By Joe Marconi
We all have those customers that focus on price alone. And we all struggle with our persistent attempts at converting them into believers. Believers of the concept that, while we cannot totally dismiss price, it’s the value of the product or service the customer needs to consider when making a purchase. What’s funny about these customers is that each visit tends to start with a complaint about price, even before the car is looked at. We recently had a situation that started off on the wrong foot, with price being the issue; but ended up a win for us, and for the customer.
Charlie Challenge (not his real name) arrived at our shop and asked for an estimate on replacing the timing chain for his Nissan Altima. My service advisor responded with, “Mr. Challenge, that’s a big job. How do you know your car needs a timing chain?” Charlie replied back, “Another shop checked it out and they told me it does. Can you please give me a price?” My advisor continued with, “Well, before we do anything, we need to perform a few tests to make sure you really do need a timing chain.” Charlie emphatically replied back, “And how much is that going to cost? All you guys want is my money! I asked for one thing; a price on a timing chain and you just want to make more money on something I already know I need!”
It took a lot of composure, but my advisor calmly stated all the reasons why testing is the best way to go, emphasizing the fact that if we replace the chain and it’s not the problem, the money spent would be wasted. Charlie shook his head, threw the keys on the counter and authorized the testing.
I’ve known Charlie for a long time. He’s not a bad guy. But price is always the topic of discussion. He has told me in the past that I should take a look at what other shops charge, and be more competitive with my prices. I have told Charlie that I don’t, and never will, price my services by what other shops are charging. I have also told him to look beyond price and look at the value you get. Besides, all the quality shops that I know are pretty much the same when it comes to pricing.
During the write-up process, Charlie revealed to my service advisor that the check engine light had been on, and that’s why he took his car to the other shop. The other shop replaced a valve timing solenoid, but that didn’t fix the problem. He was then told that the next step was to replace the chain.
Later that morning, the car was dispatched to a technician. A multipoint inspection was performed, along with all the tests related to the check engine light; which was a timing error. After the MPI and the tests were completed, we found a few things wrong with Charlie’s car. His Altima needed an oil change service, a battery, rear brakes, an air filter, the cabin filter had a mouse nest in it and the car needed an intake timing control sensor, not a timing chain. This engine has two intake control solenoids. One was supposedly replaced by the other shop. So, did this car have two bad sensors? Or was the wrong sensor replaced by mistake?
When my service advisor called Charlie to tell him the good news, he was silent for a moment. He was shocked that the car didn’t need a timing chain. He authorized the solenoid replacement, the oil change and replacing the mouse-infested cabin filter. He declined the other work.
I purposely did the follow-up call with Charlie a few days later. He was happy to hear from me and told me that car hadn’t run this good in years. I had to needle him a bit, “So Charlie, are we really expensive? We saved you a ton of money by doing the tests first and not just replacing the chain.” He said, “Ok Joe, I get it, I really do this time.”
During our conversation, Charlie did confess that he didn’t go to another shop, but actually went to that all-knowing, all-powerful place on the internet known as Google. It was Charlie that replaced the solenoid, not realizing there were two, and not knowing how to properly test the system either.
When I asked Charlie why he didn’t let us replace the battery, air filter and the rear brakes, he replied, “Joe, come on, I can do that work myself, and besides, you guys are expensive.”
Sometimes you win the battle, but it’s hard to win the war with some customers.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on October 1st, 2019
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By Joe Marconi
There’s an old Japanese proverb that says, “The footsteps of the farmer are his best fertilizer.” In translation, this means that the closer you are to your crops and animals, the easier it is to observe and respond to their needs. Business owners, just as farmers, have a sixth sense about what’s happening within their company. And, for the most part, business owners are the driving force behind the success of their companies. And it’s not always because of any particular training. Many times, the mere fact that the buck stops with you gives you the mental fortitude to push forward and find solutions to daily problems. Your gut evolves into a very valuable management and survival tool.
The majority of business owners created their business with a dream and the passion to make a difference in their lives and in the automotive industry. They clearly understand the sacrifices that are needed to get a new business off the ground, and also the years of dedication it takes to reach a point where the business becomes financially stable. But, running a business takes its toll on even the toughest person, and time away from business becomes equally important. So, the question becomes, can you build your business to the point where your presence still remains when you’re away?
Before I go on, I want you to consider something—and that’s your future. I know that many of you have a young company and plan on working for decades to come. But life goes by quickly and it can also throw you a curveball. Please take my advice with this; if you’re a business owner and you are not planning for your future, you are making a big mistake. I know too many shop owners that were forced to walk away from their businesses after decades of work with nothing more than memories. Their dreams turned into nightmares due to lack of planning. Sit down and write out what your future looks like. You will probably need help with this, but you need to think about a continuity plan and an exit strategy.
