Your Truck Parts or Repair Shop in the Digital Age
We’ve officially entered the Information Age, where most of the services, products, and resources we depend on in our daily lives are migrating (or have already migrated) toward an online presence. In these changing times, it’s easy to fall behind the curve, or feel overwhelmed with all of the new technology springing up. For these reasons, many repair shop owners have put off making the move toward the digital marketplace. This is a mistake, leading to missed opportunities and loss of potential income.
By neglecting to enter the new online marketplace, a repair shop is missing out on a huge slice of new customer connections. Since research shows that 90% of a given company’s potential new customers are looking for products and services online, it’s now more important than ever to understand the power of the internet as a marketing venue for your company. In fact, it’s not just important; it’s vital for the continuing success of your business.
Uncertainty About New Technology
In many cases, truck repair shop owners are simply uncertain about how to begin using digital technology for the benefit of their business. They may not know how to create a website, open a Facebook account, or utilize the other digital marketing tools available to them. This uncertainty, while understandable, shouldn’t get in the way of learning how to leverage digital marketing for the health and profit of your business. Although the technology is new and carries with it a bit of a learning curve, it’s not as difficult as you might think. Armed with some good information, you can craft an excellent digital marketing strategy which will generate quality leads, offer a huge return on your investment, and will not break your budget. Better yet, once you set up a solid tool kit of digital resources for your business, the ongoing maintenance takes relatively little time while continuing to generate big returns.
The Value of a Website
It helps to think of a website as the primary internet real estate for your business. Today, around 30% of truck repair businesses do not have a website (not even a basic one!). Without a website, your business will not be found when your customers use a search engine to look for the type of services you offer. This is problematic for any business in the modern age.
A 2015 study published by the internet security company, Verisign, reported that 84% of consumers believe that small businesses with websites are more credible than ones without an online presence. The same study found that 9 out of 10 of the consumers they polled rely primarily on the internet to locate goods and services. Once you understand these trends, it is easy to see how the 30% of truck repair shops without websites are putting themselves at a clear disadvantage in terms of discoverability and client outreach. If you expect to compete with other local businesses (who likely all have websites by now), you really do need to create a quality web presence for your company, or risk a gradual loss of credibility in the public eye.
To get up and running with an effective website isn’t as difficult or expensive as you might think. The cost of a decent website has come down in recent years, so that there are affordable options available for businesses all across the economic spectrum. In fact, there are a wide variety of low cost do-it-yourself website builders online, as well as many reputable local and national agencies offering turn key website packages.
A simple brochure style self-built website can be as cheap as $15 per month, and can be put together in a few hours with some basic computer and writing skills. Some of the more modest website builders are altogether free, as long as you don’t mind an advertisement or two from a sponsor being displayed on your site. If you’d prefer to have a more elegant, custom-built website designed by a web marketing agency specifically for your business, you can get into one for a relatively modest investment which will likely pay for itself many times over. Whatever your preference, you can get a website up and running quickly, and affordably, so there’s no good reason to put it off any longer.
Leveraging Facebook (and other social media)
Facebook and other social media platforms are not just for sharing family photos and videos of kittens. Social media sites are now the most widely used websites in the world, and in the case of Facebook, the first place many of your customers go to learn more about your company.
A Facebook page for a business is simple, and free, to set up. To get started, all you need is an email address, a basic description of your company, and a phone number for your customers to reach you. Once you have a basic page put together, you can add business hours, location information, photographs and videos, and other items of interest. Then, you will start to accumulate a list of new and existing customers who have indicated interest in your services.
The secret to a powerful Facebook presence is to be sure to add regular posts to your page, to show that your business is active, interesting, and worth following. These posts can be as simple as a photo of your shop in full swing, an article from an industry journal of interest for your customers, a special event or promotional offering, or even a candid video of your technicians on the job.
As you build a devoted following, public interaction with your page will increase, and your business will begin to receive reviews and comments from satisfied customers. Along with the valuable social proof of great testimonials, people will start sharing your content to their friends, providing further social networking outreach. At that point, your social media presence begins to take on a life of its own, providing free direct marketing for your company with just a little bit of upkeep each week.
The Power and Profitability of E-Commerce
Not long ago, e-commerce was expensive and complicated to set up. It was typically used only by dedicated online merchants. These days, however, it is much easier to set up a solid online market for your business, opening the door for local customers.
E-commerce provides a convenient way for your regular customers to go online and search for a part they need. An order can be set up for will-call or delivery to their doorstep, 24 hours a day. Your shop doesn’t need to be open for them to do this. Customers don’t need to wait in line, spend time on the telephone, or take up employee’s time at your shop. They can find the item they want, initiate the purchase, and pay securely with a credit card; all 100% independently, from the comfort of their own home or hand held device.
There are numerous advantages to this type of system, not the least of which is a big time savings for your employees and your customer. A good e-commerce system can also track lost sales, so you can better manage your inventory. Some e-commerce solutions can even be integrated with your existing inventory management software, streamlining and automating the entire sales cycle for your company.
Lean Thinking in the Digital Age
Digital technologies are not just an excellent option to bring in more customers, or provide convenient sales solutions. They also offer a wide variety of tools to make your business run more efficiently, especially when it comes to customer service.
While there is undoubtedly a benefit to having dedicated customer service personnel on staff, it can also be an expensive outlay for a repair shop. For this reason, we want to make sure our employees are engaged in work which requires a human touch, and not spending their time doing repetitive tasks which could be easily automated.
In our previous article, The Real Cost of a Truck Shop Business Part II, we discussed the litany of costs associated with keeping an employee on staff, and how to reduce those costs in order to ensure a healthy bottom line. One way to cut down on employee time expenditures, and the price tag that comes with them, is to move toward more digital options for customer service. With today’s technology, you can provide customers with the type of on-demand, smart phone friendly, self directed experience they have come to expect from their favorite businesses.
Options for customer self-service in your truck repair shop include:
- Simple bill-pay applications, which enable your customers to pay their service invoices online with a credit card, securely and at their leisure.
- Real time updates of vehicle repair status, allowing your customer to review work in progress without having to call your shop to inquire.
- Easy and secure access to work order records and past invoices.
- Instant appointment scheduling and confirmations.
- Automated preventative maintenance reminders sent via text or email.
These options, and others like them, can relieve your company of some of the cost burden of paying employees for repetitive customer support tasks, while also removing the potential problems of human error and poor employee attitudes (or perceived attitudes) in customer service interactions. Additionally, these technological solutions go a long way toward eliminating the need for paper based invoices, receipts, mailed service reminder cards, etc., all of which cost your company time and money to generate.
Start Simple, Grow Digitally
To get started with these new digital tools can be as simple or as complex as you like. You might prefer to start small, with a basic Facebook page or brochure website, and build from there. Whatever your preference, you owe it to yourself to learn about, and embrace, at least a few of the digital options available to you. Not only is it the best way for new customers to find you, it’s also how your existing customers will expect to do business with you in the future.