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Consumers ARE going back to the New Car Dealership!


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Got your attention? Good!

 

This past Sunday I took a booth at the local Business EXPO in my town. I like doing these things for the obvious reason - It helps to promote my company's brand in my community. But the other reason I do it is to speak with the average consumer to gain information. One of questions I ask is this: "What model car do you drive and where do you go for service?"

 

It is amazing to me how many people go back to the dealer for service work. And here are some of the reasons:

 

  • It's a lease car, I didn't know you could take my car to you for service
  • It's a new car, don't you HAVE to go back to the dealer?
  • I don't know where to take my car, so I stayed with the dealer
  • I have free maintenance (we all what "free" means)
  • I don't want problems if I need warranty work
  • My salesman told me when I bought the car that I had to used dealer parts and service
  • Aren't the dealer mechanics better trained?

 

By the way, when I asked about the level of service and convenience, all of them rolled their eyes and said something like this, "Well, it's the dealer, you know what you get." MAN! I can't help thinking that if they came to YOUR shop you would win them over just on your level of customer service!

 

So, as you can see, we are in a fight with the dealers. The great news is that we are still the number one choice of the motoring public. Let's fight to stay that way.

 

We, as independent aftermarket shops, do not aggressively market ourselves against the dealer. Maybe we should start?

 

Your thoughts?

 

I have heard all those comments before. I talk to our customers about this all the time. We need to find a way to advertise like they do. We have already tried a commercial. It worked a little, but without a lot of advertising capital it didn't reach that many people. I think online would be the best choice to reach the public, but we need to be able to find a way to do it together? Any thoughts?

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There are 2 new car dealers near me that dropped their labor rates from 110.00 down to 89.95. we already work hard for our customers. Now we get a price matching war. I really stress customer service with my employees

 

Customers, in general, do not shop on price. They are mainly interested in customer service and continence.

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Got your attention? Good!

 

This past Sunday I took a booth at the local Business EXPO in my town. I like doing these things for the obvious reason - It helps to promote my company's brand in my community. But the other reason I do it is to speak with the average consumer to gain information. One of questions I ask is this: "What model car do you drive and where do you go for service?"

 

It is amazing to me how many people go back to the dealer for service work. And here are some of the reasons:

 

  • It's a lease car, I didn't know you could take my car to you for service
  • It's a new car, don't you HAVE to go back to the dealer?
  • I don't know where to take my car, so I stayed with the dealer
  • I have free maintenance (we all what "free" means)
  • I don't want problems if I need warranty work
  • My salesman told me when I bought the car that I had to used dealer parts and service
  • Aren't the dealer mechanics better trained?

 

By the way, when I asked about the level of service and convenience, all of them rolled their eyes and said something like this, "Well, it's the dealer, you know what you get." MAN! I can't help thinking that if they came to YOUR shop you would win them over just on your level of customer service!

 

So, as you can see, we are in a fight with the dealers. The great news is that we are still the number one choice of the motoring public. Let's fight to stay that way.

 

We, as independent aftermarket shops, do not aggressively market ourselves against the dealer. Maybe we should start?

 

Your thoughts?

Just as mikesauto said, " Customers, in general, do not shop on price. They are mainly interested in customer service and continence." That applies to "some" of the customers... not all. But I do agree that most of them are not concerned with price as much as they are for correct repairs and no guesses from some untrained individual.

 

To add to that, I have heard the same from prospective customer as Joe has stated.

 

On the other hand, what I have noticed is a lot of these customers with cars with so many electronic devices in them that they are terrified of some goober screwing it up, or the fact that they are offering 100k (or more) drive train warranties. That seems to be the main reason to go to the dealer. Sure, there's the loaner car, but some indy's offer that. Sure, there's the training...but a lot of indy's stay up with that too. As well as every other comment that keeps them from using the independent shops.

 

Although, for the customers that are coming into the indy shops to do their work they are not afraid to pay for the repairs, of course, that doesn't go for the price shoppers and I'm pretty sure they don't try going to the dealer...ever. Well, they may get a price quote ... but, even then the price they are quoted probably isn't going to cover the actual repair... they're just using that low quote as bait to get them into their dealership. I can't prove it, I'm just comparing some of the reactions I've gotten from customers after I give them a price.

