Many customers do not trust automotive repair shops. And it has been this way for a long, long time. In many cases, unfortunately, that distrust can be warranted by what some shops have done to their customers. Mind you, it is only a few shops that cause these problems. But just like a couple of bad apples in the barrel can make others turn bad, these shops can ruin it for other shops, too.
It is not only due to shops not doing the honest thing. It is just the way our business works. Technology is constantly changing, forcing shops to try to keep up, making it more difficult to diagnose today’s vehicles properly, even with the proper training and tools. Trying to explain this technology to customers makes it even harder. They do not understand. So, a lot of times they doubt what we may be saying.
Another thing that sews distrust in our customers is the fact that we take their vehicle from them and drive it into a bay where they cannot go. Talk about separation anxiety! From a distance they watch as a technician takes the vehicle apart or plugs some device into it and starts reading codes. Eventually, the tech comes forward and speaks directly to the service advisor, rather than with the customer directly, to communicate what was found. It can seem kind of shady.
Recently, a relative of mine was asking me some questions about getting her vehicle serviced. And she said, “I’d rather write a check out to the people replacing my floors because I can see what they've done, than write a check out to a shop that's worked on my vehicle when I have no idea what they actually did, or if they did anything that they told me they did.” Unfortunately, I know where she is coming from having been involved with some of the situations she has gotten into at different shops in the past.
How do we overcome this age-old distrust of automotive repair shops? Can we change a customer’s view of us? What is it going to take to make this change?
Because I no longer work in a garage, I have to take my vehicle to a shop to get it fixed or serviced. So now I find myself in the customer's shoes. I go through the same service process that every one of your customers does and the same feelings that they experience come back to me. I drop my vehicle off and I go to the office for the day. As the day progresses, in the back of my mind I'm always thinking, “Is my car going to be done today? Did they find something that needs to be repaired?” And this goes on until I finally get that phone call where the shop tells me that the vehicle is done, everything's OK and it is time to come and pick it up. (I suggest maybe shopping a competitor with your own vehicle and become a customer for a day to remind you what it's like to be on the other side of the service desk.)
We need to be more transparent in everything that we do. We need to step back and look at our business through the eyes of our customers to remind us of their experience. Hopefully taking away ideas on how to change this experience for the better. In the meantime, here are some of my suggestions.
Going digital with your shop is one way to build a level of greater trust with your customers. There are many options in the digital process that will make it easier for your customers to be a part of the service process — everything from automatic text reminders of appointments to keeping future work and recommendations in front of your customers all the time. Let them actually see wear items such as their tires and brakes go from new to needing replacement. Let us take a closer look.
One way to get customers to trust you is to keep them in the know. Make sure that they know everything and that they are kept up to date during each visit. Eliminating the anxiety of waiting for some kind of communication about their vehicle is a huge step in building customer trust. Doing this from the beginning to the end of each service visit will further increase the customer’s trust.
Getting out from behind the service desk is another step towards letting your customers see and know everything. Meeting them at their vehicle when they are dropping it off allows you to show them pictures from previous digital inspections and compare them to their vehicle today as it sits there next to you. For example, you can show a customer the inspection pictures that you took during the last visit when you recommended the replacement of the tires while comparing them to the tires today, showing the additional wear that has occurred since.
Keeping vehicle recommendations in front of customers is another important step to building the trust that we are looking for. During each visit when you do a digital vehicle inspection, you will find items that need to be addressed either right away or near future. These recommendations should always be recorded and presented to the customer to be completed today or so that they can plan for their future vehicle needs.
Digital software automatically puts these recommendations into the customer’s current repair order and sometimes in the “service due” section of the shop management system for future reference. This automation can occur when printing a lube sticker or even as the tech is performing a digital inspection. Dates and milage when these items are due again can also be determined by the software at the same time.
Having future recommendations clearly noted on the invoice is another way of keeping them in front of the customer. Software gives you other options for keeping them in front of the customer all of the time, such as having the ability to scan a QR code or sending a text with a link that automatically sets the date of the next appointment in the customer’s smart phone calendar.
Another simple thing that you can do to keep your customer from being nervous is to ensure they are informed throughout the day. Letting the customer know the status of the vehicle as it goes through your service process is a great way for them to see that things are moving forward. The best way to do this is to use a texting solution to send messages to your customers.
Sending text messages just takes a few clicks and a couple of seconds. Most text messages are looked at in less than 2.5 minutes. Sending text messages manually is not going to work all that well. So your best bet is to get a texting solution that will do it automatically for you. This text solution will reflect the current status of a vehicle in your management system. Using a single text message that you send to the customer after they drop off their vehicle, they can tap on the link in that message and see the current status of their vehicle. (Note: You must be very consistent with changing the statuses in your workflow to make this work. If you do not, it can do more harm than good.)
These are just a few suggestions to help you build a better level of trust with your customers. Whether you use the digital inspection to show how things wear over time and miles, keep future recommendations in front of them so they can prepare for getting work done or even ensuring they are up to date with the current status of the vehicle’s path through today’s service visit, let technology improve your customer’s level of trust.