When you think about building your automotive repair shop, there’s one thing that comes to mind above all else; clients. New clients are your lifeblood, and discovering ways to acquire them is the top reason mechanics turn to the internet for marketing and advertising. But what’s the best way to track down new clients? The answer might have more to do with looking back than looking forward.

Word of Mouth, on Steroids

Word of mouth recommendations have always carried a lot of weight. And today, with the rise of a globally connected, internet savvy population, public comments, recommendations, and reviews have become a lead influencer in which services and professionals attract new business. According to a a 2014 study by BrightLocal, up to 88% of people read customer reviews when researching a company or service. These numbers vary somewhat by industry, but are increasing fast across all sectors.

People Trust People

The level of trust clients place in online reviews is growing steadily. For a typical consumer today, a batch of good online reviews carries the same weight as a recommendation from an acquaintance. But to see how valuable user reviews really are, stack them next to the faith shoppers have in company advertising materials. BazaarVoice recently put out a great infographic showing that shopper reviews are 12x more trusted than advertisements or marketing info.

Build Reviews into Your Services

Good reviews are important. But a steady stream of new reviews is even more so. Your competitors haven’t stopped generating reviews, and neither should you. Look for ways to build review acquisition right into your auto body shop's workflow. Include links for clients to review their experience in your email communications. Follow up with happy customers after-the-fact and solicit feedback. Then see whether or not they would be interested in posting something online. Many companies are even adding public review forums on their website, which is as easy as finding a good free plugin. Reviews are a resource that compounds over time. Just like a savings account, make sure you’re adding to your body of reviews regularly and consistently.

Reviews as the Magic Mirror

Obviously, a solid body of car owner reviews, and an easy way to acquire new ones, is vital to growing your auto repair company. But the value of reviews doesn't end with building your professional image and brand. They're also great inspirational material. Reward and incentivize yourself and other employees who generate positive online feedback. Create a Wall of Fame to shout-out positive reviews and remind yourself how important the client's feelings and impressions are. Reviews can help you see beyond the bubble, and understand more about what you need to do to succeed.

The Good, The Bad, The Bizaare

You do your best for every single car owner you work with. But you can't make everyone happy all the time. What should you do when bad reviews pop-up on your social media, website, or Yelp page? Keep in mind, a sour taste is more memorable than a sweet one, and people are much more likely to post reviews about a bad experience than a good one. First off, don’t panic. A lot of the time, all it takes to make a person happy is a little attention and effort. Get in touch, diagnose the problem, and do your best to make things right. You might well be able to change the person’s opinion and convert a negative to a positive. Even when you get a tough cookie that won’t budge, don’t chalk it up as a lost cause. Respond to the review politely and with real compassion, in the same place where the review originally appeared. It's your opportunity to let future car owners see that you take their feedback seriously, and do everything you can to help. An unpleasant review is just another platform for you to highlight your business and brand.

Some Easy Steps

Here are some easy steps to start collecting and leveraging reviews from your clients, today. 1) Get on Yelp! Create a profile for you auto repair company. And link to if from your website with some pretty social media icons. 2) Add a survey or feedback form to your invoicing, to identify satisfied clients who might be willing to write a review. 3) Feature longer testimonials on your website to provide ‘social proof’ about your auto repair shop. 4) Use a free review plugin to capture new reviews right on your website. 5) Get to know your car owners during your normal interactions, then expand the relationship to social media. Once you have a good online rapport, ask if they'd be able to write a short review or recommendation.

How have reviews and public comments impacted your business? We’d love to hear about it, in our own public comments section!