People who work in auto repair shops see their job as basically one thing: fix the car. That makes sense. There is usually some version of "auto" and "repair" in the shop's name. Customers come to those shops because some car part or process is broken. Auto repair professionals go through hundreds of hours of training in order to be able to fix car problems.


And there are many problems to solve.

These same automotive professionals usually see their repair customers through the prism of all of those parts and problems; the check engine lights and squeaky brakes and oil leaks and the other 10,000 things that wear out, give out, rust out, fall out, snap, bend, break and fail.


Many front counter, front line shop employees will be the first to admit that they are more likely to remember the car than the name of the customer who owns it.

And that creates a tremendous problem.

Because all of those car problems - and our industry's intense focus on fixing them - blind those same automotive professionals to the bigger problem, the one that really needs fixed.

To paraphrase Bill Clinton campaign strategist James Carville, "It's the person, stupid."

Customers need fixed. Bad.


(Okay, some need fixed more than others.)

Customers are broken, and here is why:

  1. They feel vulnerable because they don't know what is wrong with their car (or how to fix it).

2. They feel fear because they don't know how much it will cost to fix the problem.

3. They feel frustration because they don't know how long they will have to go without the single most important item in their life - their car.

4. They feel guilty because they may see their car problem being caused by neglect on their part.

5. They feel angry towards our industry - and that's before they ever step foot in our shop.

Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

For years, national public polling has rated the auto repair industry as one of the least trusted entities, right up (down) there with Congress. Yes, it's that bad!

A 2016 AAA survey echoes this massive, chronic level of mistrust. From the report:

"Two out of three U.S. drivers do not trust auto repair shops in general – citing overcharges, recommendations for unnecessary services and poor past experiences for their lack of confidence."

The AAA report cited the top reasons drivers don't trust us:

  • Recommending unnecessary services (76 percent)
  • Overcharging for services (73 percent)
  • Negative past experiences (63 percent)
  • Concerns that the work will not be done correctly (49 percent)

Stop and think about what this means. Car owners actually see auto repair shops as the problem as much as the solution. That's like how Lois Lane would feel if she was screaming for help from the roof of a burning high-rise and the only person who could help her was an overweight Superman who struggles to stay airborne and has a 50 pound weight limit because of his bad back.


   "Uh that's okay, Superman, I'm good. The dress I'm wearing is probably flame retardant."

Facebook ain't helping.

It is not that repair shops get any more flack on social media than, say, internet and cell phone providers or government agencies or long-winded blog writers. It is just that the Facebook and Twittersphere magnify the anger already out there. It is hard to read through my Facebook news feed without wanting to take a shower afterwards. It is simply becoming harder to make customers happy.

So how do we fix this?

The most profound statement I have ever heard about our industry and the one thing I share with every trainee in our Buyosphere coaching program is this:

Don't focus on car count. Focus on making every car - and every person - count.

That micro-managed laser-focus on the car owner starts with how we answer the phone, and extends through how we engage, how we set and manage expectations, how we keep the customer in the loop, how we follow through, how we show gratitude, how we follow up, and thousands of pieces in-between, to create a level of customer service that is so exceptional, so transcendent, so stupid awesome, that the customer simply has no choice but to come back to us.

And isn't just the customer. How employees play in the company sandbox has a tremendous impact on their own happiness and fulfillment, which directly influences how they engage customers, which impacts how those customers engage the rest of humanity. We are all connected.

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There are dozens of classes that teach the proper use of a scan tool but what our industry really needs is more conflict resolution training for auto repair professionals for when they feel like picking up a scan tool and smacking the customer in the head with it.

The "social" tools - empathy training, FISH Philosophy, 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, DiSC assessments, QBQ, company culture development, Vision, Mission and Guiding Principles, conflict resolution training - should have equal positions of importance inside a shop alongside scan tools, wheel alignment machines and the shop management system.

Cars are built better, last longer and break down less, which means there are, and will be, fewer opportunities to fix them. It is the customer, not their car, that is most broken and requires our greatest attention. One of the most important competitive advantages shops will have now and in the future is how well they "get" the person behind the wheel. Understanding what makes people tick will be much more important in the coming years than understanding why the engine is making a ticking sound.

Jonnie Wright is President and CEO of The Buyosphere and Buyosphere University, a team of coaching professionals dedicated to helping shop clients improve their numbers, their culture, their brand and their impact. Our Buyosphere team works with hundreds of businesses across the country on the art and science of delivering exceptional service to their customers and their employees, for the greater good of us all.

To find out what The Buyosphere can do for you and your business, please fill out the contact information below and we will get back to you within 24 hours. 

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