The vital importance of truth in servicing
Unfortunately, the auto repair and service industry has long suffered from a negative reputation and is still one of the least trusted industries, according to consumers.
The recent two-year undercover investigation by the California Bureau of Automotive Repair, which resulted in 21 Firestone Complete Auto Care centers accused of fraud and failing to install important safety features on tires, is an important reminder of what can happen when a business is not dealing fairly.
It’s crucial if you are a tire dealer or auto technician that you act honestly, truthfully and ethically in your dealings. Not only is dishonesty bad for business, it can also be dangerous for the customer, ruin your reputation and lead to legal proceedings. Honesty is always the best policy. Here’s why.
Why trust matters
Dealing honestly with your customers at all times builds their trust, improves the quality of service they receive and encourages repeat business. In fostering truthful and positive relationships with your customers, you will build a loyal customer base. Your customers are also the best marketing tool you have. The adage goes that a satisfied customer will tell two to three people about their experience; however, a dissatisfied consumer will tell eight to 10 about a negative one.
Customers are becoming better informed and, with social media and business/customer review sites like Yelp, are quick to find an avenue for their grievance and to read about others’ bad experiences. They are also more likely to do their research online, checking prices and consumer reviews before making a purchase or scheduling an appointment at a tire shop. A company’s success, therefore, is very much built on customer trust and confidence.
How it can hurt your business
Auto repair and tire customers are already distrustful of the industry (and not entirely without reason), so that’s why it is even more important to ensure your business deals fairly on all levels with consumers.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, consumers lose tens of billions of dollars each year due to faulty or unnecessary car repairs. A survey by Repair Trust found 78 percent of auto repair customers suspected they were paying too much for car repair.
Furthermore, 90 percent of consumers say they would boycott a company if they learned it engaged in “irresponsible or deceptive business practices.”
A culture of dishonesty in your business breeds all kinds of problems. Employees look to the behavior of those at the top and if they are not leading by example, morale will drop, corrupt or deceptive practices will sneak in at all levels and it is only a matter of time before the house of cards falls. If you lie to your customers, you will eventually be found out. And that’s a lot of pain for short-term gain.
What are tire dealers doing about it?
Transparency in business offers a huge opportunity for success, particularly in the tire and auto repair industry. A recent study found “not knowing what a job will cost” was the number one challenge for customers in the repair process and 86 percent said that a more transparent experience would have improved that experience, even more than better customer service and speedier repairs.
A growing number of tire dealers are using GetTransparency – a mobile app that auto technicians can use to make a visual record, along with a narration, of what is wrong (or right) with a customer’s car when they bring it into the shop. The technician then sends the video to the customer before any work is done. The company’s founders say the technology improves customer confidence, increases profits, reduces liability and offers an internal quality control system.
With women the least trustful of auto repair businesses, getting Ask Patty Female-Friendly Certified means your store has guaranteed it will deal honestly and appropriately with female customers and inspire confidence in the service you offer.
Many tire dealers have a Code of Conduct — a document outlining the actions and behaviors expected from every member of the company — that they have all employees read and sign. If you don’t have a Code of Conduct, you should certainly think about introducing one, especially if you have multiple stores. This binds all workers to a high standard of honest and ethical business dealings and also encourages them to report to the hierarchy if they witness someone acting dishonestly. There is an added benefit, too, of firmly establishing a company culture that has the best interests of its customers and employees at heart.
What to do when you’re wrong
Bill Gates once said “your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” and it is absolutely true.
Evidence suggests that an unhappy customer will become a loyal consumer if you fix their complaint and do it quickly. You can transform mistakes you have made into happy, returning customers almost every time; 80 percent of people say they would return if they were treated fairly and even more if the issue was dealt with quickly.
If something happens that a customer should know about, then you should tell them. Owning up to your mistakes and making them right quickly, effectively and positively can inspire even greater loyalty in a customer than if they had a perfectly fine experience.