Fight the Fine Fight

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When it comes to keeping your customers, you’ve got to battle the competition on a variety of fronts.

The headline reads: “CAA Sees Record Number of Service Calls Due to Extended, Extreme Cold.” It seems I have read this somewhere before.

A record number of service calls means only one thing—a record number of vehicles that have not received the service work required to operate effectively in the cold.

For years, I used to feel for these poor stranded motorists. We used to work long hours to get them going, replacing batteries and performing the service that was long overdue.

I must remind you that this occurred years ago. Cars were not as sophisticated as they are today. Bearing in mind that most of these owners avoided servicing their vehicles, yet demanded instant service to get them going again, we made a few policy decisions.

We stopped making service calls. If the car didn’t start, we had the vehicle towed. No curb-side repairs or boost. The more sophisticated the cars became, the more this made sense. We really pushed prepping the vehicles for the coming season.

These two decisions helped both the reliability of the vehicles for their owners and our bottom line because we had the time to inspect the vehicle and do repairs that were required.

Service at the curb? Not really efficient nor profitable. Remember your service call is also competing against the local auto club that’s cherry-picking battery sales.

A “Demand Study” conducted by the AIA, discovered that some $14 billion worth of vehicle repairs go unperformed annually. Admittedly, today’s vehicles are better. Extended oil change intervals and computer-operated engine management systems compete with good vehicle maintenance.

For years I have been saying that today’s fleet is “low” maintenance, not “no” maintenance. Is all that work slipping through unattended?

Let’s do our part

Not all the blame for the headline is the fault of the owners in neglecting service work. Are we spending enough quality time with vehicles while they’re in our possession? Are we doing the inspections required? Are we building relationships with our clients? When was the last time you had a frank discussion about maintenance with your customer?

In the U.S., an estimated $20 billion of accident damage, caused by poor or unperformed maintenance, occurs every year. Were you the last guy working on that car? Remind your staff what costs were incurred to get that guy in the front door.

You versus Google

We, as an industry, are facing increased competition, not just from the “cherry pickers,” but from manufacturers, technology, and believe it or not, the DIY market.

DIY’s can Google anything as far as car repairs are concerned. Try it. You’ll find not just a blog, but more than likely, a how-to-do-it video on the subject. On top of that, parts are readily available from the very same sources that service you.

According to a recent J.D. Power survey, independent shops have consistently outperformed all the competition, as far as quality, pricing and customer satisfaction are concerned. Questioning the quality of the repair? I don’t think so.

Possibly the only question here is how to increase customer retention and profitability while fighting off serious competition. Perhaps we all need to rethink our business plans. Perhaps we should be looking at other service industries to see how they solved their issues.

Makes me wonder if opening a shop in today’s environment is really a smart business move.

Categories : Mechanical


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