Better Customer Experiences Begin with Better Information

Customer being given car key after auto service

Typically, taking your car to the shop isn’t a pleasurable experience. Even if you roll in for a simple oil change, there’s always something else that needs to be addressed.

Often customers are skeptical about a shop’s recommendations and have a perception they’re being upsold on unnecessary repairs. You could attempt to change that perception with advertising, and push the message that your shop is the “most honest”, but is this really getting at the heart of the issue?

Consider this – you bring your car in for an oil change. They take it back to the service area, return an hour later, show you a dirty air filter, discuss how the shocks are leaking, and that your CV joints are needing replacement. Unexpected problems with unexpected expenses. In addition, you’re in a position where you have to “take their word” for it, or spend the time and effort to take it to another shop for a second opinion. Hence, you decide to wait.

But proactive service on a car, just like any other machine which requires maintenance, typically saves you money in the long term. So how can a shop overcome the customer’s hesitancy? Many shops started down this path by looking at cost. Since the expense is unexpected, they began offering payment plans for repairs. While valuable, this doesn’t address the skeptics. Unless there’s already an established and trusted relationship, many service issues will go unaddressed until they become major problems, and then the shop has to do a proverbial diving catch.

Or consider this – how can you help the customer gain better insight and information, proactively and more transparently to eliminate surprises and doubt? When I recently went to get routine service on my car, I was waiting in the lobby when I received a text message. It was the service technician working on my car who had sent me a link to a video regarding my vehicle. It was a short, 2-minute walkthrough by the technician under the vehicle, illustrating the key areas of the car (tires, suspension parts, etc.), where he discussed what was in good shape and why (such as my tires having good tread and would likely not need changing for a while), and other areas where he explained what the component was (my rear shocks), their function and impact on the performance/safety of the car, showing a minor fluid leak, and providing a projected time for when I should consider getting them replaced (as they can’t be repaired).

This simple video enabled three things. One, it provided me with transparency on upcoming potential repairs and expenses and enabled me to plan for them. Two, it provided me with better information – rather than hearing the technician tell me about shocks and tires, he provided a video and a detailed explanation, helping me understand the why behind the what. (this video also enables me to share this information with another shop for comparison, but I digress) Third, it provided me with the opportunity to build trust with the shop, helping me see the condition of the actual car, rather than simply taking his word. (Yes, some shops will let you go on the floor, but many won’t for safety reasons)

When improving the customer experience, look beyond the basics of just making the transaction process easier. Examine how you can provide unique transparency, insight, and information to help customers make better decisions, plan ahead, and eliminate surprises. This requires understanding the mental challenges customers face in making a decision – starting with trust. Better information delivered in an easy-to-understand way that can be used for easier decision-making is an excellent first step.

About the Author

Andrea Belk Olson is a keynote speaker, author, differentiation strategist, behavioral scientist, and customer-centricity expert. As the CEO of Pragmadik, she helps organizations of all sizes, from small businesses to Fortune 500, and has served as an outside consultant for EY and McKinsey. Andrea is the author of three books, including her most recent, What To Ask: How To Learn What Customers Need but Don’t Tell You, released in June 2022.

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