedule there will be sessions that stand out to you as important. Pick three learnings that you want to take away and implement when you get back to work. This will ensure you get your money’s worth, and expand your skills by putting your new learnings to the test.

Speak to vendors

It’s important to spend some time walking through the exhibit area. You may come into the experience thinking you don’t need anything new at your business, or that what you need doesn’t exist. But vendors at conferences vary from marketing communications softwares to banks offering small business loans, and it’s important to know what new technologies and products are out there. Stay up-to-date with solutions in your industry so you’re in full control of the possibilities for your small business. You may even be able to offer a suggestion to a peer when they are in need of a solution.

The most important thing is to be open. Immerse yourself into the conference experience and you’ll be surprised how much you can take away from it!

3 Ways to Modernize Your Practice and Become More Efficient

Patient Experience - Modernizing Medical Practice

More and more we are hearing about the importance of a positive patient experience. Patient behaviors are increasingly influenced by technology, so their expectations from their providers are changing. If you haven’t implemented technology into your patient experience yet, here are 3 ways to modernize your medical practice.

1. Discreet appointment confirmations

Although your patients may appreciate the courtesy ‘appointment confirmation’ phone call your front office makes every month, they may not always be able to answer and speak to someone at that very moment. Your office hours are most likely the same hours as your patients’ work schedule. But if you introduce more technology solutions into your practice you can offer your patients the option – voice, text or email confirmations. Which do they prefer?

You can also explain how each confirmation works, as none of the options require speaking to a representative at your practice. The patient simply needs to dial a single number to confirm, or respond to the text message. With a sophisticated communications software, your staff will receive these confirmations in real-time and will be able to easily transfer them to your management system.

2. Missed appointment reminders

You can send a reminder the day of a patient’s appointment, but life happens. Sometimes days get too busy and patients may still forget. What’s important in this situation is to remind that patient to reschedule their missed appointment. This is critical in whether or not this person becomes a lost patient, which is not good for their health or your business.

The most efficient way to send this reminder is via email. Include a ‘Request Appointment’ button within the email so the patient can get back on your schedule easily, and during a time that’s convenient for them.

3. Appointment opportunities when booked

Most patients understand that they may not be able to make an appointment on short notice. However, if your front office is organized, you could add them to your Hot List. A Hot List is a list of patients who have requested an appointment, but the date and time they requested is not available. This comes in handy if there is a cancellation, and is most efficient when tracked digitally. Your staff can access this list at any time, and contact the patient with a pending appointment via email or text with just a couple of clicks. This accommodates your patient’s schedule and helps you reduce no-shows.

 

Implementing technology into your patient experience is the most efficient way to make it positive, and keep them coming back. The idea is to make visiting their doctor as simple as possible, while still communicating in a way that isn’t time consuming for you and your staff. Learn about other digital solutions that can help modernize your practice at www.demandforce.com.

Tax changes your small business can’t ignore

Tax Changes Your Small Business Can't Ignore

This year the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 should be top-of-mind for small business owners.

There were changes to both tax and pass-through deductions that may affect the daily decisions you make as a business owner. The good news is none of your standard deductions were taken away – only slight updates were made to two of the many. The iffy news is on the 20% pass-through deduction – it’s great to have, but who qualifies?

Let’s get into it.

Tax Deduction Updates

Meals and entertainment

  • Entertaining clients or employees is no longer a deductible expense. The meals you purchase when entertaining are still covered, but those tickets to Hamilton are coming out of your pocket. It’s probably best to keep client or employee engagement to dining experiences only.

Business automobiles

  • If you own or lease a business automobile, or was planning on doing so, the deductible just increased. With the new tax plan, you can deduct $18,000 the first year you own a new car. If your business needs a truck or SUV, the vehicle is 100% deductible. Now is the time to get that business car, and make sure to negotiate to start off with a great price.

The Pass-Through Deduction

What does it mean?

  • A pass-through business is one where tax laws ignore the separate existence of the business itself, and allows any income, deductions, credits or other provisions to pass directly through the owner instead. This doesn’t include most corporations, but does include limited liability companies, partnerships and sole proprietors.

