Focus on Reconditioning - June 2008

Women: The Fairer Sex
Dominates Purchase Decisions
By Sharie Sipowicz

Over 50 percent of today’s drivers are women, and women purchase 58 percent of automotive services. Everyone knows that maintaining a loyal customer base is the key to success. This article will demonstrate that women may compose most of your customer base, that women represent a great deal of purchasing power, and that detailers must consider women if they plan to have long-term success.

You need to learn more about selling to women in order to create better lasting relationships with them.

INDUSTRY GROWTH

While there are no official industry statistics, there are 17,000-plus detail businesses listed in the Yellow Pages in the United States and Canada. If every business did just $10,000 a month in sales that is almost a $2 billion a year industry. This figure does not take into account car washes, auto dealerships, and body shops that offer detailing services. Detailing is a huge industry with the potential to grow even more.

As detailing continues to become more popular with consumers, detail business owners must take a more active role in the industry. So how can you, as a small operator, take an active role in your industry and consistently show growth? The answer relates to the kind of customer you attract. The retail customer typically requires more hand holding and service than an auto dealer would, and many retail customers are women.

THE FEMALE CUSTOMER

As a detail business owner, the first thing you need to realize when a woman walks into your store is that she represents over 50 percent of vehicle sales, and can be the decision maker in 58 percent of all auto service purchases.

Interestingly, 95 percent of the time women have purchase veto power. In other words, women in this country dominate spending.

Women are different than male customers in how and why they purchase. They buy different things for different reasons. They communicate differently and consistently break the typical consumer behavior rules. Women often favor meeting a need over achieving a want. Their spending decisions are often driven by current economic conditions.

Women love their vehicles just as much as the guys do, but they tend to purchase services that are driven by the desire to increase convenience and functionality inside the vehicle, and safety and performance outside the vehicle. Purchases of vehicle maintenance and service are focused on prevention. Purchases are made with the long-term vehicle life in mind. This is a very important point to understand in your sales presentation to female customers.

Women can be your most loyal customers. The key to gaining that loyalty is to convince her you are a detail service provider who can be trusted.

TRUST

All consumer market research indicates that “trust” is the most important factor to the female automotive consumer. It consistently outweighs convenience as their reason for selecting one service provider over another. Simply, women are more relationship focused than men are, which means that if they can trust you they are going to go out of their way to patronize your detail business rather than your competitor’s. So how do you establish trust with female customers?

COMMUNICATION

The first thing you should do when a potential female customer walks into your shop or calls on the telephone is to greet her and make her feel like she is the only customer that you’ve had all day.

Interviews with women auto service customers reveal their concerns that they are not vehicle experts and don’t know the right questions to ask. They are already tense before they contact you. That is why friendly, sincere, and warm greetings are important. Even if your day is chaotic at the time, say hello and make them feel comfortable and devote all your time to them.

The next step is to listen and determine what it is that she wants, and by all means respect her opinion, even if you disagree.

WOMEN AND DETAILING

Again, there are no official statistics, but informally we find detail businesses report that women make up over 50 percent of their customer base. However, over 80 percent of these female customers are not satisfied with the service they receive, and 90 percent feel they are treated differently because they are women.

You absolutely must establish trust with the female customer by listening to her completely before responding. Most likely she will tell you more than you really need to know in order to give her a quote — women are storytellers. Never, never interrupt her. Just look her straight in the eye, and listen to everything she is saying. This doesn’t come easy for men because men are not very good listeners, and if they used that same listening technique with another man, it would be interpreted as threatening.

When she is finished telling you about what she wants done to the vehicle and why, ask several questions to establish the vehicle use and history. Women truly enjoy learning more about their cars. Tell them what is wrong with the paint, interior, etc., what needs to be done and why and how to prevent problems in the future.Women want the truth. Simply explain what’s needed in a simple and straightforward manner, and take the time to answer any questions.

Women like visual references of some kind. When you’re checking the vehicle for needed detail services use a checklist that shows them the needs. Make some notes on the form, and then go over them with the customer. Let them know what is needed now, and what might be needed in the near future. Give them the information they need to make a decision about whether they want to get these things done today, or schedule an appointment for a future date. This is a great way to build trust, and to bring them back for future services.

EXTRA SERVICES

Taking care of their current vehicle rather than buying a new one is a trend that is likely to continue for both men and women in today’s economic climate. Those who pay off a vehicle want it to last as long as possible, and more and more they are coming around to the idea of cosmetic maintenance.

Some of the services can range in price from a few dollars to several hundred and include such services as paintless dent repair, paint touchup, vinyl/leather repair and dyeing, carpet dyeing, windshield chip repair, gold plating, pin striping, body side molding, and paint protection film.

When meeting with female customers make sure you greet them respectfully. Don’t’ call them cutie, honey, sweetie, or doll face. The worst thing you can do is be condescending when talking with a woman customer.

Women in general complain that when they walk into an auto service shop they feel dismissed. So, the most important thing is to welcome women customers and listen to their needs and wants. Based upon their input, make suggestions that can provide solutions for their immediate problems, and provide suggestions for some other services that might enhance the cosmetic care of the car. In other words, maximize the opportunity to up-sell.

Women want their vehicles to look good, function well, and be safe. Never dismiss one as a tire-kicker who only wants the carpet shampooed, even if that was the thing that got her in the door. Instead, assume that they want to spend money, because there are a lot of successful women with expendable income who want their cars to look good.

Take the time to provide some personal recommendations about other services that you offer that might be needed. Provide information on the benefits and costs. Offer to assist with these recommendations today, or make an appointment.

KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER

If you want more specific information about the detail services your female customers might want, why not ask them?

As a smart detail business owner why not contact a couple of your female customers, and have them visit the shop or get together at a restaurant for an informal meeting. Sit with them and ask them to tell you what is most important to them. What do they want? What do they need? How can you make your detail business and services — even the shop environment — better for them?

Has anyone done this before? I don’t know, but if I were a detail business owner, I would take some time to do some research based upon the responses of my own customers. It gives them a voice, and sends the message to your female customers that you care.

FOLLOW UP

After a female has visited your business be sure to follow up with a postcard or letter. If you recommended services that were not purchased at the time of the visit, feel free to remind her about these things.

A note that references your recommendations and includes a recommended appointment is a great way to follow up.

WORD-OF-MOUTH

Everyone in the detail business will tell you that the easiest way to gain more customers is through positive word-of-mouth and referrals. This is absolutely true with women.

If a woman comes to your business for detail service and you have treated her well, you’re going to make a lot of money. Women talk to each other. They network. They rely upon each other for advice about all kinds of services. If they are impressed with the service they have received at your shop, they are going to tell all their friends.

CONCLUSION

Follow a simple six-step process for establishing good, lasting relationships with your female customers: think, greet, listen, explain, recommend, and follow up. Think about a woman’s purchasing power. Greet them and make them feel welcome. Listen to what they have to say no matter how long it takes, and look them in the eye while you’re doing it. Recommend both an immediate solution and complementary services. Follow up regarding your recommendations.

Sharie Sipowicz is aftermarket sales manager with Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems Inc. She has been involved in the detail industry for over 20 years, both as a vendor of products and equipment and as a hands-on operator in a retail detail environment. You can contact Sharie at sharie@detailplus.com.

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