OK, I got that out of the way; now back to the article. Here’s the bottom line. Taking time off and having your business run smoothly without you there should be one of your key goals. But the truth is, many shop owners can’t let go. They find it hard to take any time off, let alone leaving their baby in the hands of a manager or another key person. They even feel guilty when they’re away. And there are others who realize that in order to have a fulfilling life, the only way to continue the business is to step aside and stay away.
I don’t know what type of person you are. But what I do know with certainty after nearly 40 years in business is that, for the sake of your health and for the well-being of your family, you need to create a business that allows you the freedom to take time off. And that starts with hiring and keeping the right people; people that share your culture and work ethic. Free time away from the business also requires that you understand your numbers, can generate a consistent profit and establish strategies to continually grow the business.
Achieving your goal of taking more time off is more dependent on what you create than the actual work you do. Create a culture where people come to work because they want to. Create a management style that allows you to reach out to your employees and help them achieve the things they want out of life. Create a work environment where the people you employ feel they are part of a unified vision where everyone will enjoy the fruits of their labor. Lastly, create strong relationships with all your employees from the very first day they are hired. Building this culture will help to ensure that your employees will perform the same each day, whether you are there or not.
I know for many it will be hard to let go. After all, your business is your baby, right? You founded it; you worked hard for years and dedicated your life to it. But, every baby grows up and becomes an adult. And adults should become self-sufficient. If you build the right team with the right culture, you will gain the confidence that the people you employ can do an amazing job in your absence.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on September 5th, 2019
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By Mail Shark
Before approving your next database mailing, run down this checklist to ensure all of these steps have been taken to validate the quality and accuracy of your mailing.
Utilize the National Change of Address Service (NCOA)
Every year, millions of Americans move, and this undoubtedly includes some of the customers in your database. This can be a problem when you pull your database to use for sending out a direct mail campaign, as you may have customers that have moved and no longer live at the recorded address.
If these customers have moved outside of your trade area, and you were to send a direct mail piece to them, you would essentially be wasting your marketing dollars by sending direct mail to customers that are simply no longer there.
The good news is, there is a simple solution. You can have your direct mail partner run your database against the USPS National Change of Address (NCOA) service. The cost of doing so is very minimal and worth the small additional cost to ensure the quality and accuracy of your database.
NCOA is a database maintained by the U.S. Postal Service, and includes all of the individuals and companies who have completed a form to change their address in the previous four years.
Here are a few things you will find out by running your list through the NCOA process is:
Addressee has moved, and a new address could not be provided. New address information is provided. The recipient moved without providing a forwarding address to the USPS. From here, these previous customers that have moved can easily be removed from future mailings.
Remove Your Customers From New Acquisition Mailings
Most shop owners who are using direct mail to target their database of current customers are also sending out new customer acquisition mailers to target new prospects, either by carrier route or by specific make, model, fuel type, etc.
In doing so, it’s important that you request your direct mail partner to remove these current customers from your new customer acquisition mailers. It’s a waste of money to send your customers a new customer acquisition mailer when you are already targeting them by sending them a retention or lapsed customer mailer. It will also send your current/lapsed customers the wrong message. Your marketing and message to new customers should not be the same that it is to current or lapsed customers.
This is also an easy fix, simply request that your direct mail partner suppress your customer database from your new customer acquisition mailers. The only caveat in doing so, is for general auto shops that are removing their database of customers from their carrier route mailing—there are guidelines that must be met for carrier route mailings in order to receive the maximum discounted postage rate. These guidelines are as follows:
Your mail must be sorted in walk sequence. This is the exact order that the postal carrier walks/drives on their carrier routes. In addition, your mailing must follow the 90/75 rule. The 90/75 rule stipulates that you must mail to at least 90 percent of the total residential addresses, or at least 75 percent of the total combined number of residential and business addresses in each carrier route. Since you, as an auto shop owner will never want to mail to businesses, this means that you must mail to 90 percent of the total addresses in a carrier route to maintain the lowest postage rate.
If your mailer falls below the 90 percent guideline, there are three different levels of postage that your mailer can potentially fall into. Each level represents an additional cost of per piece postage above and beyond the standard rates.
Additional Saturation Mail Postage Rates (*As of 1/1/2019)
High density plus: Mail at least 300 pieces in walk sequence order (additional postage would be .01 per piece).
High density: Mail at least 125 pieces in walk sequence order (additional postage would be.019 per piece).