Now if your business is a pass-through entity, the new tax law is implying that you can deduct 20%, or one fifth, of your qualified business income until it expires in 2025. To be clear, as you’ll find the law currently is not, qualified business income is the net amount (or taxable amount) of income, gain, deduction, and loss that is tied to your operating business.

What businesses/industries qualify?

  • This is the biggest question that many, including tax professionals, have raised. The stipulation on exactly what type of services are excluded from the deduction is very narrow:

Health, law, engineering, architecture, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, consulting athletics, financial services, brokerage services, or any trade or business where the principal asset of such trade or business is the reputation or skill of 1 or more of its employees.

The specific exclusion of the principal asset of the business being a skill of 1 or more employees is really what has America’s small businesses up in arms. Because of this – the American Institute of CPAs has written a letter to the IRS asking for immediate guidance on the entire pass-through deduction. According to the LA Times, the IRS plans on providing guidelines by June 2018.

While you wait, it’s recommended you make an appointment with a tax adviser for a date after the guideline has been provided. It’s an important time to learn what can and cannot be considered tax deductible for your business.

Blog sources:

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pass-through-tax-deduction-20180312-story.html

https://www.fool.com/taxes/2018/01/03/can-you-win-from-the-pass-through-deduction.aspx

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/309096

Implementing Your Online Reputation Strategy

Implementing your online reputation strategy

In the first part of this series, Getting Started: Taking Control of your Online Reputation, we kick off where to begin when building and monitoring your online presence. Now that you have your reputation marketing plan mapped out, here are some tools to help you implement your strategy.

1. Claim your business listings and social pages

Customers are searching you online for two reasons: to get your contact information, and to see what other people are saying.

There are some top sites for business listings depending on your industry. Review the ones that show up on the first page of your search and make sure your contact information is correct. If there are other important sites you know as a professional that your business should be listed on – add it! No stone should go unturned.

When it comes to what people are saying about their experience with you, managing your reputation is huge. First, claim your business on Yelp and Google.

If your business doesn’t show up – create your profile! Add your logo and put up some pictures of the inside and outside of your business. It wouldn’t hurt to have a picture of the team either. Customers like to see what they are walking into – it gives them a sense of familiarity.

2. Listen to what your customers are saying

After you’ve claimed your online presence, read any existing customer reviews. Were the reviews accurate to your product or customer service? Are they pointing out areas that you need to improve? It may be hard to read opinions or experiences that aren’t sugar coated, but use it as helpful feedback. It could be really beneficial to your business, and could start bringing in more 4 or 5 star reviews instead of 3 or less.

If there are a couple of unhappy customers that you feel you can help, respond to the reviews and offer them a solution. Thank the customer for their feedback, explain your process and why that may have happened, and possibly offer a solution. But it’s important to know that once you start review management you have to commit to it. Customers will begin to expect a response from you – even the happy ones!

Do online reviews still make you a little nervous? Here is the secret to online reviews.

3. Create targeted messaging for happy customers

Happy customers can be gold for your online reputation. There are a lot of different ways to encourage customers to leave you reviews. Your front desk employees can encourage it verbally at the end of a service, or you can have them send automated texts or emails if you use a marketing software. These messages are normally triggered after an appointment, and if you use a reputation management software, the reviews will be sent straight to Google. And all your staff had to do was click a button!

 

 

 

 

The proof is in the numbers: Demandforce can help your business grow

According to a financial statement analysis done by Sageworks, a financial information company, businesses with less than $5 million in annual revenue experienced, on average, a 7.8 percent annual sales growth in 2015. This follows the trend of continued growth in annual small business sales that we’ve seen since the Great Recession of the late 2000s.

If you’re a small business owner, prospects could be looking bright for you, but you still always need to work towards increasing your customer count, visits per day, and revenue per day, to continue to grow. Even if you have a loyal fan base, if you don’t have the numbers, you might run into cash flow problems. According to a U.S. Bank study, 82 percent of businesses that fail do so because of cash flow problems.

