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Seeing is Believing

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Distrust with automotive service shops is a common mindset among consumers. It’s often because the average consumer is uneducated about automotive-related issues. They don’t know terminologies, parts or repair processes, and have no idea what repairers are talking about when discussing their vehicle. Lack of knowledge makes customers wary of a shop’s advice, because they have no way of validating the accuracy of the information. Joe Marconi, owner of Osceola Garage in Baldwin, N.Y., says shop operators can help prevent the problem by using digital photos to offer repair explanations.

Marconi discusses the process he uses to provide customers with digital photo documentation and the business improvements that have followed.

Using visual elements to describe and illustrate vehicle issues during customer interactions is the best way to combat customer distrust. Automotive consumers like things to be visual; they don’t understand verbal descriptions of technical subjects. It’s true that pictures are worth a thousand words.

We’ve been using a very simple, straightforward process to do exactly that for years. We take digital photographs of every step in the repair process, including all damaged parts, and storyboard the job from beginning to end. It’s usually a series of roughly 10 photos. Then we e-mail or text those photos to customers before following up with them about repair recommendations so we can visually point out all necessary part replacements and repairs.

Our technicians take the photos as they go. Everybody’s got a smartphone now, so they just snap the photo and send it to our service advisor who’s on that particular job. The service advisor then sends it on to the customer. We’ll send them before, during, after—whatever the customer wants and whatever we feel the customer needs to feel more comfortable with the process. Most customers have smartphones, too, so this is information they can look at instantly. 

This process is especially important for large jobs that require several steps, such as engine, transmission or dashboard disassembly. Those types of repairs can be expensive, so it’s important to provide customers with a clear understanding of all the work being done. In addition, large jobs tend to have additional items uncovered that weren’t initially discussed with the customer. Customers tend to be skeptical about having those repairs done. They may not have noticed the issue previously, and question the merit of your suggestions.

For example, say we’re replacing a heater core. Most customers have no idea what it means to have a damaged heater core. So we take photos before taking the dashboard apart, again when everything is disassembled, and once more after everything has been replaced. We immediately send the photos to the customer after each step, and physically point out every problem when speaking with them over the phone.

Supplying customers with photo documentation eases their minds. It instills confidence that we’re doing the right thing. The effort validates the honesty and credibility of our work and expertise, and helps assure them that we’re not trying to pull anything by suggesting unnecessary repairs. Their anxiety level goes down and their confidence in the shop goes up. Customers are more quickly willing to approve repair recommendations after seeing the photos, and feel more comfortable continuing to do business with us in the future.

This improves our record-keeping and repair documentation of work performed as well. We have thorough records of all the problems uncovered that were discussed with the customer. That’s especially helpful when customers decline certain repairs, so if there’s a problem down the road they can’t make claims that we improperly informed them.

Customers don’t ever ask for this information up front. We always volunteer to provide it to them on our own. Customers tend to be wowed by that service offering, and are impressed with our approach to provide them accurate, visual information about their vehicle. Customers really appreciate the level of education and detailed information they receive, which has tremendously benefitted our shop. Customers perceive us to be trustworthy, and are impressed with our sophistication through use of technology. Those factors create a unique, memorable customer experience, and lead to emotional ties with our brand, repeat business and increased revenue. Implementing this strategy will engage your customers, boost confidence in your shop and give them a reason to come back.

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