You may have noticed that during certain months, your bays are empty, techs are idle, the phone doesn’t ring, and the cash register remains empty. What’s going on?
Welcome to the slow season. The auto repair business is cyclical, going through ups and downs. A downturn often happens right after the Christmas holidays.
When the slow season hits, it can feel like there’s nothing you can do to earn more. Although some elements may be out of your hands (like snowy weather), there are ways to keep your bays populated and techs productive during these times. Let’s discuss four tips to keep your shop going during these times.
1. Don’t stop marketing
Many repair shops are tempted to cut back on marketing initiatives when business isn’t booming, but that could prove costly. A lack of promotions can cause customers to forget about your shop and turn to other service providers instead. If you haven’t started promoting your business, consider going over some of the best marketing ideas to drive customers to your auto repair shop.
In colder areas, snow and ice can take a toll on vehicles. As a result of the harsh weather, some car parts are more likely to fail than others.
Shops can create marketing campaigns focusing on their areas of expertise. For instance, offering a free inspection can open doors for services such as oil changes and wiper blade replacements. Giving out freebies like complimentary wiper blade installations encourages customers with budget concerns to visit your shop, eventually becoming repeat business, and potentially driving up your average repair order size!
Utilize all the channels at your disposal—email, social media, and traditional media. You may even want to send out flyers and coupons via traditional mail.
2. Your shop software is your best friend
Next, take a look at your database. What services have you offered in the past at this time of year? Modern auto repair software can help you track the most profitable jobs, and the most profitable customers served during a period. A system like AutoLeap can help you organize business data and run marketing campaigns to maximize your revenue.
Software can consolidate and arrange data for each customer, allowing you to schedule periodic maintenance. This means there will always be cars for you to work on, leading to a predictable stream of income every month.
3. Stand out from the crowd
It’s also time to highlight what distinguishes you from the rest. What do you offer that your competitors don’t? The convenience of shuttle service or loaner cars? Longer operating hours? Financing? Warranties are also attractive since they offer extra protection. Include these in your messaging to customers, and use your social media channels to remind them how you can cater to their needs.
Here are some other ways you can differentiate your shop:
Invest in your techs
Your techs distinguish your shop from the competition. Their abilities directly impact the reliability of repair jobs and tech productivity. Most people want to have a career. They want growth and learning, so the slow season is a great time to provide some training.
By holding training sessions, techs learn essential technical and behavioral skills they need for the job. There are many free webinars, online tutorials, and other resources available from both OEMs and aftermarket parts manufacturers. Investing in training helps techs get familiar with new automotive systems and technology and get acquainted with new products and parts.
Invest in your equipment and tools
When business is slow, you can conduct some preventive maintenance on your tools and upgrade obsolete ones. Diagnostic tools may need patching, or an alignment rack’s toe may need adjusting. Here are a few key tips related to your equipment and tools:
- Do a clean-up and an equipment audit. This can streamline shop processes to improve your techs’ efficiency and productivity.
- Upgrade tools and invest in software to conduct quick and accurate repairs. Using digital vehicle inspections (DVI) can help increase the average repair order size and save you time.
- You may also want to consider revamping your shop layout during this time to maximize efficiency.
4. Add another service
There may be room to add another service to your roster. Perhaps you can offer tire services or provide undercoating to protect cars from road salt.
Consider promoting new offerings on your website and provide online quotes to lower communication barriers. But do you have the extra space for parts and equipment for new offerings? If not, you can outsource this to a third party, like many shops do with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Customers appreciate the added convenience and are typically willing to pay for it.
You can take advantage of slow periods to make your busy times faster. Even though many factors are beyond your control, there are several ways to bring in customers and keep your shop on their minds. Your shop software plays an important role in reaching out to customers, as does your marketing. Additionally, techs will appreciate having a chance to upgrade their knowledge and skills—it shows you value their contribution. Who knows, you may just be able to transform that downtime into an upswing!