Inside the Consumer's Mind

Customers Want in on the Action

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Transparency and customer education are certainly not new challenges for repair shops, but Ratchet+Wrench Inside the Consumer's Mind survey respondents revealed customers have a hefty appetite for more. 

When asked what could be done to make the repair shop experience more comfortable, a majority of respondents stressed a desire for more intel on the specific work being done on their vehicles, more opportunities to talk through the repair process, and even a chance to meet the technicians completing their repairs. 

“When I visit a shop, I’m walking into a situation where I don’t know what they’re going to find and I don’t know how much I’ll have to pay, so there’s always this underlying level of anxiety to the situation,” says Anna Zeck, Ratchet+Wrench editorial director. “I know a lot of shops are investing in that customer education piece, this is a good reminder for shops to understand just how much this means to customers and how it impacts the overall experience.”

To combat anxiety and keep customers in the loop, shop owners like Al Pridemore, co-owner of four Pride Auto Care locations in Colorado, and Gary Pontious Jr., owner of Toledo Auto Care in Toledo, Ohio, are building time for customer conversation directly into their shop cultures and workflow so their teams don’t feel pressured to rush through those key conversations with customers. 

Whether talking through the details with customers out in the lobby or taking customers back to the shop floor to explain the issues found, Pridemore says his team’s top priority is customer comfort. 

And at Toledo Auto Care “it all starts with the vehicle check-in. You’ve got to slow the whole process down, which is something we usually work on with new service advisors because they have a tendency to speed through the process,” says Pontious Jr. 

All three also make full use of their investments in the latest technology and tools like digital vehicle inspections (DVIs) to help customers grasp the full scope of their repairs.

Pridemore has found that the more pictures sent to customers from under the hood, the fewer customer questions his team ultimately gets tied up with. But fewer questions from customers doesn’t mean his team goes quiet.

Matt Lachowitzer, owner of five Matt’s Automotive Service Center, recently took his customer updates one step further, working with his team of more than 30 techs to fine-tune the process for video updates each customer now receives throughout the process of their repair. As technicians begin work on a new car, they film a quick 15-second video to introduce themselves, explain and show what they’re seeing and talk through next steps. Videos with additional updates are sent throughout the process as well. 

Since introducing the videos, Lachowitzer reports a 99 percent approval rate from customers on the repairs his team recommends. 

“When you’re building transparency it all comes down to trust and it’s a lot harder to trust the faceless guy in the back you’ve never met,” he says. “When they get to meet their technician, suddenly it’s not like they take their car to Matt’s Auto. They’re taking it over to their technician James who happens to work at Matt’s Auto. That’s a powerful bond.”

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