Improving the Auto Service Experience

Look at it from the customer’s point of view

Auto Service Experience Auto Service Experience

You may have seen recent reports that the roadways during this year’s July 4th holiday were the busiest they’ve ever been. Or, if you were traveling yourself, maybe you didn’t need a report to tell you that was the case.  


With the pandemic receding farther into the rear-view mirror, drivers are not only getting back on the highways, but they are also, by extension, coming back into automotive service shops. So, the customer experience is more important than ever. It is the biggest factor in building a loyal customer base and repeat business. And it doesn’t happen by chance. A good customer experience requires very deliberate thought and action. It requires an ability to look at your business through their eyes.


Could your business benefit from understanding where the customer is coming from, and knowing what you can do to turn this consumer necessity into a positive experience, or even a memorable one that they might tell their friends about?


Let’s start by asking what customers “see” when they look at your business, i.e., your exterior façade. Does your facility have "curb appeal?” Is it clean and well kept? Is your signage working and up to date? Is the landscaping maintained? Does the parking lot look freshly striped? Customers may not actually notice when everything looks fine, but they will definitely notice when something’s wrong – a cracked window, faded or peeling paint, a broken sign, or any other flaws in the shop’s appearance.


The interior ambience is just as important. The waiting room should feel like a safe space, inviting and comfortable. The refreshment area should be clean and well stocked. Check the restrooms frequently to make sure they are clean and fully supplied. Even the service area should be orderly and professional looking. Customers may well judge the quality of your work by the appearance of your workspace.


As important as the physical plant may be, what really differentiates the customer experience is their interaction with employees. Every employee should understand that nothing is more important than the customer – that is what keeps the shop in business and keeps them employed.


Customers should feel welcome when they drop off their cars. A friendly greeting and, “How can we help you?” will set the tone for the visit.  Service techs may not know every customer’s name, but they should be able to look up their service records on the computer. In the case of a first-time customer, the employee should offer to set them up in the system, which will speed up the check-in process in the future. The rep should also take a moment to make sure the customer’s contact information is current and includes a mobile number for text messages as well as an email address.


Employees should be good listeners. Does the customer have any concerns beyond the scheduled service, anything they want checked out during the inspection? Employees should also be knowledgeable and able to make appropriate product and service recommendations based on the customer’s needs. And they should always let customers know when they can expect their car to be ready.


As the service progresses, customers should not be left feeling impatient. If they choose to leave their cars, offer to send them updates by text message. If the technician runs into an issue that requires immediate attention or means a delay in the job, the customer should be informed immediately.


Be sure the customer leaves with a good impression, too. The tech should be able to explain the services performed line-by-line, and the final price should match what the customer has been told. Are you equipped to send receipts by email? That is what many customers prefer these days after the pandemic experience.


When you’re so close to your business every day, it isn’t always easy to see it from the customer’s point of view. Don’t be afraid to seek an outside, unbiased opinion from a friend. Check for any comments on your business on social media. Consider sending follow-up emails to customers asking them about their experience. Now that customers are coming back, it’s important to deliver the kind of experience that will keep them coming back to your shop regularly.


Jim Smiley
Jim Smiley, Consumer Sector Manager, America’s Fuels and Lubricants Jim Smiley is the Consumer Sector Manager, with responsibility for managing the Havoline and Techron brands. Prior to Chevron, Jim led brand and product management at Intuit, Yahoo!, DuPont and several start-ups. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from Santa Clara University and an MBA from Georgetown University.

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