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Create Trust with Your Customers

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A recent survey from AAA revealed that two out of three U.S. drivers do not trust auto repair shops. The survey also went on to say that 64 percent of U.S. drivers have singled out a specific auto repair shop that they do trust. With such a high rate of consumers that do not trust their auto repair shops, it’s more important than ever for automotive repair shops to establish and maintain trust with their customers so those customers keep coming back.                                          

Stephen M.R. Covey is a New York Times– and Wall Street Journal–bestselling author of The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything. He’s also the former CEO of Covey Leadership Center. Covey shares what auto repair shop owners can do to create trust with customers. 


What are the building blocks of creating trust with a customer? 

Trust is a function of our credibility and our behavior. It starts with credibility. If I’m running an auto repair shop, the first thing that I need to be aware of is that my customers are going to come in and be wondering whether or not it’s a legitimate place. They’re going to want to know if the shop is a place with character, that has an honest staff that cares and is competent.  


How can a shop demonstrate to customers that they are trustworthy? 

One of the Stephen M.R. Coveymost common questions that a customer has is whether or not a shop is honest. I like to use a metaphor of a tree when talking about trust. Integrity represents the roots of building trust with a customer. You need to show your customers that you are honest. When the customer comes into your shop, declare your intent. Intent is the trunk of the tree. Tell your customer exactly what you are hoping to do; do not just say, “We’re going to repair your car.” Say, “We’re happy you came in. We want to fix your car, but we also want to create a relationship and be a partner you can trust.” It doesn’t need to be in those exact words, but declaring your intent will answer two of their biggest questions: Is this person honest, and do I really need this? 

There are plenty of examples of trustworthy shops that are at a disadvantage because customers are already wary. What can be done to change that perception? 

Get good at listening to what customers are saying, to the point where they feel like they’ve been heard. What I mean by that is that good diagnostic techs can often identify what the problem is right away, but if the customer senses that they’re not being heard all the way through to the end, that’s a problem. Oftentimes, people jump to the solution. But, if a customer doesn’t feel heard, they might think that the full problem wasn’t heard. Another thing is to declare your intent, like I said before. This gives you the chance to start establishing trust from the moment they walk in the door. 


What are other ways that trust can be gained? 

When you’re sharing prices and repair recommendations with customers, there’s an opportunity to do this. It’s an ongoing process of showing the customer and demonstrating through actions that you want their trust. People can tell when you’re doing a sales pitch, and they can tell when you actually care. In my experience, if someone gives me two options and recommends the lower priced option, I’ll tend to trust them. It shows me they’re trying to do what’s in my best interest, and they’re not just worried about a sale. However, the lower cost option isn’t always better. If you’re recommending the higher-cost option, it’s important to show the customer that you’re acting in their best interest. Talk about the risks and appeal to customers on a human level. 


You’ve given verbal examples, what are some non-verbal actions that can be used? 

It’s all about transparency. Tell the truth in a way that people can verify. If you’re talking to a customer about pricing, have price lists and things that people can actually verify to show that you can back up what you say you’re going to do. Looking people in the eye is another great way to establish trust. It shows you have nothing to hide. 


How can you measure whether or not customers think you’re trustworthy?

Issue a questionnaire to your customers that has this one single question: How likely are you to recommend us? If you’re getting a ranking of a 5, 6, or 7, then you’re not there.  A mid-level score will not cut it. You want 9s and 10s. This shows that you’re delivering. People will not tell their friends or family about you if they do not trust you. Scores of 9 and 10 are where word-of-mouth referrals come into play.

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