By Joe Marconi
It was a busy Friday morning when Tom called me for an update on his vehicle. I let Tom know that his car would be ready at the end of the day. There was a pause, and then he blindsided me with this, “You know, Joe, I did a little research on that water pump you’re replacing on my car. I can get that same part for $30 less. Why does your part cost so much?” I fired back at him by saying, “That’s impossible; it can’t be.” I went on and on attempting to defend myself, but I could tell I wasn’t getting through to him. After a few more words back and forth, Tom finally said, “Look, you started the job, so you might as well just finish it.”
You’re probably thinking Tom went online to check the part. Well, this happened in 1980, my first year in business, and years before the Internet, as we know it today, even existed. Tom simply called a local part store. The parts store gave him a discounted price and then figured he would challenge me.
Consumers checking your prices is nothing new—it just got a whole lot easier these days with the world wide web. Now, let’s clarify one thing: I am not going to tell in this article that there is a foolproof way to train consumers not to go online to check your prices. However, what I can tell you with certainty is that if you continue to feature products and not the customer experience, you are telling people to please check your prices.
Consider this: You’re out to dinner and you ask the waiter for the wine list. As you scan the list, you recognize a brand and then look to the right at the price. Do you Google the bottle of wine to check what you could buy it in the store? We all know that a $10 bottle of wine in the store can cost well over $40 at the restaurant.
Here’s the bottom line: The restaurant is selling more than wine and food—it’s selling the customer experience. And if all goes the way it should, we pay for the meal and the bottle of wine, even when we know the wine is priced higher than we could purchase it at the store. And, we are OK with it.
Our business is no different. We need to focus on the experience, not the products. Yes, we install water pumps, control arms and radiators. But, that’s not our main focus. Our focus is on the value and the benefits of doing business with us. Now, with that said, there’s a delicate balance between being competitive and being profitable. But, as value goes up, price becomes less of an issue.
Here’s the difference between our business and a product-driven business. When you buy a product—let’s say a watch or a cell phone—the experience lives on long after the sale. Every time you put on the watch, or use your cell phone, you are continuing the experience. And if the product is high quality, the experience gets reinforced over and over every time you use it. With auto repair, in most cases, what we do, does not live on after the sale. Once a customer leaves with a new timing belt and water pump, there’s not much about that repair that lives on in the eyes of the consumer, except the customer experience. Your entire sales process—your marketing, the look of your shop, the people you employee and every aspect of your business that the customer sees—must tell the customer that what you sell is worth the price.
Let’s remember one thing: Your prices will be challenged from time to time. So, here are a few more tips. Get the right training for your service advisors, especially in the area of customer service. Make sure your marketing and advertising communicates your brand and your culture, and please be careful with discounting. Claims that you have the best price on tires or brakes only results in consumers checking online to see if that’s true. Highlight your warranty, which has a lasting impression on the customer. Above all, communicate the benefits of doing business with your company.
Let’s get back to Tom. After 39 years, Tom and his family are still customers. I have to believe it’s because Tom appreciates the level of service we have given him throughout the years and the relationship we’ve built. Tom has learned what Warren Buffet has often said, “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.”
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on May 1st, 2019
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By Elite Worldwide Inc.
Elite is proud to announce that we are partnering with BOLT ON TECHNOLOGY to help auto repair shop owners become more successful. When choosing to partner with a company we always take a careful look at their principles, at their ability to help shop owners, and at the impact they're having on the industry. BOLT ON has been able to exceed our most optimistic expectations in all of these categories, so it's truly an honor to be able to partner with them.
BOLT ON and Elite will elevate the auto repair industry by making it more sophisticated, attractive to a new generation of shop owners, perpetuating ethics-based business practices, and overall creating better opportunities for success. The valuable technology and education provided by the companies will give shop owners the critical tools needed to improve car counts, AROs and customer trust.
