It’s no secret that large numbers of recent immigrants now live in many areas in the United States. Most gather themselves into close-knit communities where their native language predominates. Fortunately, for quality collision shop owners, few of these immigrant communities have a quality body shop in their own ethnic area. If there is a shop, chances are it’s rather primitive and not up to insurance claim quality. This opens the door for an astute shop owner nearby who will put someone on the payroll who speaks their language and can help market the shop to that community.
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I’m familiar with a shop that opened in a community that had large numbers of Chinese families in the surrounding area. The shop owner hired an attractive Chinese lady who spoke fluent Mandarin and Cantonese for the front desk and he also hired a Chinese-speaking estimator and parts manager. For several years this combination served him well. His Chinese personnel changed a few times, but he always kept some at his shop and enjoyed a significant number of jobs from the Chinese community.
With an economic downturn, when one Chinese employee left, he didn’t replace her immediately. Gradually, as the economy continued to decline, he lost all of his Chinese employees. He intended to replace one or two but it didn’t happen and little by little his Chinese community business fell away. Employees are a shop’s biggest expense. It’s understandable that adding any new employee is costly, but I’m certain that a careful analysis of the situation would reveal that the benefits of reaching the Chinese community would have more than paid for a Chinese speaking employee for this shop owner.
Is there any alternative to hiring an estimator or front desk person who speaks the language of a local ethic group? Perhaps one economical solution would be to hire a technician who speaks the local language. I know of more than one shop where most of the technicians are Hispanic but where one is also used to handle phone communications with Hispanic speaking callers. Would this work for other ethnic minorities? Had the shop owner who had a Chinese parts manager used that person to also handle Chinese-speaking callers, he might have continued to pick up business from that community.
Assuming a shop owner decides to take advantage of potential business from an ethnic community near his or her shop, and is willing to employ someone who can speak the language, what is the next step? Fortunately, marketing to an ethnic group is often easier than marketing to the general public. If there is an ethnic newspaper or other local publication, many people in that community will actually read it (as opposed to an increasing non-readership of general newspapers today). Ethnic readers are more likely to look at ads in the publication and respond to them. They will particularly respond to an ad or article that has a quote by someone in their community who says the body shop did an excellent job on their car and they were very satisfied.
These days many ethnic communities also have radio stations and even a TV station broadcasting in their own language. Once again, this is a captive audience that is more inclined to respond to ads and messages than the general public. Ethnic minorities also tend to be very cost conscious and likely to respond to discount or coupon offers. Ad spots and program opportunities may also be less expensive. Once a shop owner has decided to pursue business from an ethnic community, he or she may find some amazing marketing bargains. But once again, it will usually be essential to hire that key employee who speaks the language and is familiar with the customs, likes and dislikes of people in this community.
One more concern. People in ethnic minority groups are often cautious about whether an offer is genuine. A shop owner has to be prepared to run an ad or make a promotional effort for a longer period of time. There is also the “rule of three.” If you see an ad or announcement or article in three different places, you are also more likely to respond. Immigrants often view the purchase of a new vehicle as a long-term investment. The ones that buy new have great pride of ownership and will probably tend to get small dents, scrapes and scratches fixed. And that is very good news for a collision shop owner who has spent the time and money needed to get a solid foot in the door of a local ethnic community. If it’s done right, it’s certain to pay off.