It’s not a mistake. The question mark is there on purpose. You’re most likely a qualified technician and/or a skilled manager in the auto service industry. If not, you would be following a different career. Hopefully you’re on a path of constant learning in your chosen profession. It raises the bar higher for us all. It allows us to offer our customers ever increasing levels of professional service. The reason for the question mark is this. Do you really study and understand the challenge and opportunity of establishing trust and rapport with your customers?
My continuing reminder to us all is to approach these questions relating to customer service from a standpoint of our own experiences when we ourselves are the customer. There is no one better than yourself to provide you the honest answers. It becomes extremely personal when you are the sole judge and jury. You are the sum of what you have experienced. If you have made it past adolescence you have plenty to base your judgements on. Enough psycho-babble!!
So, how do we establish trust? Many of the places we choose to do business with can be attributed to convenience or, when it comes to a branded product, who’s got the lowest price. Here are a couple of examples. If you do most of your food shopping at a particular store, you are probably doing it because they are close to your home or they are located along the route you take on the way home from work. I’ll bet there are items that cost more than one of their competitors in your shopping basket, but, hey, you’re there and it’s convenient. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a new TV before the big game, you’ve probably checked out the price of Brand XYZ p/n 12345 and are headed to the store with the lowest price.
Within reason, I could make a case for you that says it is still possible to change that customer’s buying habits but we are not ready for that conversation yet. Instead, I want to keep our focus on the folks who come into your business every day. All things being equal, why do they come to you (for something other than an advertised special)? There are probably lots of places to get their vehicle serviced in your area.
Having spent most of my life in the automotive aftermarket (which is a considerable number of years), I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked; “Where is a good place to get my car repaired?” Sometimes I have heard that question from people who knew I was in the business and other times I was standing with a group of people at a party and overheard the discussion. Here’s how it usually went. “Hey. I’m looking for a good place to get my brakes checked. I think I need to have them looked at because I hear some squealing and I’m concerned. I’ve been going to Bill’s Friendly Auto Repair the last couple of times and I’m not sure they always have my best interest in mind.” Keep in mind this is just a rough example. Most of the times the conversation about their present repair shop isn’t so “gentle”.
So, now there’s 6 people standing around this circle and, let’s say it’s me that offers up an answer. Remember, only one guy was asking the question. Here I go with a glowing recommendation. I start with a story that lays out a scenario where Andy over at Andy’s Service Center “did right by me” when he told me that what I was told by another shop was going to be a major repair was only going to be an inexpensive fix. I added how nice the techs were and how professional looking the shop was and how accommodating they were. AND, that I’ve been going there for the last 5 years AND everyone I ever sent to Andy has been happy with his service. The guy who asked the question is now asking me to text his contact info to his phone. AND so are the other 4 people who were listening.
There are lots of lessons in this simple example. Getting a new customer into your place is an expensive and exhaustive proposition. Shops spend tons on advertising; newspapers, direct mail, radio or, where it is affordable, putting ads on TV. All this is good and worthwhile to do. You need to cast a broad net on the water. But, remember, the first time one of those customers comes into your shop TRUST has not yet been established.
In the example where I made the recommendation, that person (or those people) will be hitting your place with a pre-conceived notion that there is trust to be found here. I can’t tell you how much that means. The fact is that when someone in the crowd asks for a recommendation, the person who answers has set themselves up as an authority on that subject. Everybody likes to be looked to as an authority. Think about it. “Hey, my insurance rates just went through the roof. Anybody got a good ‘guy’?” I’ll bet you’ve heard that one before. That’s how we make decisions. With a little help from our friends. That’s why you’ll drive a little out of your way on the way home. That’s why you might be willing to pay a little more. It’s not always the “Complete Brake Service” advertised at a set price. Your most meaningful customers value the TRUST in your service. They are the most likely to “sell” your shop and they’re going to do it when you’re not even there or trying. The reality is that you’ve obviously already established trust and rapport. You’ve done your job.
What can you do to earn that kind of trust from your customer to make them that passionate about your business. It’s simple. Everything you can possibly think of. Before you engage the customer, go to those “outside your business” experiences you’ve had and remember all the times when you were treated well enough to create a positive memory. It would serve you well to also remember when you were not treated so well and how that made you feel. Then, don’t take your customer there.
Trust doesn’t just happen. It is built over time. Even with a good recommendation from an existing customer, you’ve only gotten past the first step. What are you waiting for? You’ve got trust to build!
© Bill Rosenberg
BillR Services, LLC