The Hog Ring: 5 Ways to Make Your Trim Shop More Convenient

Jun 26, 2012

Editor’s Note: Each month, HotrodandRestoration.com will be sharing articles from The Hog Ring, a blog and online community for auto upholstery professionals. This month, the site’s Naseem Muaddi, owner of Delaware County Auto Upholstery, shares tips on making your shop more convenient for customers.

Customers base their purchase decisions on three primary factors: price, quality and convenience. While most auto upholstery shops already compete on price and quality, convenience is a factor that’s all-too-often overlooked. Cunning business owners know that the easier you are to purchase from, the more money you’ll make. Below are five easy ways your auto upholstery shop can make itself more convenient.

1. Offer Free Pickup and Delivery. Offering free pickup and delivery service is a great way to secure contract accounts with fleet services and dealerships, especially those that are too busy or understaffed to deliver vehicles on their own. It could also help distinguish your auto upholstery shop from the competition and even justify slightly higher prices. Just be sure to properly cover your liabilities. Securing a “repair/towing” or “transporter” license plate will ensure that your shop’s liability insurance transfers to vehicles that you pickup and deliver.

2. Accept Credit Card Payments. Accepting credit cards simplifies the buying process for customers who may not have access to cash. A leaky convertible top, for instance, requires immediate attention, but if a customer doesn’t have cash on hand, he’ll likely search for an auto upholstery shop that accepts credit cards. By not offering this payment option, you’re basically leaving money on the table. Aside from the traditional credit card machine, consider offering online payments through services like PayPal. Upholstery shops that offer pickup and delivery service may also want to check out mobile credit card machines and smart phone apps that allow you to accept payments on the go.

3. Extend Your Business Hours. Most auto upholstery shops operate during regular business hours&mdashMonday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and possibly a half-day on Saturday, too. Unfortunately, most customers also work during those hours, making it difficult for them to stop by for an estimate. Opening an hour earlier, staying an hour later or increasing the number of weekend hours you work will make it more convenient for customers to give you their business. Shops that are unable to extend their business hours should consider a secure afterhours drop box. This way, customers can leave their cars on your lot and drop off their keys when they have free time.

4. Give Customers Something to Do. Customers who are unable to arrange for a ride back home tend to procrastinate in having repairs done. However, some jobs-like headliners and cigarette burns-can bring in quick money if these customers can be convinced to wait while you work. To secure quick jobs, you’ll need to make customers’ hours-long wait convenient. One way to do this is by offering free Wi-Fi so that they can work or play online while you get down to business. Another great idea is to give them a print out of nearby stores they can shop at while they wait. After all, what can be more convenient that knocking out a few errands while you get your car fixed?

5. Offer E-Mail Estimates. It’s always better to give estimates in person, rather than over the phone or online, but sometimes there’s just no way around it. Customers are busy people, too, so refusing to give them ballpark figures of what jobs cost can ultimately cost you jobs. Over-the-phone estimates are always hard to give because it’s difficult to visualize the type of repairs or customizations customers want. However, giving them the option to e-mail you high-quality photos and a clear description of the services they require can make giving estimates to busy customers easy for you and convenient for them. Just be sure they know that an exact quote can’t be given until you see the job in person. Remember, price and quality will always play an important role in purchase decisions, but they’re not always the deciding factor. Distinguish your auto upholstery shop from the competition by making it more convenient for customers to give you their business.

The Hog Ring is a blog and online community for auto upholstery professionals. To read the site’s latest articles, search job listings or connect with other auto upholstery professionals, click here.