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]
Accepting Credit Cards at 0% cost
Credit card fees for merchants have drastically gone up in recent years, especially for reward card purchases, making credit card fees one of businesses largest expenses. Interchange fees for reward cards have gone up by 24% in a recent 4-year period. The highest reward card fees to a merchant are now around 3% of the transaction total (not including what the markup from whomever sold you their credit card processing). Many people have probably seen Samuel L. Jackson TV commercials promoting Capital One’s Quick Silver credit card, paraquoting, “The Quick Silver credit card will give you 1.5% cash back on all of your purchases.” Who do you think is actually giving these customers 1.5% of their cash back on their credit card purchases? You guessed it- you, the merchant.
What’s a business owner to do?
Do nothing Raise the products or services prices to account for higher credit card fees Offer a cash discount Don’t accept credit cards Or, provide your customer a choice when they pay with a card to pay a surcharge or not- 0% credit card costs to the merchant All of these options have their pluses and minuses, but with the ever higher and higher fees credit cards are charging to merchants, there are other methods where technology and consumer choice can help mitigate these fees.
0% credit card cost is relatively new legal method of accepting card payments in the US. The credit card companies fought to not allow consumers a choice to pay a surcharge with credit card or zero fees with a debit card. The credit card companies make much less money with a debit card opposed to a credit card... This case went all the way to the US Supreme Court this decade. The credit card companies lost and consumers being able to choose to pay a surcharge with a credit card or zero fees with a debit card is now legal in 45 states. The remainder of the 5 states will likely be joining the other 45 states in the near future as there are still ongoing court proceedings.
The US is now following the Australian model which has been allowing merchants to surcharge since 2003. Currently, 42% of all merchants in Australia pass on a surcharge to customers who use a credit card.
Here’s an option that you might not know about, until now:
When your consumer decides to pay with a card, they have two options. If they use a credit card, a small fee will be charged to their card. If they use a debit card, there will be no fee to the consumer. Our software does all the work and explains to the customer of their choice prior to the charge being authorized.
What exactly are the costs to the merchant and to the consumer?
For credit cards: Merchant pays zero credit card fees, the consumer pays 3.5% of the transaction amount
For debit cards: Merchant pays 1% + $0.25/authorization, the consumer pays Zero fees
A card swiper is not needed: credit card information can be typed in a phone, computer over the phone and in-person. A 'brick' card swiper/dipper is available if needed.
Works with online sales/invoices
Simple application process, no upfront cost, no term contract, no cancellation fee and complies with all credit card rules and regulations
If you auto batch by 8:00 PM EST, you get your money the next day
Up-and-running within a week
Benefits to the Merchant:
Being fair to your consumer by offering them a choice to pay a fee or not, while eliminating your credit card fees, which can be up to 3% of your total credit card sales.
Simple to use and all charges are viewable through real-time online portal.
Support: our team is there when you need us, but it truly is very straight forward.
We realize this solution is not for everyone. But, you now have the opportunity to no longer pay credit card fees, forever. Reach out through ASO or here if you are interested in discussing further: https://www.lomasolutions.com/contact
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Iv noticed over the years there are times when business/car count drops off by a huge amount all at once. Last year it was brutal in January and got worse in February. It got busier the 2nd week of March and was pretty steady the rest of the year with my best month ever in November then even topped that in December. But this year its back to the same. January came leads completely dropped out, February came and it got worse, just like last year. Now I know its just a waiting game and business will pick back up. Its not just me every shop in the area is completely empty. --- What triggers these pattern down turns? Has anyone ever figured that out? Thought?
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Working as a ride-hailing service driver definitely puts added wear and tear on your vehicle, and in an effort to help drivers lower their maintenance costs, Lyft announced on Tuesday that it opened the first of several planned service centers for its drivers in San Francisco.
This service center is the first of over thirty such facilities planned to open their doors in 2019. The center will offer vehicle maintenance and repair for less than what a driver could expect to pay at a regular shop, or at least that's the idea.
The San Francisco location has a planned hourly repair rate of $95 dollars, which, depending on the marque of the car being serviced, is slightly below average. The repair services offered will be mostly aimed at basic stuff like brakes and alternators.
Lyft also plans to offer package deals for certain services. For example, an oil change paired with a tire rotation and a car wash will set a driver $70. Part of Lyft's intent with these service centers is also to save drivers time, so they can spend more time driving and less time at a shop.
In his blog post outlining the decision to offer more driver services, Lyft COO Jon McNeil explained that these service centers would be staffed by Lyft employees and that at least some of these would be certified mechanics.
Lyft didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
News source: https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/lyft-car-repair-service-center-san-francisco/
Official Uber Vehicle Inspection Form
BRING THIS FORM WITH YOU TO A CERTIFIED MECHANIC.
Once your vehicle is inspected and receives a “PASS”, simply
take a photo of the filled out form and upload it at
http://partners.uber.com/ to complete the signup process.
More bad news for Uber: one of the ride-hailing giant’s self-driving Volvo SUVs has been involved in a crash in Arizona — apparently leaving the vehicle flipped onto its side, and with damage to at least two other human-driven cars in the vicinity.