Offer your customers a free oil change on their birthday. Free oil change birthday specials are a great way to build that all important personal relationship with your long term customers and keep your auto repair business fresh in their mind.
Won't people just take the free service and not return? This is a common fear but if your free or discounted services are provided to the right people it is money well spent. (Also see our other customer retention tools).
Make the offer available only for people who have been a customer for a certain time period – say more than one year. It is a great way to both reward long term customers and encourage repeat business from customers you haven't seen in a while. By restricting it to previous customers it cuts out the opportunists and one time bargain hunters. Also, the more restrictive you are the more generous the offer can be.
A free birthday oil change is also a great way to collect those all important email address from your customers. Have your Service Advisers tell people about the special and ask for their email address and birthday. Most shop management systems allows you to create custom data fields which will allow you to record a customer's birthday. From this data you can do a monthly search and send a reminder email about your offer.
If people are shy about providing their birthday explain you only need the day, not the year they were born. If they don't want to provide their email or don't have one, let them know they are still eligible for the offer, but they will need to remember that it is available for 30 days before or after their birthday.
Like any special you should set limits on what the special includes. With so many different oil and filter requirements and wildly varied vehicles it is easiest to place a maximum dollar value on the special. You can structure the special similar to a coupon with a maximum dollar amount discount.
You can promote this special in a number of different ways. The best method is to email the offer directly to select customers (you have been collecting email addresses for your customers haven't you!). Second promotional method is to promote the offer in your newsletter. Another way is to prominently display the special on your website. Robert Maxim's auto repair website event calendar feature is a great way to do this. You can make the special a repeating monthly event that will remind people of your offer. Check out some of our client website examples to see how they use their event calendar.
Just remember that the more restrictive the offer the more difficult it will be for your staff to verify eligible customers. By just using work order dates older than one year and the person's birth day your staff can quickly verify the customer is eligible.
Seth Godin, a noted marketing expert, says that the only way to win in today's business marketplace is to get people to talk about you. If you checked every oil change that goes through your shop to see if the person was eligible, wouldn't a surprise birthday gift be something that your customer would talk about? I'm sure it would definitely impress the customer with your service and have them spreading valuable word of mouth advertising about your business.