BOLT ON provides an award-winning suite of shop management products that makes shops more attractive to prospective employees and customers. Each tool helps shops operate efficiently by streamlining scheduling and updating customer information, producing more accurate reporting, strengthening customer communication through digital inspection capabilities and allowing managers to stay on top of business performance. Elite provides shop owners premium training in business practices such as recruiting courses, marketing courses, phone skills and sales training, peer group meetings and comprehensive coaching programs where every Elite coach is the past or present owner of a very successful auto repair business.
“We’re proud of our partnership with BOLT ON TECHNOLOGY because of all the synergy between the two companies both in our cultures and overall goals,” says Bob Cooper, founder and President of Elite. “Our belief is that every shop owner needs both the right people and the right systems to reach their potential, and this partnership helps them achieve both objectives.”
“The key to fulfilling our mission is making every resource available to our customers that will improve their business,” says Mike Risich, founder and CEO of BOLT ON TECHNOLOGY. “We’re extremely excited about our partnership with Elite because the best solution for a shop that wants to grow is not just to train management or implement new technology, but to utilize both.”
About BOLT ON TECHNOLOGY
BOLT ON TECHNOLOGY equips the automotive repair and maintenance aftermarket with award-winning technology tools to improve customer communication. The company's technology instantly transmits photos, videos and text messages to communicate automotive repair details, thereby increasing customer trust, boosting sales and empowering shops to build long-term customer relationships. Along with ongoing training and support, BOLT ON's mobile and digital tools also reduce problems inherent in the service process, while increasing shop productivity, revenue, and customer satisfaction.
For more information, visit www.boltontechnology.com or call 610-400-1019.
Elite was founded in 1990 with two primary goals in mind: To help shop owners build more profitable, successful businesses, and to give back to an industry we love. Elite’s services help shops identify business challenges, and improve in the areas of sales, marketing, employee management, recruiting and all facets of shop management so that they may reach their full potential.
Elite hires only coaches and trainers with extraordinary track records of success, who share these goals and have the same passion for making this industry a better place by improving the lives of shop owners, their employees, their customers and their communities.
For more information, visit www.eliteworldwide.com or call 1-800-204-3548.
Zombie Cars “Brains, Brains, we need Brains!” Zombie cars? What’s a zombie car? Way back, when we used points and condensers and later the basic electronic ignition systems, cars didn’t need brains (ECM – Electronic Control Module), but that all changed in the mid 70’s on some imports and pretty much on everything else by the time the 80’s came around. Some of these brains were only cursory, and didn’t actually control the car, but merely watched for emission issues, while others played a major role in the actual ignition spark or fuel delivery systems. Most of the engines in those early years, still used the same basic type of distributor setups (with a few exceptions) as their earlier counterparts that used the old tried and true points and condenser type of ignition systems. During those cross-over years it was rather easy to slap a different distributor in it, or change the existing points distributor over to electronic ignition (which worked quite well by the way). These days...it’s not that easy. These computer systems have become so entangled into the engine functions and nearly every other system that it’s impossible to bypass the fuel or ignition systems as we did years ago. However, there are still a lot of people out there that have hung onto some of the cars from that era. Most likely they've been kept parked alongside the garage as a future project or hung onto for some sentimental reason. Some (very few) are in great shape, others… well, they look like zombies already. What makes them zombies? The brain… the brain… they need brains! Just this past week I had several of these faded paint monstrosities lined up in the parking lot. (They never come alone… always in a pack.) For starters an old dilapidated 1986 Dodge pickup with a slant six. This old rusted, tilting to one side relic had been at another shop for a tune-up, but as the story was told to me by the owner, the other shop tried to start it when a fuel line ruptured and caught the old truck on fire. Luckily, they managed to get it out, but the damage was already done. The main harness from the firewall to the distributor, coil, charging system, blower motor, oil sending unit, temp. sender, and the starter wiring were completely