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Ask Patty at Auto Inc. Online Edition: Reaching Out to Female Consumers

Published Apr 1st 2008, 10:20pm by Jody DeVere in Pressroom Articles

Ask Patty at Auto Inc. Online Edition: "Reaching Out to Female Consumers"

Posted 4/1/2008
By Angie Kilbourne

Click to read the complete article at http://www.asashop.org/autoinc/april2008/women.htm

AskPatty.com's mission is to turn women into automotive experts. What can you learn from their team to become a more female-friendly business?

 

According to Road & Travel Magazine's "2004 Female Buyer Study," women spend $300 billion annually on used car sales and vehicle maintenance and repairs. Women also influence more than 85 percent of all automotive sales in U.S. households, and, if you hadn't already noticed, they make up anywhere from 50 percent to 65 percent of the customer base at service centers.

Targeting your marketing efforts to women certainly isn't a new idea. But what would capturing even one more percentage point in market share do to your bottom line? What about 5 percent or 10 percent? If we've piqued your interest, here are two more gems from Road & Travel: Eighty percent of those female service customers report they are not satisfied with the service they receive, and 89 percent feel that gender plays a role in how they are treated. Ouch.

"A Safe Place"

Designed to educate women about their vehicles, AskPatty.comwas launched May 2006, armed with a team of female experts - its advisory board - who are on call to answer questions about vehicle purchases, maintenance and repair and any other automotive-related topic. These advisers bring a variety of backgrounds and disciplines to the table, from marketing and sales to service and motorsports.

But AskPatty.comis designed to be more than just an educational tool. In its own words, the site is "a safe place for women to ask automotive-related questions and read tips and tricks, and get advice about car buying, selling, maintenance and repair."

"Are men having the same bad experiences at repair centers? Yes they are," says Jody DeVere, president of AskPatty.com. "Unfortunately, they don't admit it. But cars are very complex today. There is a lot more today to repairing cars than years ago, and as they add more and more features, it becomes very complex to diagnose and repair. I think all consumers feel the same about car repairs."

So why do women need a safe place to learn about their vehicles? "When speaking to a woman or any consumer for that matter, many service advisers speak in a language we can't understand," adds DeVere. "Seventy percent of our [AskPatty] questions are in the repair area. Somehow they [repair shops] are missing the boat communicating to women and need to learn to say, 'This is the repair you need, and let me help you understand why you need it.' When a woman understands it, she is more comfortable spending money on the repair."

What Are Women Searching For?

In a July 2006 article on MarketingProfs.com, author Gerry Myers, president of Dallas-based Advisory Link, wrote: "Women want respect; they want knowledgeable salespeople who are professional and who will take the time to answer their questions. They want someone they can build a professional relationship with, someone they can come back to when they need more products and can refer their friends to."

Kim Walker, co-owner of Peak Automotive, Apex, N.C., and ASA-North Carolina's current president, is an AskPatty expert adviser and joined because one of Peak's goals is to educate customers: "We try very hard to be a good resource for our customers, including women."

As an adviser, she fields questions, including technical ones, submitted from the site's visitors. "I was very clear with them that I am not a technician, but my technicians here are second to none. I get a lot of the import questions on maintenance," says Walker. In addition to technical questions, she also answers questions about vehicle purchases and prepurchase inspections.

The goal is to reply within 24 hours: "My husband and the guys at the shop are aware of AskPatty and its vision and mission." All the employees at Peak work as a team to provide AskPatty visitors with the answers they need in a timely fashion.

Partnering for Success

Studies show that women in high numbers - from 78 percent to 96 percent of those surveyed - use the Internet to research products and services before making a purchase, online or offline. "[A woman is] 28 percent more likely to buy from a retailer that she knows is trained to address her specific needs," DeVere wrote in a February 2007 article for iMedia Connection.

Devere and her team are always on the lookout to add to their corral of advisers. She is currently searching for additional female ASE-certified technicians with experience and knowledge, plus the enthusiasm and motivation to share and educate.

There are other opportunities, including marketing and advertising partnerships and participation in AskPatty's Certified Female-Friendly program. Similar to its dealership program, AskPatty is now launching a Certified Female-Friendly program for automotive repair centers, tire stores and other aftermarket retailers. Businesses that complete the certification requirements will be listed on the site's search function and on the MyCarPage feature. In addition, they are provided with marketing tools to promote their participation.

Certification requires that shop personnel complete the first module of training, which is delivered in an interactive online environment. The training is designed for everyone in the shop who speaks with a consumer: technicians, counter persons, service advisers and receptionists.

But DeVere emphasizes training doesn't end there: "Our training is 12 months. We don't believe that behavior changes in a couple of training sessions. New modules are loaded up every few weeks to continue the training and reinforce their learning."

Walker says her AskPatty partnership helps her business meet two of its goals: Educating customers and increasing the shop's credibility with consumers. It also provides her with networking opportunities and connections within the industry.

For shops considering an AskPatty partnership, Walker advises, "It depends on what your mission is for your customers, for your shop and for the industry. You have to be really good to every single customer because they all count."



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