Working in an auto repair shop, we fight the stigma that we live to “rip off” customers daily. As the owner especially, I value our good word and name and believe in integrity. So what is this perception based on? To find the answer I did some research and found a few reasons to why customers have such a hard time with trusting auto repair shops.
Knowledge is Power
One of the reasons a customer takes a vehicle to a repair facility, is because we are the pros and they are not. I just let this statement speak for itself, because I know that within this field of professionals, there are too many that are not professional enough, but that is a whole other discussion. Again, this is just one of many reasons, but this one I want to focus on.
Even though a wealth of information can be found about any given topic, nothing replaces experience. Whatever you might think you know about cars simply does not compare to a technician who has been doing this for years on end. One of the biggest problems we encounter quite frequently, are people wanting quotes for self-diagnosed problems. Somebody they know told them, or my favorite, they went to one of the local parts stores, where an employee hooked up the diagnostic scanner and, voila – the magic code appears, which will be the answer to all problems. The customer now comes to us with this newfound information to prevent us from up-selling services they don’t need. At this point, I probably don’t have to mention just how many times this diagnosis isn’t really what is wrong with the car, but because this information came first, we now have an uphill battle in convincing the customer. We will never go of a diagnosis we didn’t make, even if it turns out the customer was correct. Every car that goes through our shop will go through a safety inspection as a starting point for new customers or just to know what is going on with the vehicle. To gain a customer’s trust we explain what we found or take them into the shop to show the issues at hand. Nothing is as convincing like seeing things for yourself; On your vehicle. Building trust takes time.
Don’t patronize me.
In my shop we cater to women. Why? About 60% of decisions about car repairs are made by women according to industry research. A lot of women feel that they are not treated as fairly as men. A lot of women feel patronized. I have heard this many times and this bothers me. Even with just a few years inside an auto repair shop I tried to figure out why this view is so persistent. In my opinion, ripping people off is an equal opportunity “crime”. It’s hard to judge or make educated decisions about something you don’t know anything or little about, so that makes a person vulnerable to being taken advantage of. We always assume that all men know about cars. That can leave those men who don’t possess this knowledge, feeling inadequate. The same as their female counter parts, they too feel vulnerable to being taken advantage of. In this scenario the lack of knowledge creates an environment of mis-trust. The greatest trust builders between shops and customers are in the little things, like things we don’t charge for and the simple act of listening to customer’s concerns.
On the issue of feeling patronized, I have my own theory. My own background is as a seamstress and in fashion management. I only mention this, because people at times ask my advice on how to do certain sewing related things and I have found myself answering on more than one occasion,” Oh, that’s easy”, because that’s how I feel about most of these questions, because I am good at what I do. But then somebody responded to me with “Yes, that’s easy for YOU.” And that got me thinking. I truly believe that a lot of these old-timey shop owners, who are also the main techs in their shop, are guys who are not the greatest at conversing with people. They just want you to drop off your car and leave them to do what they do best: Fixing your car. Put these two things together and you might feel patronized, because this person is just not good explaining what you need to know in layman’s terms without making you feel stupid; Like explaining Math to a kid when they don’t get it. If you can’t relate, a good way of explaining is difficult. Of course, this is a different example, but same idea. I say all this because a lot of these guys are hard and honest workers and deserve a little credit. Then of course there are those who truly are patronizing, who will treat women, or any customer for that matter, like idiots or ignore the women, talking only to the husband. No excuse for them. Big mistake and another lost customer. I believe in encouraging questions. In our day and age, we call this transparency. The more you can make your customers see the value in your service, the more trust will develop between you and your customers. Every customer should be able to find a shop they can trust and feel, that the answers they are given are in their best interest. Well – That’s in a perfect world. But we keep on trying.