Auto Shop Coaching Blog

The Fastest Way to Build Trust With Your Customers

It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.Warren Buffett

“That’s outrageous! It’s just too much!” Said “Gary,”  the owner of a 2007 Toyota Camry in need of a power steering pump and fluid exchange.

I overheard this conversation as I was listening to the recording of “John,” a service writer from Maryland, present the technician’s findings. It was painfully obvious that this call was not going well!

John quoted $904.37 for the power steering services, and Gary was not having it! “This is the third time in less than four years I’ve had to bring the car in to have something done! I’m going to file a complaint!”

To which John replied,” I understand how you feel Gary. I understand that you’re frustrated with the situation and not me. Gary, did you want me to move forward with this service?”

I had to pause the recording to go get some popcorn because I knew things were about to get interesting!

With a loud and angry tone of voice, Gary said, “Go ahead and do it!” And with calmer tone, he asked, “Can you call me today when everything is done?”

I spilled my popcorn after hearing this! How was John able to get his hostile customer to approve the work that was needed?

Here’s how: John had a positive balance in their trust account.

The Speed Of Trust

In his book, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything, Steven M.R. Covey introduces the concept of the trust account.

In any interaction, you have the opportunity to either make a deposit or a withdrawal into this account.  When the amount deposited exceeds the amount withdrawn you have a successful relationship, where the other person is more likely to agree to your request or to do business with you.

You can make deposits into the trust account by, establishing rapport, operating with integrity, being honest, and delivering the result you promised in the time frame you promised it.

You make withdrawals in the account when you fail to deliver the agreed-upon result, are dishonest, fail to fix it right the first time, and when you over promise and under deliver.

According to Covey, one withdrawal can have anywhere from ten to fifty times the effect of a single deposit, so the fastest way to build trust is to stop making withdrawals!

For example, one failure to send your new customer pictures of the failed component can empty your trust account and create the perception that you’re overselling.

John was able to move Gary from hostility to happiness because he made several deposits, and didn’t make any withdrawals during their interaction. Keep reading to discover the details!

Lessons From John

Here are some specific things that John did with Gary to avoid making withdrawals into the trust account:

Quality Visit to the Car

When Gary arrived at the location John visited the vehicle with him. This gave him the opportunity to establish rapport and build a relationship. They were both able to see the preexisting damages on the Camry, and John took the time to compliment him on the overall condition of the car.

By not going to the car with the customer, you’re making a withdrawal in the trust account. A sure sign that the account is empty is when your customer says, “I’m getting rid of the car next month!” Doing a quality visit to the car gives you an opportunity to make a deposit!

Using the Customer’s Name

People love to hear the sound of their own name and tend to like people who use it. Studies show that 83% of all sales results come from the customer liking the salesperson. People trust people they like, so using the customer’s name two to three times during the estimate presentation is an easy way to build trust with your customer.

John’s use of Gary’s name during their interaction helped him to overcome the fact that Gary wasn’t thrilled with the price of the pump.

Mentioning the Digital Photos

Research in the automotive industry has concluded that customers who view the digital photos of your findings for 400 seconds or longer are more likely to make a purchase. A critical step to building trust is to verify that the customer has viewed the photos before you make your presentation.

Transparency builds trust. It’s easier for your customer to trust you when they see you have nothing to hide. At the beginning of their call, John verified that Gary had received the photos. As a result, he trusted John even though he was upset with the situation.


So, there you have it. If you make a quality visit to the car, use the customer’s name, and mention sending the digital photos, you will increase the speed of trust with your customers!

A surplus in the trust account can lead to a surplus in your bank account!

P.S. Email to receive a Trust Checklist to help you maintain a positive balance in your trust account!

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Eric, the Accountability Coach, is an Executive Coach at ATI and has coached since 2009. Eric came to ATI having managed over 60 different automotive repair facilities and having supervised over 500 employees at a given time. He loves seeing members progress beyond what they thought was possible and improve their shop to the point where they can leave for weeks at a time and come back to a business that's better than when they left.