Currently in America we are experiencing a general decline of trust in government, in institutions, in businesses, and with each other. This has numerous impacts on our society, but for auto shop owners it makes it even more challenging to gain the trust of the public. One way to fight this distrust of the auto repair industry is to have a policy of full shop transparency. In other words, don’t hide anything from your customers while they are on your premises.
A Lack of Customer Trust in Auto Repair
A AAA survey of several years ago revealed that two-thirds of American drivers do not trust auto repair shops in general. When asked why, the survey respondents gave overcharging, recommending unnecessary repairs, and bad personal experiences with auto repairs as their main reasons. This is not good news.
However, there was a silver lining in this survey. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said that they had an auto shop that they did trust to repair their vehicles. Since driving is necessary in much of the U.S., it’s obviously been a priority for most drivers to find a shop they do believe will do good work at a fair price without unnecessary upselling.
The takeaway here should be that American car owners are kind of like Fox Mulder: They want to believe. They go out of their way to find a repair shop they can feel good about frequenting because they need their cars to be in drivable condition. Repair shops, then, need to do their part and encourage that desire to trust by being open and transparent in everything they do.
Making Shop Transparency a Priority
What does shop transparency mean? It means to be open about what all staff members are doing in the office and the bays. Do not hide anything from your customers while they are in your business. If possible, open up the sight lines in your building so that they can see what your techs, your office staff, your service advisors, and your management are doing.
Also, there should be openness of communication between your staff and your customers. Make sure your staff knows that they should explain anything that the customer doesn’t understand. Even if they cannot understand the repair itself, they should know why the advised repair is necessary for their vehicle to function fully. Take the time necessary to get their full consent so they do not feel like they are being coerced into paying for unneeded repairs. Nothing erodes trust more permanently than when people feel they’ve been conned. If that happens, they will never be back.
Some of your staff may worry about being “on display” if you make them more visible to the customers at the counter or in the waiting room. They don’t have much to worry about, though. Very few customers will sit and stare at them. They have other concerns on their mind, things like how they will be able to get to work or take their kids to school while their car is being repaired or how they will pay for the repair. If you have the radio or television playing in your waiting room, that is more likely to snag their attention.
Shop transparency may seem like a small thing. It is. It’s primarily psychological. When people feel like they can see everything, they believe that there is nothing secret or hidden that is being kept from them. Since the majority of auto shop customers are dealing with car problems they don’t really understand – especially as vehicles get more technologically complex and more difficult to repair – you want to make sure everything else about the repair process seems straightforward.
We work in an industry that has some built-in problems with trust. Making your shop as open and transparent as possible will help to put your customers more at ease. That can only help with building relationships that will be mutually beneficial to all parties.
Has your auto shop taken steps to be more transparent to your customers? We want to hear about what you’ve done and how effective it’s been for you. Please leave your comments either here or in our forums so other auto shop managers can learn from your experience.