Customers' Personal Trust Perception in Automotive Repair Services: The Tunisian Context

Customers' Personal Trust Perception in Automotive Repair Services: The Tunisian Context

Manel Ben Ayed (Marketing Research Laboratory (LRM), Faculty of Economics and Management Sciences of Sfax (FSEG-Sfax), University of Sfax, Tunisia)
DOI: 10.4018/IJSSMET.2017040103


The purpose of this paper is to investigate the service employee skills and personal trust dimensions in the automotive repair services setting outside of the western context. Following a qualitative study among 12 customers and 6 frontlines service employees within the automotive repair companies in Tunisia, two quantitative surveys were successively conducted on 240 and 332 customers to empirically explore the personal trust attributes and confirm the dimensionality of the personal trust in this specific industrial context. Personal trust attributes, classified in hard and soft skills of frontline service employees are explored by highlighting the perfect diagnosis of automobile problems and honesty. Exploring specific trust attributes can help managers of dealerships in selecting their personal, foster customer trust, and better manage the long-term customer-mechanic relationship.
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Marketing research has well documented the importance of trust in interpersonal dyads (e.g. Doney & Cannon, 1997; Liljander & Roos, 2002) as a crucial element to ongoing relationship and enhancement loyalty. So, several conceptualizations of customer trust in the service employee have been advanced in the literature. Trust has been examined as a complex construct that may include credibility, benevolence, integrity, honesty and confidence (e.g. Ganesan, 1994; Morgan & Hunt, 1994; Doney & Cannon, 1997).

However, measures of trust remain dependent on the context of their studies that may be difficult, in some cases, to be adapted because of the specificity of the service type, context and culture (Patterson & Smith, 2001). For example, compared to commercial service, the need of personal trust is particularly important in service industry (Sharma & Patterson, 1999; Coulter & Coulter, 2003). Industrial services are highly intangible, heterogeneous and perishable, that make them difficult to be assessed a priori (Tellefsen & Thomas, 2005). Therefore, customer's vulnerability, uncertainty and lack of knowledge involved in this context, can amplify the need of personal trust in the service relationship (Mayer et al., 1995).

Hence, this research focuses on industrial service in North Africa which highlights personal trust, particularly in the automotive service industry characterized by a high risk and low level of trust between customer and service employee (Shemwell et al., 1994). The automotive sector in Tunisia remains dynamic and attractive site for large international groups (Trape et al., 2014; CEDARE, 2015). The sector has undergone significant changes by moving from traditional service to sophisticated service characterized by highly developed technologies. This transition has resulted successively transformation of organizational context and has required a development of knowledge and new skills of the service employees in order to effectively respond to customer’s needs (Meyer & Fähnrich, 2013).

The automotive repair services context has previously been addressed in the service literature (Andaleeb & Basu, 1994; Coulter & Ligas, 2004; Shemwell et al., 1994; Izogo, 2015; Izogo and Ogba, 2015). Yet, trust attributes perceived by customers in mechanics have not been examined, notably within the automotive context of North Africa countries, including Tunisia.

In professional/industrial service relationships, personal trust depends heavily on customer’s perception of the service provider performance or skills (Liljander & Roos, 2002; Coulter & Coulter, 2003). The researchers argued that the service employee present differently levels of skills and industrial knowledge (e.g. Parasuraman et al., 1985). Consequently, the customer will develop high degree of trust to the service worker who has the greater level of knowledge and competence (as perceived by the customer). This service representative performance encompasses hard skills related to technical abilities such as competence, reliability, technical knowledge, development of solutions; and soft skills related to interpersonal, human and behavioral abilities such as communication, personnel characteristics and ethical standards (Babic and Slavkovic, 2011).

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