Tire dealers and service shop operators can earn more motorists' trust more often by setting the proper priorities up front.
And what are those priorities? Providing reliable, high-quality maintenance and repairs—period.
Some owners and managers of automotive service facilities believe their priorities should be offering the lowest price and/or the fastest turn-around time. We certainly know there's a portion of motorists for whom the lowest prices and the fastest service will always be king.
This January marks 40 years that I've been reporting on the automotive service trade. Based on that experience, I could make lists of the tire dealers and service shops I respect the most. These are companies that have been operating — and thriving — for at least 25 years. What's more, these are outfits that pride themselves on long-term relationships with their customers.
None of them have ever emphasized low prices — let alone the lowest price — as the foundation of their long-term success. Surely, they strive to deliver vehicles when promised. That said, however, offering the fastest turn-around time has never been part of their plans.
Rather, they consistently stress providing thorough, reliable repairs and fixing the vehicle correctly the first time. Repeatedly, they've told me that these things build or earn trust. Trusting customers are always repeat customers.
What's more, customers who trust you are always the ones who generate the most referrals as well as the highest-quality referrals.
All the advertising in the world cannot beat the effectiveness of word-of-mouth advertising and the personal referrals it creates. The most insightful owners and managers I know make the same argument: Ultimately, earning trust and the referrals that result is the least-expensive way to promote their businesses. (Hush — don't tell anyone I told you that!)
OK, here's the challenging part about this formula for earning trust and building repeat business. It means that you have to take control of every maintenance and service transaction that rolls into your shop. Taking control means saying and doing things that fly in the face of some popular approaches to marketing these services.
For instance, you are nothing like a one-hour provider. Yes, a variety of repairs and services typically take less than an hour. But that's provided that a thorough vehicle inspection doesn't turn up any problems you absolutely must address to solve the customer's problem(s).
For another thing, you cannot and will not suggest that you'll beat everyone else's prices. The reason you can't and won't promote that concept is that you insist on installing trustworthy, reliable parts. Yes, these high-quality goods cost more but they last. And reliable, long-lasting products build trust.
Another reason you aren't offering the lowest price is that capable technicians cost money. You have to pay to attract and then retain trustworthy techs.
What's more, that high-quality part is only as good as the skill and knowledge of the person installing it. Hopefully, the installer is a well-trained technician.
Trust is a hallmark of caring, well-run small businesses. I think many — if not most — readers would classify their site as a “neighborhood” small business. To me, the two concepts go hand in hand.
So, the equation many motorists have defined for us is that thoroughness and quality equals trust. I have already heard from some readers, but I always welcome more feedback on your experiences with and practices for earning trust. I look forward to hearing from you — and good luck out there!