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When it comes to garnering consumer trust, repair shops seem to rank as low as law firms and cable companies. In a 2014 survey of car owners conducted by RepairPal, 52% of respondents said they believed they had been taken advantage of by an automotive repair shop.

While that number is down from 66% in 2013, it shows that a sizeable number of consumers still harbor negative feelings about the auto repair industry.

Delivering consistently strong customer service is one way to establish trust with consumers and build a solid reputation in the industry. But how you market your shop can also have a big impact on public opinion. If your website is outdated and difficult to navigate, you’ll turn off potential customers despite the quality of your service. Likewise, if you fail to follow up with your customers and thank them for coming in, why would they return?

The goal should be to build a brand that is consistently associated with delivering reliability, value and quality. Here are some brand-building strategies to help you strengthen your credibility and overcome the trust issues that persist in this industry.

building trust first impressionsFirst Impressions Count

We’ve all heard the phrase, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” While it might sound cliché, it’s absolutely true. These days, potential customers form their first impression of your business based on what they find online when searching for your services.

With that in mind, a crucial first step is to ensure that your business is included in online directories so it can show up easily in keyword searches for automotive repair. To stand out from the competition, the listing should include photos, an address, business hours and reviews (which will come up automatically if you’re doing a good job encouraging reviews from customers).

To maximize the impact of your listing, upload photos of both the exterior and interior of your shop onto Google My Business, and check your hours and address frequently to make sure that information is correct. Your information should also be consistent across all channels to avoid causing confusion.

Let Your Site Serve as a Hub

Your listing should send customers to your site, where they can easily find all the answers to the questions they have about your business. Like your listing, your homepage should prominently display your hours, phone number, location and reviews. An offer of some kind, say a certain percentage off of a customer’s first service, should also be included on the homepage.

With the move toward more mobile usage, it’s also essential to have a mobile-friendly site that won’t lag or display information awkwardly when viewed on a smartphone or tablet. Be sure to feature photos of your shop so customers know what to expect before they visit. Also, it’s important to communicate your core values — whether that’s illustrated through a warranty or speedy service — to show your commitment to good customer service.

Tap Online Partners

Sites such as RepairPal and AskPatty are worth considering if you want to increase your online credibility and don’t mind going through a certification process. RepairPal is focused on certifying shops based on key criteria such as quality and training, while AskPatty has developed a niche for providing unbiased automotive advice for female consumers. Review sites, such as Yelp, are also a good resource as long as you dedicate the time to address negative reviews.

Social Media IconsDon’t Forget Social Media

Social media can be a great way to build trust with both existing and potential customers. The key is to avoid appearing too promotional. Use your posts to promote community events you’ve sponsored, fun news (for example, one shop we work with features comics for “Funny Fridays”), positive reviews and information about your staff. While managing social media does take time, you’ll be better off directing this task yourself than outsourcing the job to someone who doesn’t know your shop or the business.

Make Your Waiting Room a Showcase

Your waiting room is the one place where you have a captive audience, so use that space to communicate what your brand represents. It should go without saying that your waiting room should be clean and equipped with water and coffee. Having a comfortable, well-organized waiting room is a great way to ease initial concerns and anxiety about your business.

franks european service waiting room

Frank’s European Service, Las Vegas, NV

The walls of your waiting room also offer the perfect space to highlight your shop’s credentials and character. Display your technicians’ certifications as well as photos of staff and community event notices to humanize your business. To establish trust, some shops are also using large-screen monitors to show their technicians working in the bays. Of course, these monitors can also be used to share key service benefits (such as warranties) and industry awards.

Follow Up

The fastest way to damage trust with a customer is to stop communicating with them as soon as the sale is over. Always send an email or postcard to thank a customer after a visit and offer a discount to entice them to return. Loyalty cards are also a good method of cultivating long-term relationships. Finally, tying offers to referrals gives you the advantage of building strong word of mouth, which is still a powerful mechanism for driving business.

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Mike Giblin

Mike Giblin

Mike Giblin currently serves as president of U.S. operations for Kukui Corp., a ­developer of marketing software solutions for the automotive repair industry. An industry veteran, Giblin is a former ASE-­certified master technician who managed his family’s San Francisco Bay area-based repair shop for 25 years. Mike believes that the auto repair ­industry requires an amazing skill set to be successful and he is ­excited to share what he knows with shop owners. Mike can be reached at [email protected].