How independents win the trust of car owners

Reliability and good service are more important than price when it comes to building customer loyalty

How independents win the trust of car owners
Approved Garages share tips about providing good customer service to gain loyalty.

A recent study of 1,400 motorists found that 60 per cent of survey respondents said they have had a bad experience with garages, causing the majority of drivers to remain fiercely loyal to a good local operator they know they can trust.

Approved Garages, an online service to help motorists find trusted local garages has published advice about what good service means in practice and how it helps to build the trust and loyalty of customers.

1. Be polite and friendly

Garages can feel like intimidating places to customers, many of whom will be agitated and anxious anyway, wondering what the repair might cost and whether the car will be ready for work the next day.

The customer’s first impression counts, so be polite and courteous, take their worries seriously, and never patronise.

Andy Reynolds of AJ Reynolds in Frome, Somerset said: “Never talk down or make the customer seem foolish just because they don’t understand mechanics. That’s not their job.”

2. Communicate well

Be considerate, polite and honest, because it all comes down to communication, agrees John Rees of Broad Street Motors in Abersychan, Pontypool. “All your staff should be able to communicate well with customers,” he says. “And they should always be friendly.”

A friendly, professional approach puts customers at ease, especially if they’ve driven into the garage feeling nervous or overawed.

3. Explain the job

Firing technical information at a customer in a language he or she doesn’t understand, before reeling off a price and a likely completion time, is not good enough.

John Rees says garages should always be prepared to show the customer what is wrong with their car if at all possible, while relating the diagnosis back to the symptom the customer identified.

“Walk around the car with them,” he adds. “When necessary, if the customer has come in complaining of a strange sound from the vehicle, take a test drive with them to properly identify it.”

If you don’t explain the job fully to a customer you can do excellent work and still not earn their trust and long term loyalty.

4. Keep it clean

As Andy Reynolds says, “the garage needs to promote its building, equipment, experience and ability to carry out the repair.”

Nobody expects to be able to eat their dinner off the workshop floor, but neither should your garage look unnecessarily messy or cluttered.

“The first thing we did when we came into the garage was improve the condition of it,” says John Rees. “Appearances do matter. Your premises should be presentable.”

A tidy and ordered workshop is the first inkling a customer has that their vehicle is in safe, professional hands.

5. Don’t forget your web presence

You pretty much have to have a web presence these days, and your website, Facebook page or Twitter feed should mimic your workshop by being tidy, easy to navigate and free of unnecessary clutter.

The finer details of getting a garage web presence right are topics for another day, but suffice to say that a clean, professional look and feel will create a positive impression in customers who are yet to even visit your premises.

6. Use your feedback

John Rees believes customer feedback is an essential element when it comes to building long-term trust.

New customers naturally look to it, but even returning customers will check it out to make sure you’ve maintained the standards they’ve come to expect.

Approved Garages puts all customer feedback on its website, good, bad or indifferent.

Network manager Phil Seymour said: “Our garages have a 99% customer approval rating from the Motor Codes customer review system, higher than any other independent garage network and well ahead of the franchised main dealers. Customers look to that feedback and know they can trust it.”

7. Have trusted networks behind you

John Rees says that customers like the idea that Broad Street Motors is a local, independent business at the heart of its community, and at the same time part of something bigger.

“It gives that extra sense of trust,” he explains. “The fact that the customer is dealing with us and that behind us is a large organisation like Approved Garages, and that Trading Standards is in the background too, these links all help to give customers a sense of reassurance.”

8. Help customers to help themselves

Most customers don’t want to shop around every time they need a minor repair or annual service.

As statistics, they want to trust their local, independent, garage.

Give them good reason to do so and you are laying down the foundations of a thriving and future-proof business.

“Customers will help themselves by recognising this level of care from the garage and then be loyal to it and build up a history with it,” says Andy Reynolds.

Find out more about Approved Garages by clicking ‘More Details’ below.

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