By Joe Marconi
For many of us, it's been a wild ride the past few months. We had to take care of everything, making tough decisions, dealing with banks and the SBA and running the shop from the trenches. But, with things looking better each day, it’s time that we get back into the role of building and operating the company.
For many, the COVID-19 crisis is far from over. However, the sooner we begin to adjust and build for the future, the better off we will be.
Shop Owners are among the hardest working people on the planet. We find ways to get through the most difficult situations. I have no doubt that the lesson’s learned from this crisis will make us stronger and more successful.
By Joe Marconi
Sometimes I feel like I’m alone on a deserted island. I charge for diagnostic analysis. Why? Because I know what cost is to buy the tools, equipment, information systems, training and pay a technician to professionally and accurately diagnosis a check engine light, air bag, ABS or any other complicated problem. But, I feel a lot of shops are willing to give this up in hopes to get the work. In my opinion all they are doing is digging themselves in a hole.
And, I have heard all the reasons:
“If the customer gives me the job, I waive the analysis”.
“I package the analysis into the repair, so the customer does not see the diag charges”
“I will lose customers if I charge analysis”
And the best yet: “It only took me 10 minutes to diag the O2 sensor, so I can’t charge diag labor”.
Waiving the analysis is the same as a doctor waiving the x-rays and blood tests. They don’t do it, we should not either. I will also challenge those who “package” the analysis into the repair. You mean to tell me that after taking 1 hour to find a faulty mass air sensor, you will add the 1 hour to the 5 minutes it takes to install a new mass air? Come on, we all know the truth.
And let’s address the 10 minutes it took to find the failed O2 sensor. Did it really take 10 minutes? NO, it took years of training, years of experience, the investment in the right equipment and the investment in the right information systems. Why we sometimes diminish what we are truly worth is amazing. No other profession does that.
Sorry for being so tough on this topic, but business is hard enough these days and people question everything. If shops don’t realize what they are giving up, it makes it bad for all of us.
Please tell me what you think. Agree? Disagree? Or any other thoughts....
Is your business down 40 or 50% like many on this forum? If so, I have an idea to help a bit now, but especially in the future. And even help the impression of our industry.
You probably have more time available to spend with your customers. It’s the perfect time to build or cement a great relationship, to create that illusive trust with your customer, that’s mentioned in just about every trade magazine, but they never tell you how. May I suggest “The How” that I’ve been using for years? This will be handy now and in the future when this is over.
Learn more about your customers. Become “friends.” Talk about everything: the lousy situation we’re in, ask about their job, their kids, their past vacation, their future vacations, their weekend jaunts. Exchange good news. Exchange not-so-good news. Listen. Talk about what comes up.
I treat our customers like friends, like former high school friends. And these friends know we have to make a profit (EVERYBODY knows that!)
For me, it’s a given that we’re going to take care of their car. If they tell me their dad just went into the hospital or nursing home, we’re done talking about their car. I ask, “How’s dad?”
But still do your (digital) inspections. And write down everything, even the stuff that can wait six to nine months. This may affect the service writer or shop’s approval percentage, but so what! Your percentage will be lower, but you will do more work on the car this way. (Notice that I didn’t say you would sell more work. I don’t “sell.”) No decision now on the future stuff, it can wait.
If their car came in with a problem, this is what will fix it (there’s no selling: this is the solution). I point out the other thing that needs attention now. There will be some explanation, but no selling: it needs it. No decision for the customer, actually. Their car needs it.
Next I say, “Here are the things that can wait six to nine months, but I want you to be aware so there are fewer surprises.” No selling, no decisions on their part. Plus, I’m the trustworthy guy who’s telling them they don’t need everything now.
“Now let’s come up with a plan for these other things I found about your car.” I’m explaining, not selling. “You can do these now or in two or three months.” NOBODY wants to come back in two or three months so they are leaning in that direction, but no pressure from you. They will probably ask; “What would you do?” I say, “If you hate bringing your car in, do it now.” (this is where you would bring in a little value, benefits and safety) Again, not selling, suggesting; letting them make the decision. Notice that the first two issues didn’t involve them making a dreaded decision: It needs this, doesn’t need that.
If your inspection has 5 things, they will do 2 to 4. If the inspection has 8 things, they will do 3 to 5 – with no selling. You are their friend, you are advising. List everything!
Now think about that phone call. There is only a little selling value or benefits: maybe some safety. So there’s no pressure on you, no bad news. You are the car detective, reading the cars clues and helping your friend thru this.
When you take care of the customer in this fashion, you come from a place of trust, like taking care of a high school friend.
You will be happier because that call back won’t be stressful, you will have more work, and they are more likely to refer your trustworthy, easy-to-work-with shop, which means even more work.
Has the Coronavirus (COVID-19) impacted your auto shop business? If it hasn't yet, it has the potential to do so soon. Please share what you are currently doing, how your business is impacted, what plans you have in place, etc.
