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Customer Trust: Are You Building It Through Your Communications?

Building customer trust is one of the most important factors in the growth and continued success of any shop. It is defined as “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” When we look at it, communication is at the center of this.

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Owner of Anderson Automotive in Marion, Iowa

Trust. It’s such a simple sounding concept, yet it is also a strong word that applies to the relationships your shop and your brand has with its customers. Building customer trust is one of the most important factors in the growth and continued success of any shop. It is defined as “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” When we look at it, communication is at the center of this.

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A survey done by AAA in 2016 revealed that over two thirds of drivers don’t trust auto repairers in general.

  • The No. 1 concern cited was “Recommending unnecessary services” – 76%.
  • The No. 2 concern was “Overcharging for services” – 73%.
  • The No. 3 concern was “Negative past experiences” – 63%.
  • Rounding out the top 4 was “Concerns that the work will not be done correctly” – 49%.

When looking at these results it becomes apparent that there is something that any shop can do improve these situations with their customers, and that is simply looking at how we communicate with them. Now this isn’t just the words we use when we talk to them. It’s how we communicate through the entire process beginning at the first contact.

More and more customers are finding our shops via the internet with the shop’s online presence. What does your website communicate to the customer? Does it show a professional facility and capable team members? Does it illustrate what services you offer? Does it show your community involvement? Does it position you at an elevation that would instill confidence and trust? Furthermore, does it encourage the customer to communicate?

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For those customers that arrive at the actual facility, what does that look like? What does it represent and communicate? Many times as owners we can forget that the first contact is actually when the communication begins. How does the shop look coming down the road towards it, pulling onto the lot and finally when the customer approaches and enters the lobby? These are all important points of communication that can build trust before your service advisor even says “Hello.”

Whether the customer is calling in for an appointment or walking in the front door, the manner in which the service advisor communicates to them and the overall amount of communication can begin to seal the deal on building trust or make it and uphill climb. Training of our front office team members is critical to building and maintaining customer trust. This can be a touchy subject with many shop owners I have spoken to. The No. 1 concern I hear is “What if I spend a bunch of money on training and then they leave?” My response is always, “What if you don’t and they stay?”

We need to be aware as shop owners that our customers are evolving to embrace technology at a very rapid rate and we need to adapt to that. J.D. Power in Canada found that customers really seem to trust repairers which use tablets. We need to be aware as shop owners that our customers are evolving to embrace technology at a very rapid rate and we need to adapt to that. Again, it’s all about the communication.

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“Customers like it when their service advisor is connected,” J.D. Power wrote in August. “The study finds that 21% of customers say their service advisor used a tablet device during their service visit. The use of a tablet seems to build a level of confidence in the advisor, as among customers whose advisor used a tablet and recommended additional work to their vehicle, 61% had the work done. When the advisor didn’t use a tablet but recommended additional services, only 44% had the work done.”

Overall, confusions created at the very start of the repair process are responsible for a large majority of situations that could create trust issues. It’s very simple, tell the customer what you can do, and then simply do what you told them! This means that communication within the entire team in the shop needs to be good as well. If the right hand doesn’t fully understand what the left hand is doing then the expectations of the customer are at risk of not being met. Your shop’s work flow needs to be as smooth as possible with quality communication existing all the way through to ensure those expectations of the customer are consistently met, day in and day out.

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When the service advisors reach out to the customer with estimates for services and repairs, those discussions need to communicate to the customer at a level they understand without confusing them. This is where training of the front staff continues to pay big dividends.

Furthermore, the higher the quality of communication is with our vendors and various other suppliers is the better equipped we are to meet the customer’s expectations on both quality and timeliness.

Finally, when the service advisor is going over the vehicle at the point of pick-up and delivery, it is critical that this communication is complete. By that I mean that we need to take this opportunity to ensure that any and all questions and concerns are handled. You can have the best repair experience to this point, but a customer allowed to leave with an unanswered question can open the door for confusion and mistrust. Don’t rush the delivery!

As shop owners, we need to ensure that all the forms of communications our facilities, processes and team members deliver to the customer is at the core of that all too powerful center of our shop’s success. Trust!

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