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Create a Genuine Customer Connection

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There is something about forming connections with customers that can feel, almost ... phony? With similar interactions occurring every day with each and every customer, greetings, formalities and explanations can become stiff and robotic, if a conscious effort isn’t put into place.

At Laurie Guest’s previous job at an optometrist’s practice, customer service was the office’s speciality—so much so that other industries called the office and asked Guest and her colleagues to teach them their ways. For the next few years, Guest put together a “best-kept secrets” presentation, and began speaking at other businesses about the subject of customer service. Guest has since left her job at the optometrist, and is now a professional customer service expert. Guest is a public speaker to both large corporations and small groups, and focuses on customer service, staff development, and improving customer engagement. 

Guest emphasizes the importance of genuine customer service within repair shops, because of one large factor: competition. Depending on where a shop is located, there might be 5 to 10—or more—competing shops within a few miles. Customers already expect great results, so the service is what makes a business stand apart. Below, are Guest’s tips for creating genuine customer connections that will aid in improving customer retention and growth.           

As told to Nora Johnson


Be attentive to the words you say. When thinking about speaking with customers, there are a few questions you should ask yourself: 

What words are coming out of my mouth? 

Am I using unknown slang terms? 

Am I incorporating inside lingo into my explanation that a customer may not understand? 

Within the car repair industry—where jargon is heavy—language should be tailored to those with little to no car knowledge. It is important to steer clear of “$15 words” that only other individuals with a repair background would understand. Instead, take the word or term you plan on using, and translate it into an easily digestible explanation that any customer would understand.


Look at how your body plays. As for body language, multiple factors come into play—from facial expressions to enthusiasm. A genuine smile, direct eye contact and welcoming gestures can help form real connections with customers. Patrons will read the energy presented to them, and judge their customer service experiences on those small details. 

Most of the things we can do to create genuine connections cost us nothing. Appropriate word choice and body language come at no investment, other than the cost of possible training, in order to engrain the habits in your staff. But once the skills are learned, you can just rinse and repeat at no cost.  


Facilitate a mindset shift. If you can get your employees to be truly happy to be working at your shop, and glad to see cars and customers coming in, phoniness will wear away. The key to creating genuine customer relationships is to have your employees deliver information to the patron in the moment, solely focused on the interaction.

I like to call this “show timing,” similar to those in theater. Behind the curtain of a show is ego, conflict, and stress, but when they step out from behind the curtain, each cast member has lines to say, in order for the audience to enjoy their experience. When the lights go on in your shop, and the doors get unlocked, it’s showtime in front of the customers.

Employees have to truly listen and give their full attention to guests to create genuine connections.  


Create an air of familiarity. Everybody loves to be recognized. When I walk into my favorite repair shop to get maintenance done on my vehicle, the employee at the service desk will ask, “Hey, Laurie, how is life on the road?” He is able to remember that I travel for a living, and shows that he recognizes who I am.

Addressing a customer with an air of familiarity creates a strong connection and shows him or her that he or she is a valued member of the business. Even if you recognize a customer but don’t remember his or her name or what he or she does for a living, you can still greet him or her with a tone that shows that you recognize who he or she is. Familiarity can be showcased by saying, “Good to see you again; how is everything?” It’s a much stronger phrase than, “Hey, how’s it going?”  


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