So how can you be proactive about growing your business? By investing wisely in three aspects:

  1. Your product or service
  2. Your team
  3. Your marketing and communications

Your product or service

This is the most obvious aspect of your business that you need to quality control and provide. If you don’t offer a service or product that is in demand, and that is of a high caliber, than you’ll have trouble attracting new business and growing.

Your team

The foundation of any great business starts with the people who work there. This goes for startups to large corporations. The dedication and passion your team members put into their work pays off in the quality of service your business provides. You and your team directly impact how well your business does, and so investing in yourself and your team is never a bad idea.

Your marketing and communications

You may be the greatest dentist, doctor, veterinarian, or mechanic in your town, but if you no one knows that, then your business won’t get off the ground, let alone grow. While traditional forms of marketing like word-of-mouth referrals and local advertisements are still valuable, investing in marketing and communications that reach a wider group of prospects is essential if you want your business to continue to grow. That’s why the best way to increase customer count, visits, and revenue per day is to invest in improving and optimizing your marketing and communications.

Take these stats: auto shops that sign up for Demandforce, a marketing and communications platform that provides tools and solutions to help small businesses (such as auto shops and more) grow, saw an immediate effect in all three of these areas.

Within just 6 months, the average customer count at auto shops using Demandforce increased by 4.89%. Average visits per day went up by 11% after just six months, and average revenue per day increased by 4.57%.

And the numbers continue to rise after a year of using the platform.

After a year, the average customer count at an auto shop using the platform increased from its original number by 12.48%, and average visits per day had increased by 13.21% in a year.

(Based off a survey of select Demandforce auto shop partners, 2017)

With just a bit of help, your business could start seeing immediate increases in these three key areas, which are all good indications of your business’ health. And one of the benefits of using an online platform designed for small businesses is that it’s easy to use. Setting up and sending out a custom email to inactive customers, for example, can be done in just a few minutes, by following the helpful walkthrough and using a ready-made email template. Demandforce specifically integrates with popular content management systems to sync appointment and customer data, so that you can set up helpful automated workflows, such as advanced appointment reminders and two-way text, completely contained within the online platform.

If you’re looking for immediate results, Demandforce can help. The platform offers a live demo and occasional special introductory offers. To find out more or to schedule a demo, you can either call (888) 272-7821 or visit demandforce.com and click the “See a demo” button.

Customer service advice for small businesses

If you’re a small business such as a dentist, medical specialist, auto shop, hairstylist, or veterinarian, you know how important each customer is to your bottom line. You can’t afford to lose a customer or patient due to a bad experience, and many of your customers might come to you specifically because they want the “white glove” customer support you can give them.

Every small business should strive to provide best-in-class customer support to its clients. The business that can make its customers feel special is the one who will foster loyalty and return visits. Additionally, your reputation – both online and via word-of-mouth marketing – will improve.

A Starter Guide: Customer Service Advice for Small Businesses 

Treat every client like they’re you’re only client… to a point

For any business, quality customer service and support are vital in keeping customers happy and willing to recommend you to their family, colleagues, and friends. If you strive to treat every client like they’re your only client, it’s a win-win. Just make sure you’re not neglecting other clients. Some advice:

  • If you can, assign a Customer Success Representative to each client, and try to have this be the point of contact for that client. Establishing a consistent representative for your business can help make your customer feel more comfortable and understood.
  • Avoid canned responses, and when possible, tailor your communications directly to your client, making sure to keep their preferred communication method and channel in mind.

Set boundaries and expectations… make sure you’re on the same page

If you’re going to grow your business, you need to recognize that some customers are better for your business than others. What this means is that as long as you show respect for your customers and treat them well, they will (and should) respect you and how you run your business. This is the customer that will help you grow, and the kind you want to keep coming back. If you don’t set boundaries with your customers, they can end up creating unneeded stress and consuming valuable time. Some advice:

  • You don’t need to be a 24/7 business if that doesn’t fit within your business model. It’s important that you run your business on your own terms and establish a clear day-to-day schedule with your customers. If you continue making exceptions, your customers might understandably not even know when you are truly open, and continue to expect “after hours” service.
  • Keep your business listings online up-to-date and send out text and/or email communications to your customers when you have modified or changing hours.

