I recently saw a commercial by my cell phone service provider advertising a rate that was half of what I pay, but it was for new customers only. That got me to thinking, where is the appreciation for loyal customers? Your shop likely has a customer base that you depend on for regular business. They tend to be the type of people you want to do business with. Your customer base is an untapped resource full of potential new business and customers. Your goal should always be to turn a customer into a client. A customer is someone who does business here and there. They are about the transaction more than anything. You need to convert them into a client. Your clients bring you all of their auto service and repair work. The next level is that they will be an advocate for your shop. These are the people who sing your praises to friends, family and business acquaintances. They are actually telling everyone about your shop. This type of referral is the very best kind of advertising. It just makes sense to cater to your base. Acquiring a new customer is far more costly than retaining or developing an existing one.

One of the best ways to develop your base is to create a customer rewards program. It’s a great way to show your appreciation and build an emotional connection with your customers. It makes them feel involved and gives them more reasons to return to your shop again and again.

There are a few key elements to a successful rewards program. One main element is simplicity. It has to be very easy to understand. No one is willing to spend a lot of time trying to participate in the program. The rewards must be valuable and desirable. The quality and value of the rewards speak to your brand and your business.

A simple program that is easy to use with valuable rewards that can be acquired relatively quickly is ideal. Design your rewards program with these ideas in mind. Your rewards should be as original as your shop. Put some effort into deciding what you want to do. Consider your ideal client, what type of reward would they most appreciate? Also consider the cost. It is very expensive to earn a new customer with conventional marketing. It takes between six to nine touches before a new customer might try your shop. This can cost hundreds of dollars. With a well-designed rewards program, you target your efforts towards your existing customer base. Doing this is cheaper and far more effective. Here are a few program ideas to get the ball rolling.

Ambassador Referral Program
This program will bring you the exact type of client you are looking for to try out your shop. We all have clients who have become advocates for our businesses. Think of a few of the best ones you have and make them your ambassadors. Provide them with a few special business cards that have a spot for their name. Also have a blank spot for their friends’ names. Ask your ambassador to selectively give them to friends and associates. The card will offer up to 5-quarts of synthetic oil, a premium oil filter, chassis lube, and a complete vehicle inspection at no charge. Be sure to put an appointment as a requirement on the card. Use your shop management system to track whom the card was from and who brought the card in to take advantage of the offer. Each time a guest redeems his complimentary oil service, call and thank your ambassador. After three of these, your ambassador earns the same service at no charge! Track your results to be sure you are getting the type of referral that works for your shop. For a cost of about $250 you will get a chance to recruit three new clients and also benefit your ambassador. Be sure to order anything you do not stock in time for their appointments. Be ready to impress them with excellent service. These will be the best-qualified and least-expensive potential new clients you could possibly recruit. Be sure to provide the inspection results and applicable estimates, in a timely manner. You have the advantage of their appointment and they will expect to be as impressed as their friend, the ambassador, said they would be. Make it happen and your business will continue to grow with your ideal type of clients.

Preferred Client Discount
This is an offer you can use to get your customers to become clients. You simply give them 10% of their last purchase toward their next purchase. Track this in your shop management system if possible. This will keep your customers coming back to your shop. Think about it this way; if they spend $450 they know they have a $45 credit they can use off their next visit. Why would they go anywhere else next time they need service or repair? Their credit of $45 will probably cost you about $20. That is great bang-for-the-buck and could keep your bays full of the exact type of loyal customers you want. The program only works if you go over the inspection on every visit. Always do the estimates and review them every time.

Five Star Reviews
85% of people will read your reviews before deciding if they will patronize your business. The fact of the matter is that people expect a great buying experience. When they are satisfied they usually don’t post an online review. However, every disgruntled customer will put a huge, blistering, one-star review online. The best way to deal with this is to have a lot of Five Star reviews. Have signs in your showroom that state; if you had a great experience, please tell the world with a Five Star review on Google, Yelp or on social media. If not, please let us know so we can get the situation fixed. If you decide to give us a Five Star review, we would like to offer you a 5% discount on your next visit. Once your customer posts a Five Star review, make a note in your shop management system to give this person their discount on their next visit. Your customers will think about the positive aspects of their visits and they will then write about it in their reviews. This will help them become loyal and help convince others that your shop is worth a try.

Remember to create something that speaks to your brand. Keep it simple and track the results so you will know which programs are working and which are not. Everyone should be a winner. This is a great way to ACCELERATE YOUR SUCCESS!