Basic: Mail at least 10 pieces in walk sequence order (additional postage would be .104 per piece).
Make Use of the Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS)
In addition to running your database through the NCOA process, it’s important to ensure your direct mail partner is also certifying your database mailing list through the Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS). This process will standardize your mailing file, verify that each and every address in your mailing file is valid and complete, as well as update any addresses that have been changed and/or has become outdated.
Executive Vice President of Sales
Email: [email protected]
I don't spend a lot of time working in the shop on a day to day basis, but do have to do some after hours services or jump in to help. The shop has a few sets of tools that have been placed around in the shop so you don't need to go looking when you need common tools. Yesterday doing a couple simple tire changes & I needed a pair of pliers they station should have 2 they had none I asked a mechanic he went across the room to go get one pair. I then use the machine to breakdown the tire & it wouldn't bust the bead, so I went to the other machine & it was the same way so I went to do it the manual way. Put it on the rim clamp of the first & it wouldn't close, so I went back to the second & I had to clean & oil so it would clamp. I head to balance & had to move tires that will be installed or had been taken off but had life left so we hung on to. So a 30 min job took 45 min. I asked come in this morning & before I could ask or say anything I see one of the tire guys doing a car tire by hand, I asked you always do it that way & he said yes neither machine is working. I said I found that out last night & have called the repair guy but how come nobody said anything, I got the I don't know answer. So my question is how does everyone handle the putting tools back, checking machines & notifying of needed repairs & even sweep the floor. Do you have a person with a checklist go to each station every night, sweep the floors every night. Just seems like we have everyone working right up to quitting time or after hate to push more but our running after tools stepping over tires & machines not working correctly is costing us. Just getting ideas of what has worked for others. Thanks
By Mail Shark
Tracking the return on your auto repair shop’s direct mail marketing can be a challenge. One tool that can give you a tremendous amount of transparency into your direct mail ROI and that I recommend almost 100% of the time is call tracking.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with what call tracking is and how it works, it involves putting a unique phone number on your direct mail that isn’t used anywhere else. When someone calls the number, it forwards immediately and seamlessly to your main phone line. This gives you the ability to track and record all phone calls from this special number, in turn giving you some transparency into how your direct mail marketing is performing.
There are of course many other nuances, capabilities, and uses for call tracking that you can learn about from companies like CallRail or Conversa, just to name a few.
That said, it’s critical you understand call tracking is NOT the be-all end-all when it comes to determining how well your direct mail marketing is working. If this were the case, you’d have to assume that 100% of every new repair order you get calls directly from your mailer. However, we all know this will never be the case. Here are a few reasons why.
Your Online Presence
Before they consider using you repair shop, many prospects will go online to check out your website. If a customer lands on your website – assuming you aren’t using a PURL (Personalized URL), which is almost never the case with most auto repair shops – they do their research and then call your shop from the phone number on your website. In this situation, you immediately lose insight on how they heard about you.
Customers are also reading your online reviews, whether on social media or review sites. Sites like Demandforce, SureCritic, Carfax, Repair Pal, Facebook, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc. all have your shop’s contact details, including your phone number. Any call from customers who used these sites removes transparency on how they heard about you.
Our auto repair shop clients consistently tell us customers will just stop by their shop with their direct mail piece in hand. I’m not just talking about quick lube shops that are based on walk-in traffic. I’m talking about general and specialty auto repair shops. It’s great when customers have your mailer with them, because you can attribute these customers to your direct mail marketing. However, this won’t be reflected in your call tracking, which is another reason call tracking isn’t the be-all end-all when determining ROI.
Online Appointment Scheduling
More and more auto repair shops are offering online appointment scheduling. We like to position these shops as being easy to work with, and part of that is promoting their online appointment scheduling. We include verbiage on our direct mail pieces to inform customers they can conveniently schedule online, and most times we accompany this with a QR code that brings them directly to the appointment scheduling page.
This is similar to my first point regarding your online presence and website. However, I also want to point out this specific example because in these cases, we’re actively pushing people to go online to schedule their repair or maintenance service, thus losing transparency from call tracking.
All that said, call tracking is an effective tool that gives you a lot of transparency into your direct mail marketing ROI. However, you should also be running matchback reports that compare new repair orders during (and in the trailing months following your campaign) to your direct mail list. This helps you identify customers who were missed on call tracking or by your service advisor. You can then use your call tracking data in conjunction with your matchback reporting to get a clearer picture of your direct mail ROI.
If you’re using EDDM® Retail or EDDM® BMEU, you won’t be able to execute matchback reporting because there’s no mailing list to compare your repair orders with.
Executive Vice President of Sales
Email: [email protected]