You may be staring right at a $300 billion auto service and repair market opportunity, but not seeing it at all: women. Your competitors are starting to take note, though, which means either you do the same, or you give away your share of what is now an essential source of auto shop revenue.
Pep Boys, for instance, has retooled 800 locations with new amenities, and a renewed emphasis on service and transparency, partly due to what women demand. Their CEO puts it this way: “Women have different, and higher, expectations.”
Four Ways to Profit from the Rise of the Female Customer
So how does a traditionally male-dominated industry move beyond tradition to serve a new generation, and gender, of customers? Cathy Droz, automotive author, podcaster and founder of Her Certified offers this advice: “I am not saying your repair facility has to be like a Ritz Carlton spa, but there are some easy and inexpensive touches that can make a woman feel more comfortable.” Some of those easy steps she and other experts suggest include:
1. A real cup of coffee can perk up business.
Your waiting room isn’t really yours – it’s your customers’ home for a few minutes (or hours), so invest in making them as comfortable as they are at home. Set out ceramic coffee cups instead of Styrofoam. Have plenty of good coffee to put in those cups. Provide comfortable, contemporary furniture. And keep customers connected to their always-on lives with reliable, reasonably fast Wi-Fi.
2. A clean bathroom says “We respect you.”
Men expect a toilet. Women expect a restroom to make them feel welcome and comfortable. As Droz puts it “No woman likes to go to a public restroom that has not been maintained, with supplies replaced, or that has an unpleasant odor.” Your restroom doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be nicely decorated, and always clean. Consider adding features like changing tables, or dispensers for feminine products – any extra touches that say you take pride in your business and care about your customers.
3. A little education and a lot of transparency is a clear path to loyalty.
In the increasingly complex world of cars, every customer could use a little education to satisfy their basic questions. “How does this work? Why does it need to be fixed?” Answer those questions up front – on your website, in helpful brochures, in one-on-one conversation – and it’ll be easier to answer “Why does this cost so much?” All consumers expect openness and honesty today – and they’re quick to call you out on social media if you don’t provide it. So train your staff to listen well, speak clearly, and always be informative, open and honest.
4. Supporting your customers concerns really counts.
Especially for the younger women who are driving the boom in female auto shop customers, just providing a good service or product is no longer enough. They’re looking for “providers with purpose,” companies who support them and the things they care about in the larger world, from sustainability to women’s issues. In fact, Forbes reports that 73% of millennials (and 66% of consumers overall) are willing to pay a premium when dealing with companies that have sustainable business practices).
So think about the products you use. Are they recyclable? Do they come from sustainable sources? And think about the causes you support. Is there a women’s shelter in your area, or a scholarship program for girls? Give, and promote your giving in your shop, to let customers know you understand and support them.
At least one auto shop has shaped its entire business around women’s issues. Jumpstart, in Appleton, Wisconsin, tailors its service to women, helps train female automotive technicians, and funnels its profits into serving women.
You don’t have to go as far as Jumpstart, and change everything about your business. But each and every auto shop will serve itself well by figuring out its own unique way to serve this enormous, and still under-appreciated, customer group.
Adweek: “Women Spend $300 Billion A Year on Auto Repair”
SMARTFEM Magazine: “What Women Want in an Auto Repair Shop”
Forbes: “Millennials Driving Brands To Practice Socially Responsible Marketing”