Some things to consider:
Do you have a plan in place should you or one of your employees become ill? With school, event, and business closures, how will this affect your shop? Are you sending anything to your customers in terms of sharing your plans around keeping your customer and employees healthy and doing your part in your community? Many small and large businesses have been sending email communications to their customers. Are you marketing to your customers in terms of not delaying car repair, should there be a need to temporarily close? Are your parts suppliers sharing their plans, should the pandemic affect supply chains? Are you stocking up on business and shop necessities? Please share your experience in this topic and stay healthy!
In the media:
The coronavirus and its growing tally of sick and dead victims around the world have been roiling financial markets, prompting countless hand-washing reminders and ruining more than a few vacations, and that’s before anyone knows exactly how widespread the effect will be on the automotive industry, including your local repair shop. Source
“By mid-March, the shortage of supplies will be felt and members are projecting they’ll experience disruption through May or June,” even if operations in China soon get back to normal, said Stacey Miller, senior director of communications at the Auto Care Association, a trade group representing 150,000 auto aftermarket and service businesses. Source
Just saw this online and wanted to share. With the COVID-19 down time some have now, might be of interest. CARQUEST Technical Institute and Worldpac Training Institute are offering free 1 hour online training Monday - Friday, complimentary. See:
Breaking News: The CTI+WTI teams have worked hard over the past two weeks in creating two new opportunities that will allow you to access live training from the comfort of your home. Click the link below for our announcement that highlights the new CTI+WTI Virtual Classroom and World Professional Automotive Community. The World Professional Automotive Community will deliver business and technical topics every night in one-hour segments starting at 8PM EST. The Community is designed to bring our industry together to learn about timely topics that are affecting everyone during this crisis. The Virtual Classroom will deliver technical topics in one-hour segments, at various times starting this week. The Virtual Classroom has been in the works for a year and will become a regular part of how we deliver our Career Pathway content. More to come on this soon.
Click here to see the full announcement
To see what is scheduled for both the Community and Virtual Classroom, simply search the ‘Classes Near You’ tile on this home page and search for Virtual Classroom or VC and World Professional or WPAC and you will see a schedule for each event with a registration link to each. Oh, and these events are available at NO CHARGE.
Join our new CTI+WTI Members group on Facebook
Finally, due to the extended Shelter in Place orders across the country, we have postponed all classroom events through May 1st. We will be converting many of these events to Virtual Classroom events to enable you to continue your training.
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By Joe Marconi
Whatever your normal advertising and marketing strategy is, now is the time to tone down call to action advertising and promotions and communicate your brand to your community. In times of crisis, it’s crucial that your customers and community know what you stand for and there to help if at all possible.
Contact your customers by phone, email, text, etc. Not to sell them anything, but to ask if they are ok. Let them know that you are thinking about them. Connect with them emotionally, like a friend or family member would.
For many shops across this great nation, there will be significant sales drops. With the new financial package, there will be help on the way. Contact your accountant, payroll company, financial advisor, bank rep and find out about the help that is coming your way.
We will get through this together.
By Joe Marconi
New York Governor announced yesterday that the stay-home order will remain in effect until May 15th. With so many consumers not driving and so many businesses closed; sales will be a struggle for the next 4 weeks or more. Many Auto Shops across the country will be in the same boat.
Ok, that's the bad news. The good news is that you are a shop owner, and no stranger to making tough decisions and finding solutions to the most complex problems. I know this is different, but truth is we are all learning together, and we will beat this.
With that said, you will be called upon to remove the emotions from the situation and make the decisions that are best for your employees, family and for the business. You will need to look at your average sales and projected near-future sales and adjust your payroll accordingly. I hesitated for a few weeks, but then made the tough decision to cut staff to get my payroll in line with current sales. It had to be done.
You will also need to look at each line on your Profit/Loss statement and see where you can shave any expenses. Even a few percentage points can end up saving a lot of money at the end of the month.
Lastly, have daily meetings and let your remaining staff know what you are doing. Let them know that the number 1 goal is the health and welfare of everyone. Number 2: Ensure the business thrives, not just survives.
You are tough....now go make those tough decisions!
By Joe Marconi
By now, the dust is settling a bit with regard to the COVID-19 crisis, and we are well into making the adjustments needed to save our shops. There are many shops around the country that have not been affected, and there are many that have been devasted economically. Being from New York, I can tell you that the last 8 weeks have been tough. With sales down more than 50%, I had to make a lot of tough decisions.
The good news (so far), my family and myself are all healthy, and none of my employees have contracted the dreaded coronavirus. I pray each night that it stays this way.
Now, I look beyond the virus. I need to rethink my goals, my financial expectations and feel confident in the fact that we will beat this, and believe that we will be better and stronger when this is all over.
I know many of you are seeking help from the SBA, negotiated terms with your vendors, have worked our deferments with mortgages, loans and insurance payments. And I know that many of you have made the needed adjustments to payroll and staffing. All these things are essential, but the most important factor for you to survive and thrive will be how you handle yourself and your leadership in the coming weeks and months.
You must believe in yourself. Trust you gut and move forward. Remain positive. Shop owners are the most resilient business owners on this planet. Don’t forget that. Move forward starting today and look beyond the virus!