Handle things promptly… remember who your audience is

When you’re dealing with anything on social media, it’s critical to always respond quickly and in a professional manner. According to some studies, over 67 percent of Internet users are on social networks, and this means that you need to develop strong relationships with your customers on and offline. Think of it like a relationship: if one side thinks the other isn’t communicating, listening, or engaging, then a breakup might be on the horizon. Remember…

  • On social media, silence leads to losing customers – no response, or a slow response, can be read as apathy or coldness by customers
  • You don’t need to respond seconds after a post, but you should respond. Some incentive? A Harris study showed that 18 percent of people who posted negative reviews and received a reply went on to become loyal customers. And 70 percent reversed the content, either by deleting the negative comment or posting a follow-up positive one. 

It never hurts to ask… for referrals and testimonials 

If you’ve been in business for more than a few months, you probably know that referrals are one the most effective ways to grow your business and attract new, loyal customers. However, you also may HATE asking for referrals, or just not know how. Don’t assume that your customers will just talk about your business, and your great customer service. Remember: the more you ask for referrals, the more you’ll get. Here are some tips:

  • Make asking for a referral part of your routine. With some systems, like Demandforce, you can automatically send a referral follow-up to customers who have just visited your business. These are great ways to not only collect feedback on how you’re doing, but also allow your customers to review you and post those reviews online. Remember that most people like to help out others, especially if it’s not a complicated process.
  • Combine asking for referrals with requesting testimonials – consider creating testimonial cards that you can pass out at your front desk, so that someone can write one and then either drop it in the mail, or email you back. You can also send a targeted email requesting a testimonial or feedback from customers who have rated you highly in a review.

Looking for more advice on how to provide best-in-class customer service? It’s always a good idea to improve your communications, and Demandforce can help. Contact us today to see a demo. We believe in stellar customer service as well! Every Demandforce customer is paired with a Customer Success Manager, who will help you set up and optimize any and all Demandforce features to best suit your business and business goals. Call us at (888) 272-7821, or visit demandforce.com.

 

Managing client expectations with improved client communications

In any small business or practice, managing expectations is crucial to building and maintaining a successful relationship with your clients. However, if you don’t manage client expectations early, you could find yourself in some tense situations later on down the road, or experiencing low retention of your clientele.

One way to manage client expectations is to communicate early on how you’ll send out notifications, updates, or important information that your clients might need/want to know.

Send a Welcome Email

For example, if you are a salon who has recently seen several new clients, we recommend sending out a targeted Welcome email, thanking them for their first visit, and providing more detailed information on your services and history.

If you use a marketing and communications platform like Demandforce to send these messages, you can track open rates and specify specific people to receive the email, all based on data synched directly from your salon management system. And Welcome messages sent via Demandforce have an average open rate of 50 percent! (Based on 2016 Demandforce data).

Find Out Your Client’s Preferred Method of Communication

Another way to manage client expectations is to take time to chat with your client during their first visit, and ask them for their preferred method of communication. You can even ask for their consent to send text message updates, or special offers you might be running, and you can confirm that the data you have in your system is up-to-date and complete. This allows you to make sure that when you send a message, via email, voice call, or text, it’s not unwelcome, and your client knows that you might be contacting them.

Continue to Reach Out

One common mistake businesses make that can affect client expectations is to stop communicating with them after the first few months. If your salon or small business emphasizes a personal touch, and friendly family atmosphere, you need to make good on your promise. Set up custom email campaigns to send automatically to specific clients, promoting specials, loyalty rewards, or discounts. Celebrate important milestones with them by sending birthday and anniversary greetings. And make sure that your clients never miss an upcoming appointment by setting up automatic appointment reminders and recall campaigns to send out based on data collected in your management system.

If you continue to nurture the relationship you have with your client past the first visit and beyond, you’ll turn a new client into a loyal client—and you’ll always exceed your clients’ expectations.

For more information on how you can use the marketing tools and communications solutions provided by Demandforce to manage your client expectations, visit demandforce.com/salon-and-spa.