Auto Service World
News   October 12, 2023   by Devin Partida

Analysis: Trust: A crucial piece in auto care

Consumers continue to distrust their auto care shops. How you can turn things around…

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The Canadian automotive service industry is coming into a period of long-awaited growth after a COVID-era slump. Repair and shops looking to attract more business to sustain this growth should focus on building trust.

It would seem like trust should naturally follow high-quality service but that’s not necessarily the case. In this industry, it’s often necessary to gain a customer’s confidence first so they can experience the quality of service for themselves.

Here’s why that’s so crucial for automotive services.

Customer trust is low

The biggest reason trust is so important is that many consumers already don’t trust auto shops. A significant majority said they have frustrations when dealing with the auto service industry. Furthermore, consumers prefer to visit dealers instead of independent shops.

Previous encounters and stereotypes about the industry leave people with the impression that repair shops are out to scam them. Many customers don’t know much about how their vehicles work and know service professionals are aware of that. Consequently, many feel service centers will take advantage of that ignorance and charge them unfairly or perform unnecessary repairs.

Thanks to this reputation, shops must go above and beyond to reverse it. Beating that expectation is key to competing with larger companies, especially dealers.

Trust boosts customer loyalty

Pleasantly surprising customers with trustworthy service is good for business. Given the widespread fears about scamming and overcharging, consumers tend to stick with a company if they feel they can trust it.

Data backs this sentiment up. A positive prior experience with the company is the No. 1 reason customers return to an auto service business. Similarly, consumers report significantly higher satisfaction with a facility if they trust it compared to those they don’t.

Returning customers spend 67 per cent more on average and have the added benefit of not carrying extra client acquisition costs. These consumers are the bread and butter of a service-based business, like auto repair. So generating loyalty through trust is essential.

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Trust makes a company more valuable

A trusting consumer base will increase a company’s chances of a larger sale when the owner decides to exit. Even if a service center doesn’t have many hard assets, a strong reputation among consumers can still earn it a fair sales price.

Company valuations often look at more than a business’s assets or market value. Many methods also consider the predicted cash flow of the company. A service center that builds trust will generate more loyalty, leading to stronger future growth to boost those figures.

Without trust, standing out among competitors in this industry is challenging. That could hamper the business’s valuation when it comes time to sell, so trust is critical to these future possibilities.

How to improve trust

As the industry grows and technology like self-driving cars makes vehicles much more complex, trust will become more important. Here are a few ways repair shops can foster confidence from their customers.

  • Be transparent: Transparency is the most important factor in building trust. Posting prices for standard services upfront and explaining to customers why certain services are necessary or cost what they do is a good place to start. About 34 per cent of consumers say affordable services are the biggest step in earning trust, so price transparency is critical.

It also helps to be transparent about multiple perspectives on an issue. Before performing a repair, explain to the customer the benefits and what they can expect if they forgo it. Presenting both sides will assure customers that the business cares about meeting their needs above simply making money.

  • Be friendly: Customers should also feel welcome. When explaining the reason behind repairs or costs, be careful not to talk down to them. Encourage them to ask questions, sound excited about their business, avoid over-using jargon and remember to smile.

A great way to maintain friendly conversations is to leave the deciding power to the customer. Instead of telling them why they need a certain service, advise them about multiple options and ask what they’d like to do.

  • Be confident: Repair shops should let their high-quality service speak for itself. Instead of pushing a product or trying to appear better than other options, promote confidence by asking customers to get second opinions or offering money-back guarantees. If the shop is confident about its expertise, it has no reason to hide behind unscrupulous business practices.

The share of customers who say an aftermarket shop did repairs correctly the first time dropped in 2022 for the first time since 2019 — and stayed steady this year — leading to waning consumer trust. Amid that trend, demonstrating full confidence in a business’s ability to do it right the first time around will make a big impact.

The automotive service industry can see strong growth if it overcomes its untrustworthy reputation. Independent repair centers that want to remain competitive must prioritize building trust. Doing so will lead to more sales, higher loyalty and a more valuable business.

Devin Partida is the Editor-in-Chief of and a freelance writer. Devin covers business technology, Fintech and auto tech

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