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I am new to the service side of the retail auto industry having worked in sales for 5 years. I am now the mechanical department manager of a Carstar collision repair shop. In addition to the usual insurance work, I am starting to take on more customer pay repairs. An issue I keep running into is that because I am located in Canada (South Ontario not far from Detroit) many of the vehicles we work on are severely rusted underneath and many bolts have siezed in place. Many require torches, cutting, drilling, and other unusual disassembly of adjacent components to remove. For example right now I am having a starter replaced on a caravan, and the lower engine mount needs to be removed but is siezed. We needed to apply heat but because it is so close to the rad fan shroud, ended up having to remove the shroud and other items nearby just to attempt to heat and remove the bolt. This ultimately didn't work, and we are now cutting it and drilling it out. Often times using heat causes damage to components. We needed to use heat to cut into a suspension knuckle to remove it after it was damaged from a curb, and ended up destroying a wheel bearing. Abs sensors also commonly need to be snapped off and drilled out because they are just so fused in place. Obviously this gets expensive.
This happens all the time, and as a result the times I am using from shopkey pro and mitchell are not reflective of how long these jobs actually take. On one hand I don't feel it is fair to the customer to charge 2.6 hours for the starter replacement, and another 3 hours to attempting multiple ways to get a bolt out, heating, removing adjacent components, fan shroud R+I... turning a 2.6 hour job into 5.6 hours. On the other hand I understand that this is just the reality of working on vehicles older than a couple years in this part of the country and the customer should be paying for it.
What would you consider standard practice in this situation? I don't want to be eating all this extra time, but I also don't want to have to charge customer hours upon hours additionally because we have to figure out how to unsieze everything.
By Elite Worldwide Inc.
By Bob Cooper
We all know that the industry is continuing to evolve, and you will be seeing your customers less often as time goes on. Accordingly, you will need to find ways to keep your service bays full. One way is through commercial accounts, which we will call fleet accounts. Now I realize that fleet accounts may not be practical for some of you, but for those of you who are open to servicing such accounts, here are some tips you may want to consider…
First of all, many shop owners shy away from fleet accounts because they feel they’re not profitable, and I can understand how they would feel that way. But don’t forget; you set the pricing, not the customer, and there are many business owners who are willing to pay a fair amount for quality repairs and service. Ironically, there’s a perception that in order to be competitive in servicing commercial accounts, you have to come in with the lowest price. Yet in reality, that’s not the case. When I was still operating auto repair shops, I discovered that fleet owners and managers are most interested in quick turnarounds and quality repairs that keep their vehicles on the road. There is no question that with commercial vehicles time is money, which is why every fleet manager knows that vehicle downtime costs them a fortune.
Fleet owners (and managers) need to know that their vehicles will be turned around quickly, so you may want to give them a guarantee when it comes to the turnaround time. You should also bear in mind that your warranty will play a strong role in their decision, because it will send two messages. First of all, it will let them know just how confident you are in your repairs and services, and secondly, it will give them the peace of mind they need in knowing that if one of your repairs fails, they won’t be facing additional expenses.
Now we all know that there will need to be some conditions in place with your warranties, especially with commercial vehicles, but your basic warranty needs to be good enough to put the customer at ease. Something else that I discovered over the years is that fleet owners and managers are busy doing what they need to do with their businesses, so the more hassle-free the service and repair experience is, the more open they will be to your proposal. This leads me to the best-kept secret to landing the right fleet accounts…
What you need to do is put your entire proposal in writing. Fleet owners and managers have been duped in the past in many ways, but one of their biggest challenges is that as soon as they switch service providers, they find that a month or two later they’re faced with huge price increases. This is why you need to clearly outline the prices for the more common repairs and services you’ll provide, and you should guarantee those prices for one full year. You should also clearly outline your warranties, towing provisions and pricing, inspection services, turnaround time and any employee discounts that you elect to include.
Now before I go any further, I know that many of you are thinking that even if the account takes you up on your offer, the margins are going to be thin. I would be the last to disagree, but I also hope you consider that because the services are pre-sold, your efficiencies will naturally improve. Secondly, most advisors are more than willing to earn a little less on these accounts because the jobs are pre-sold, and thus do not require the same investment of their time. Now here comes the best part: beyond having all of the fleet account employees exposed to your brand, the account’s brand is now promoting you. To put it another way, just think of how much more powerful your image and automotive repair marketing campaigns will be when the people in your community know that many of the community’s prominent business owners turn to you as the best choice when it comes to repairing and servicing their vehicles. I am sure you will agree; that kind of name association is priceless.
So, can fleet accounts work for you? Only you can answer that question, but one thing is for certain: now that we are seeing customers less frequently, fleet accounts will be an integral part of many successful shops in the coming years.
Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with online and in-class sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.
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I was wondering how many shops charge for everything that goes into a repair? For example, zip ties, dielectric grease, clamps, bulbs, fuses, heat shrink , butt connectors, etc. It seems to me some shops have a "shop supplies" charge and let it go at that. Other shops do a great job of getting everything on the invoice and then also have a "job supplies" ( not shop supplies, because it is for the job, not shop ) to cover consumables. Of the shops that are getting everything on the invoice, what is your advice on making that happen? How do you do it?
After two years, Our shop would like to start servicing TPMS services lights preset on most vehicles we encounter at our facility. I can't even imagine how much income we lost from not thinking about this earlier.
What scanners do you use to scan\flash TPMS sensors and how much do you charge?
Thanks in advance for your thoughts and opinions.
I think that it is very important for shops to check TPMS sensors BEFORE changing tires to avoid blame for defective sensors.
What equipment is your shop is presently using--how satisfied are you with it?
I'm considering the purchase of the following KTI tool: http://ktipst.com/index.php?page=press_release
And the following system (affordable universal replacement sensors that can be programmed to mimic OEM sensors) sounds great, but I don't know anyone who has used it: CUB Programmable Universal Replacement - TPMS Scan Tool ($650 from Tire Rack Wholesale) and TPMS Sensors ($28 each from Tire Rack Wholesale)
Thanks for your help!