auto repairWhen it comes to auto repairs, I have a “car guy.” I’ve trusted him implicitly with my last two vehicles, and I expect I will continue to do so until either he or I shuffle off this mortal coil. For those of us who aren’t well-versed in the arcane lore of internal combustion engines, having a “car guy” is sort of a point of pride, sort of like having a personal physician or an attorney on retainer.

The key, of course, is trust. When new customers bring their car to your auto repair shop, they need to feel that you have the situation well in hand. They need to trust that you’ll deal with them fairly, and that you won’t take advantage of their lack of automotive knowledge.

Unfortunately, the burden of proof is often on you when it comes to establishing trust with new customers. Word-of-mouth is still an effective marketing channel, but these days most consumers turn to online reviews to determine the quality of local businesses.

According to a study done by BrightLocal last year:

  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • 72% of consumers will take action after reading a positive review.
  • 85% of consumers will read up to 10 reviews before feeling they can trust a business.

So if you want your new customers to come in the door with their trust already intact, you need to get the word out through customer reviews. Here are a couple of tips to help ensure the online impression you’re making is a good one.

Make sure you get your reviews the *right* way.

The easiest way to get your customers to review is to simply ask them. The sad fact is that people are more likely to write a review after a negative experience than a positive one, so sometimes getting the good buzz going requires a little gumption on your part.

You should never pay for reviews, or offer discounts/promotions in exchange for them. Most review sites have become quite aggressive in filtering out suspicious testimonials, and Google has been known to penalize businesses for indulging in skeevy review practices.

Note: In order for these reviews to be considered legit, they need to come from different IP addresses. This means you can’t set up a PC in your shop and ask your customers to write their reviews there. It also means you can’t collect reviews and enter them on behalf of your customers.

Respond professionally to negative reviews.

The way you handle a negative review can impact your online reputation more than the review itself. If you ignore it, you’ll give the impression that you just don’t care. If you fire back with a defensive rant, you’re going to lose a lot of credibility with potential customers. If, however, you respond reasonably and make a good-faith effort to resolve the issue, folks will be more inclined to trust you.

Note: Most review sites have a process in place for removing incendiary or defaming posts. If a disgruntled customer (or unscrupulous competitor) is attacking you through online reviews, you can probably get the offending post deleted. However, this should be a rare and freakish occurrence rather than your standard strategy. As we’ve discussed before, negative reviews are not necessarily a bad thing for building credibility.

The important thing is to be consistent and above board when soliciting and responding to reviews. Rather than trying to game the system, your focus should be on cultivating sincere, organic reviews from customers who are pleased with the work you’ve done on their cars and who consider you their “car guy.”