My Car Repair Shop is Better Than Yours

Back in January of 2008, Mike the Boyfriend accidentally found out that my car was undriveable.  In my defense, I had just dumped my last consulting client, and after dumping entirely too much money into that client and seeing no return, I didn’t exactly have the money to fix it.  Exactly how bad was it?  Well, it stalled just about every time I stopped.  Yeah, that’s bad, but did I mention that the car was also making a terrible grinding noise when I pressed on the brake?  Stupid may be the best term to apply to me here, but let’s just move on.

After asking around, Mike found a reputable car repair shop near us called Beany’s.  We weren’t expecting much.  We were just hoping to not get ripped off.  And when they called us with the estimate, we were kind of blown away.  Yes, the brakes were going to cost a fortune to fix, but we were expecting that and the number they came back with wasn’t even close to the number we were thinking.  What was surprising was their solution to stalling problem.  After they ran diagnostics, they realized it was just a plug that had come unplugged.  They plugged it in at no charge.  Since we were already dumping a lot of money into this place, it probably was a no brainer to them that this was the right thing to do.  Unfortunately, it’s getting beyond rare for companies to recognize what the right thing to do is, so it ended up being a gesture that increased our trust in what they do.

After getting the car back home and being extremely happy with how it was running, we got a thank you note, plus coupons for our next visit and one to pass on to friend.  Once again, simple and surprising.  This would have been enough for us to come back but then we started getting their snail mail newsletter.  It’s filled with LOTS of information that has nothing to do with cars, which includes timely, family tips and partnerships with other local businesses.  Plus they include monthly drawings, thank yous to customers and coupons.  The fact that you know you might win something or you might get a thank you constantly gets us to open this stupid little newsletter up, despite my rule that only evil comes in the form of snail mail.

And then there’s the workshops.  At least once a quarter, they offer a workshop to help people understand more about their cars.  There is one that is offered only to women and one that is offered only to teen drivers.  How much do these workshops cost?  Nada.  Oh yeah and lunch is included.  I think it takes a lot of hootzpah to teach people in this matter.  It only encourages a better consumer base and you better be able to back that up.  And they do.

You might also want to hear about the last time I took my car in.  They were honest and said that it was time to let her go.  The cost to fix her was at least double what she was worth and it was no longer smart to dump any money into her.  The cost for this assessment?  Free, provided that I promised to get all of my future car’s work done at their shop.  Um, hells yeah.

So what can your business take away from my experience with this shop?  Well, this to me is one of the most effective word of mouth campaigns I have come across and they barely have a social media presence.  Here are a few takeaways:

1. It’s sometimes okay to give things away for free, especially when it’s the right thing to do.  It only increases trust.
2. Thank you notes rock.  Let’s bring them back.
3. Arm the people who might talk about you with information to pass on.  The easier you make it to talk about you, the more likely they will.
4. It’s okay to go off topic if you make it relevant to your audience.
5. Recognize your customers.  They like to see their names up in lights sometimes.
6. Educate your customers.  If you have trust in what you are selling and believe it to be the best product, then throwing a bit of education at your customers should only increase loyalty and keep them coming back.
7. Be honest.  If you lie, you will be found out and it will hurt your base.  So just don’t do it.

Any other good word of mouth campaigns out there?

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