Regular, Casual or Player? You Need all of These Customers – but Treat Them Differently

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How many customers visit your location once and never come back? A quarter of them? Half of them? More? It is critical that you know that number and who those people are.

The good news is, this information is right inside your point-of-sale system. In fact, nearly any point-of-sale system can use its database to determine how often customers visit and how many are “one and done.”

You may need a third-party vendor to extract the data, but it isn’t difficult to do. Once you have that information, developing a plan to service that customer is critical.

And that plan requires a lot more than just allocating a few thousand dollars towards advertising. 

Let’s look at the three most common “customer types,” including their spending habits, and what it will take to get their attention and pull them into your store:

The Regular knows the name of everyone who works for you, actually likes the coffee in your waiting room, and understands that business is a two-way street. 

It’s OK to ask a regular to bring his or her car in on another day because your store is already busy. Regulars – who typically make up 10% to 20% of your customer base – get it and will absolutely show up on that other day. 

This customer is a partner and understands the give-and-take of business. 

With regulars, the trust factor is high on both sides, and very little advertising or spend is needed to get this person – and usually more than one car that they own – to show up when scheduled. 

But you need to make this person feel special and follow through on your promises.  Maybe you hold some kind of in-store customer appreciation event or program for your regulars? Or maybe you can put a basket together of gift cards from other local small businesses and a few coupons from yours and deliver that to their front door? 

This is a unique customer, and any gesture you make needs to match that uniqueness.

The Casual Customer is interested in your business.  They may not have liked your Facebook page or follow you on the Instagram, but they care. However, they are not crusaders for your business. 

The casual customer is fairly loyal, but also is a high risk of being steered away from your business.  A new shop, a fancy advertising campaign, a friend’s recommendation – any of those things may pull this customer away to give another business a shot to see if they are better than you.

You need to use a steady stream of inexpensive marketing to remind these customers that you exist. This could take the form of social media posts, radio – if you do that in your market – or anything that reminds them that you are here to serve them.\

With regulars, the trust factor is high on both sides.

Once this customer is in your store, your employees must execute so that the experience is memorable and seared into the casual customer’s brain. This can be difficult in our industry.

Casual customers make up the bulk – 50% of more – of your customer base. They visit two or three times a year, and make basic purchases, maybe with a brake job or front-end work thrown in. 

The lifetime value of this customer is huge, especially as a demographic, so advertising to get them to visit and then making their experience memorable is worth the investment.

The Player sees automotive maintenance as a game. They are not interested in a relationship and might even see you as an adversary. In their mind, doing business with you is merely a transaction. And that’s ok. Without these customers, you would struggle to pay the bills. Just do not “over-promise” when it comes to servicing their vehicles. 

Because this category of customer tends to be vocal with complaints, many businesses try and fix everything for them. But bending over backwards will not pay off. Just treat the business you receive from this type of customer for what it is: a transaction. 

Don’t be flippant, though. Any transaction is worthwhile. Make sure your business 100% performs what the agreement states and be very clear with standards, but only meet this person half-way. 

And don’t get trapped into discounting everything to make players happy. Their happiness does not equal loyalty.

Pick a service that will appeal to them but pick just one. Do not be the cheapest alignment, the cheapest brake service and the cheapest tire. Pick one thing and maximize it.

It is far more profitable and easier to convert a casual customer into a regular than it is to move a player into a casual.  Focus your marketing efforts on the casual, but don’t entirely ignore the regular or the player.  You need all of them.

Dennis McCarron is a partner at Cardinal Brokers Inc., one of the  leading brokers in the tire and automotive industry ( To contact McCarron, email him at

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