melted into an unrecognizable mass of plastic and copper. It was my job to bring this dilapidated hulk back to life. However, the original spark control computer had melted as well, and was unusable. Worse yet, the brain was discontinued eons ago with no replacement parts anywhere to be found. This zombie needs a brain, and there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to get one. At this point the only solution was to do away with the electronic brain and try to refit the old slant six with a much simpler ignition system from a decade earlier if at all possible. A lobotomy if you will. (Dr. Frankenstein would be envious.) Then there was this 2002 Mustang that moaned and groaned while dragging one foot into the shop. It needed a new BCM (Body Control Module). Call the dealer, call the parts warehouse, call everybody! Anybody! Is there a brain for this car? Nope, discontinued. Seems this particular BCM was a rather rare brain out there in zombie land, and at the time, nobody was setup to rebuild them. It seemed this car was destined to wander the city streets with the rest of the zombie mobiles. At the same time this was going on, in comes a 1982 Ford Bronco with the original Variable Venture carburetor still on it. Ok, not a brain, but just as bad. It qualifies as a zombie for sure. Trying to find a suitable replacement these days is a challenge. Ten or twenty years ago this would have been no problem to find a carb. kit (if you dared) or the Holley conversion kit for it, but not today. This trend of bringing back the dead looks like it’s only going to turn into the next zombie apocalypses. As these electronic systems get more and more complex the likely hood of your family truckster turning into a zombie is just a matter of time as each new model comes out. In some ways, I believe the manufacturers have thought this out long before there was a potential of these cars becoming zombies. In my youth it was nothing for me and a few friends to grab an old car out of a junk yard and raise it from the dead. Ya just had to throw a few shots of gas down the carburetor, add a few wires and a fresh battery and fire it up. The rust would fly, the engine would clatter, the smoke would billow out from under the hood, as the exhaust roared out of every crack in the manifold. Those days are long gone now. They may have engineered a longer lasting engine, better paint, and for the part, the interior can hold up to the ravages of time, however, the electronics, are their weakness. Although, these zombie mobiles seem to be coming out of hiding more often than ever before. Reviving some of these early electronic zombies may happen, but on the other hand, it may be a futile effort. The truth of the matter is… these resurrections are not as easy to do as it was so many years ago. There are countless problems that have to be overcome to bring some of these rusted heaps back among the living, especially if you’re in an area that requires emission testing. Just trying to bypass some of those early electronic brains when a replacement part can’t be found can be a real challenge. The good news is that there are a lot of guys out there tearing these brains apart and rebuilding them. But even then, there are some zombie cars that will never make it and eventually die from the lack of a brain, while others wander aimlessly from shop to shop still searching for their elusive electronic gray matter. Even after you manage to find a brain for these living dead vehicles it’s likely something else is going to go wrong. After all, being cast aside for so long, all the hoses, belts, and gaskets have dried up. Something will more likely fall off just like you would expect from any other zombie wandering around. And, you know, just as soon as the latest zombie joins the living something will undoubtedly come tumbling to the shop floor. Whether it’s coolant, oil, a belt, or perhaps no#2 connecting rod, something is not going to stay in place. Just like in every zombie movie I’ve ever watched,.one of them will always have an arm or leg falling off. It sure seems that these zombie cars follow right along with that same affliction. It’s safe to say, these relics of the early electronic era of the automotive world are in some respects the car equivalent of a zombie: half dead, half alive…and in search of a brain they may never find. So don’t be surprised if you’re at the next traffic light when an old faded-rusty-dented car with a shattered windshield, screeching brakes, with plumes of dense low hanging smoke creeping along with it, don't be alarmed, it’s just another car beginning its transformation into a "ZOMBIE CAR".
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Wondering how you all handle repair work to your own vehicles. How do you pay, how do you handle parts costs, write an RO or not, how does it affect gross sales.
I currently write an RO, pay the guys time just like any other job, but cost the parts to myself. The RO is for zero sales but has tech time charged to it. Wondering how others do it. I also have too many vehicles...