In our last blog we discussed how important shop transparency is for building the trust necessary between an auto shop and its customers. One of the ways to do this is for shops to focus on customer education. Do your service advisors take time to explain repairs or the necessity of repairs? Without that understanding, your customers will have questions. If the repairs are more extensive or expensive than they were expecting, they may become suspicious, and that’s a huge barrier to building trust.
The Role of the Service Advisor in Customer Education
Customer education is primarily the role of your shop’s service advisors. Shop managers want them to focus their efforts on selling, but part of selling is careful explanation and creating consent. The service advisor must communicate what needs to be done to the car to the customer, and the customer must understand what he is explaining. This is harder than it looks because vehicles are getting more and more complicated every year.
Three or four decades ago, handy people could do a lot of the work on their own vehicles. Because of increased computerization, that’s no longer possible. The average customer has no idea what that noise beneath the hood actually means. The auto tech diagnoses what’s wrong with the car, but it’s the service advisor who has to persuade the customer that the shop has diagnosed it correctly and that fixing the problem is the right thing to do even if it’s expensive. In today’s economy, with so many people struggling financially, that’s harder to do.
Education Is Key
The best way to persuade a customer of the necessity of repairs is through education. When you explain a problem to someone and they feel they understand the problem, the repair, and why the repair is needed (or can’t be ignored longer), that customer feels empowered. When he makes a decision, he knows it’s his decision. He doesn’t feel like he’s been railroaded or coerced. Customer education is a part of building trust. When the customer feels he’s made the choice and the choice was a good one, then the service advisor, in his mind, is someone who helped him when he had a problem, and not someone who took advantage of him. This is an important distinction.
The customer must feel like the service advisor is on his side in order for a relationship that is mutually beneficial to develop between the customer and the auto repair shop.
How should service advisors educate customers? They must:
- Explain what the problem is and how it can be repaired through either the products or the services that the shop is offering. Then they must demonstrate how that repair will provide value to the customer over time. Sometimes that’s easier, as in a case with bad brakes. Sometimes the service advisor has to spend more time and patience with customers who need help understanding. If the repair is complicated or time consuming, the service advisor should relay that information too, so the customer understands why it’s more expensive.
- Highlight how the repair will increase the customer’s safety. Again, most people don’t understand what the various car parts do or how they work together. Without this understanding, they can’t see the danger. To many people, a car just “works” when they turn the key in the ignition. They do not comprehend the complex chemical and physical processes at work.
Visual Customer Education
It will help your service advisors in their tasks to display educational resources in your shop. When you present education in a visual format, it makes the customer feel like your shop is an expert and that repairs are an objective necessity instead of something the service advisor talks them into. Use signage around your waiting room, and make brochures available for common repairs. When people feel they are educating themselves, that adds an extra layer of confidence to their decision making process.
Of course, as with everything, it’s ultimately up to the customer. Some people do not want to know or understand or build trust. Others will want more details so they can tell the story later to their spouse or coworkers. If the customer doesn’t want to know or can’t understand why the repairs are necessary, there’s only so much the service advisor can do. It’s worth it, though, to make an effort at customer education with every repair that comes through the door.
How does your auto shop handle customer education? Are your service advisors focused on creating relationships with the people who come through the doors, or are they focused on selling more products or services right now? We would like to hear your feedback, so please leave your comments either here or in our forums.