 

The repair business isn't anything like it was years ago... time for some diversification and thinking out of the box to keep the shop open. It's a struggle no matter how big or how small your shop is.

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Banning together has been the best solution for many of the independents woes. The problem is independents are by nature just that... independent! Building a coalition of competitors would be a monumental task. But considering the benefits that could be achieved with our massive combined buying power, creativity and hard work ethic does make you think.

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Banning together has been the best solution for many of the independents woes. The problem is independents are by nature just that... independent! Building a coalition of competitors would be a monumental task. But considering the benefits that could be achieved with our massive combined buying power, creativity and hard work ethic does make you think.

 

Coalition, I like that! The way this would need to work is for all the independent shops to not worry about losing any customers to other indy shops. If we are treating our customers right, we won't lose any to eachother. I think some of the problems would be we all use social media and advertising differently. Coalition :angry:

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I'd like to offer you some inside perspective, because I honestly can see that you guys sort of have the blinders on when it comes to dealership service shops today and the techs employed.

 

1. On pricing, for a good number of things we match your prices or beat them, and we don't do it at a loss most times. The industry has become expensive for all of us involved, independent and dealership. The difference is the independent shops are more or less having to move their prices north to keep up with the costs, equipment, training, etc. On the other hand, the manufacturers basically have forced dealerships into buying this equipment by essentially sending it to them and adding it to their credit account with the brand. Therefore, the dealerships are not really incurring higher costs in this regard and can stay steady on labor rates with room to play to get the job.

Regardless, concentrating on pricing and price wars is the completely wrong way either of you should go about it. All you have done is made customers think that this is a cheap business to be in and we all make money hand over fist. All you have done is created the very price shoppers and unreasonable customers you and the dealers all complain about together.

2. On training. Are dealer techs better trained? Yes. And no. Good independent shops have well trained technicians that can handle many, close to all the repairs a dealership can. The difference is in the fact that us dealer techs are sent to only one kind of training, the training from the manufacturer developed directly around their brand and their brand only. We do in fact know our brand better than the independent techs. Not that we are better techs, we just have specific brand oriented training and resources, and that in fact makes us better trained...on our brand. This is what the customer is thinking but not accurately stating in the comments Joe highlighted above.

 

The question is how do independent shops overcome this? I honestly don't know at this time, but look forward to finding the answer alongside of you for the day I make the decision to go from tech to owner. My thoughts on it are that maybe independent shops have to pay for dealership training on brands that they service most in their area? Being able to put on your wall or website that you have techs trained in Brand X, Y and Z as well as a compliment of ASE certifications and independent trainings would probably be really attractive.

3. Salesmen do say whatever it takes to sell a car. It screws us in the dealership service department too. So I don't doubt that some salesmen have said that the customer HAS to take it back to us. However, I don't believe it is rampant and I think most of the customers making that statement are just pulling it out of their collective you know what. They read some sentence somewhere on the internet that might have implied that and they just ran with it. On the other hand, servicing your car with the dealership does offer unique benefits in the removal of hassle further down the line if a problem arises. The documentation is readily available and warranty claims get pushed through much faster. It's not purposefully against independents when we demand documentation or doubt documentation and delay a warranty claim on that. The problem is there are a lot of people who come in with an engine that is done for and some very obviously fake or falsified consecutive documents saying they did get the oil changes from Some Guys Shop and that the engine didn't fail because of lack of maintenance as the 200 pounds of sludge in the valve train implies.

So, I think a selling point that you have to convey and spread to the masses is that you have a good documentation system. That if they need it, because they lost their copy, they can easily get copies from you whether it be e-mail, fax or in person to provide in the event that a dealership needs it. That these documents must be accepted as proof of service by the dealer and that the customer does not forfeit any of their benefits or protections by going to you. This needs to be disseminated not just by your shop, but this information needs to bleed out to the masses through popular news and information networks as a general FYI.

