By Andrew Jervis, co-founder of ClickMechanic

The automotive industry has long been at the forefront of the next technological frontier and breakthrough innovations – electric cars, the growth of IoT, telematics and connected cars, to name just a few.

Not only is competition tougher than ever but customer expectations have experienced a huge transformation too, with 80% of people believing their experiences with service providers to be just as significant as the actual services and products, according to Salesforce research.

If we apply this to the auto repair sector, thousands of mechanics and independent garages in the UK have had to fundamentally change their business models. Although the digitalisation trend was already underway, the pandemic forced them to become digital fast and rethink how they service customers. Today’s consumers expect direct engagement with service providers through multiple channels, remote diagnostics and mobile repairs for their cars, and quick problem resolution.

Those who haven’t embraced a customer-centric approach will lag behind. As small independent businesses, many mobile mechanics and auto repair shops, therefore, rely on digitally-native aggregators and platforms for the necessary resources that can help them amplify their own customer engagement, and extend their market reach and visibility. 

How can these platforms form closer relationships with the mechanics they count as customers so that the advantages also flow through to the end-user?

Listening to the customer – the feedback loop

Being truly customer-centric means prioritising the user experience journey when building new services and products or enhancing existing ones. They should be aligned with insights gleaned from reliable customer data and direct feedback – in this case, with mechanics and auto repair business owners.

This level of personalisation is increasingly important – but in the wider business community there’s a clear disconnect as 85% of companies and brands say they are providing personalised experiences to consumers, while only 60% of consumers say they feel they are receiving personalised experiences. This points to gaps in how customer feedback is collected and interpreted, and how much the customer is really ‘heard.’

The feedback loop is an essential component, and platforms need to be optimised for gathering customers’ feedback in real-time. It’s especially valuable to understand negative feedback as this can highlight vital areas for improvement that can have a significant effect on customer retention and loyalty, making them feel heard and valued. It also promotes an environment of continuous learning and improvement, key to capitalising on market opportunities and boosting revenue growth.

It’s necessary to devote time, effort and dedicated team members to interview mechanics in real-time for their feedback on the service but also the challenges they are facing, to build and evolve features that have a positive impact not only on their experience but that of the end customers. This involves listening, testing, learning and implementing changes to make product improvements as they are suggested, leading to a sense of co-creation with the customer. 

Go digital to enhance the user experience

Leaning on digital innovation can provide a vital link to more efficient service and allow mechanics to find new ways of adding value to their customers.

Many independent shops rely on platforms to perform the analytics required to match with customers, assess the nature of the job, streamline bookings, process payments and more. They’re designed to give customers the choice of the best mechanics and quote to fit their specific job on-demand. 

To provide strong support to mechanics, the platforms connecting them must lead the way in harnessing the latest advancements in cloud technologies, AI and machine learning capabilities, to provide the most accurate quote engines based on up-to-date data sets and pricing of parts and labour for an increasingly varied number of jobs. But also to ensure that mechanics can rely on this system fully and devote their attention to the actual repairs, rather than estimates or inconsistent or unavailable data, etc. This strengthens their relationships with their own customers. 

Machine learning also lends itself to deep learning and predictive analytics and is primed for continuous learning and improvement. The next stage in customer engagement is to spot what the customer may need before they ask (like the Netflix or Amazon model) – considering future potential industry challenges and how to solve them early – with opportunities for upselling further products or services, including insurance. It also creates scope to suggest useful and timely discounts to customers based on these findings. 

Listening to the customer is about more than a one-off discount or service. It’s about opening up a meaningful dialogue, understanding their pain points, building long-term relationships and delivering high-quality, thoughtful user experiences consistently. This opens the door to creating great, market-leading products as you deepen your understanding of what’s really driving your customers in their own operations.