Also, if you are one of those shops who did a favor by printing out 5 fake repair orders stating they got an oil change from you so they can screw the manufacturer warranty for their neglect, you need to stop. Do not stoop to illegitimate practices just because you THINK you are going to get a customer out of it. Let the customer deal with their failures and don't bail them out. Keeping yourself legitimate removes the scrutiny your documents will get on the dealer side for warranty claims which makes your entire premise of you can come to us and we do keep proper records that must be honored at the dealer an actual one.

4. In some ways you need to stop perpetuating the dealer versus independent war. You need to focus on that you CAN do this service, you DO have the proper equipment and they WILL be satisfied with you. Don't engage in the usual crap I see between indy and dealer techs on my automotive tech group, where each other is calling the other incompetent, monkeys, goobers, hacks, etc. Stay away from putting one down and raising the other, for the sake of our industry and to bring customer expectations on price and service in line, not make them wonder who is more of a shady hack. Focus on what your shop can offer them and that the level of work is on par or better than the dealer.

There's nothing wrong with using the dealer service department, just like there is nothing wrong with using any of your shops. We all strive for the same thing, customer service and satisfaction along with quality repairs. In this day and age, with the internet especially, neither of us can afford negativity, nor can the industry, which is all we create with a versus mentality.

Oh, one more thing, a lot of us dealer techs also have a strong customer service background. I will be specifically brought out to talk to a customer, answer their questions or do something minor like reset a maintenance light another shop didn't do. The reason they use me is I have a smile on my face and in my voice, I have a personable conversation with them and I know how to compliment them, such as admiring the color of their car, telling them they have a real nice, reliable vehicle that will provide them with many years of reliable use. I know how to speak on their level and in terms they understand and I ensure when we are done I bid them a nice farewell and they have no other questions or things they aren't 100% about. You need to get your techs to be like this in this day and age. The dealers are getting it, make sure you are too. If the customer feels good about the tech as a person, they believe the tech is honest, the shop is honest and they will come back because they want that nice and honest tech to work on their car. I can guarantee this, because I have a whole array of customers who drop off asking for me specifically. This will get you more customers over the dealers than anything else I mentioned.

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ADealertech makes a great point. Caring first and foremost about good customer service is what it's about. But cheerful, friendly and a quick to help attitude is how many Indy shops already operate. Having positive marketing on a national scale surely would be of great benefit. Having group purchasing can help bring down cost of service, which also increases competitiveness.

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I work my side of the street and the other business works theirs. Our customers are getting brainwashed and the vehicles are being turned into drones that will drive themselves to the service area. I've had several customers contact me to say that their car is emailing them about being serviced.

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New technology will no doubt make it much easier for the manufacturer, and the dealerships to keep track of their cars. I predict that it won't be long before ALL cars still under factory warranties (in any shape or form of factory warranty) will automatically be under their umbrella of repair by way of some loop hole in their copyright laws for their particular systems. The independent shops will take care of the rest of the cars on the road.

 

Sure, customer service is the utmost of importance, but like cars are different from each other so are customers. Some will like you, your work, and your location, while others won't even give you the chance to do an oil change. I believe there is room for both the dealership repair shops as well as the independents.

 

The idea that independent shops will band together is absurd. It's been tried, either by associations or by small groups... it's never lasted long. What it might take is something out of our (the independent shops) control... such as government regulations, city ordinances, and laws to keep things on the up and up.

 

You can think, you can dream, and you can imagine all the indys banding together, but I seriously doubt it.

 

I for one, don't sugar coat or claim to make friends out of every person that walks through my doors. AND, I'm sure the same thing happens at the dealerships. Basically what I'm saying is... customers will still shop around and find a shop they are comfortable with. (dealer or independent) But, by far customer satisfaction is the key.

 

Training, yes it's out there. Most of it isn't free, and for some the budget doesn't allow for a couple of days away from the shop to attend some of these classes. But it's all available....just at a cost.

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Some Like you, Some like me, some like dealers, some trade when repairs are needed, some lease, some restore, some neglect, etc

 

That's why there is 31 flavors of ice cream.

 

Cater to the needs of those that like your flavor of service.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

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      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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