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Customers Putting Off Maintenance

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I see this more often as the days go. Customer igorance is getting worse and explaining the need for brake fluid flushes and coolant exchanges for the first time in a 200k mile car is very difficult.


I usually explain the need for every required service on a customers car in their first visit and then plan with them when each one should be done. Even if a brake adjustment or cabin air filter may be necessary I don't push it and we usually plan these services for their next visit.


We just changed a motor on a 2008 Dodge Charger because the genius never, I mean never did and oil change... I wanted to berate him. Afterward we mapped out all his future services and I turned him into a good customer... let's see.


Joe do you think that surprising these people with all the services their cars should be receiving on their first visit shows the customers that we are professional? or that we are being too pushy to "sell"? That is a fine line that I try to stay 5' away from.

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I observed this pattern about two years ago, now is becoming more pronounced.


For some reason, I have developed a very large African-American customer base, they are not wealthy by any means but are very loyal and in the most part follow my vehicle maintenance recommendations. Their vehicle's miles tend to average between 180,000 miles and 250,000 miles. If they have been with me a few years, I have done their water pumps, timing belts, wheel bearings, shocks, brakes, ball joints or control arms, etc...


I recognize that I do leave a lot of money on the table since I realistically could not do all my customer's maintenance and have decided to control my growth to a very limited rate.


And like you, we do an initial full complementary inspection and give the customer a written report to keep them informed when they come into the shop.


Another thing I had to learn to do well was when to use the word "No."


As in "Mr. Customer, I appreciate your business, but I would not recommend you put any more of your hard earned money to repair this vehicle. After having given it a complete inspection it is my opinion you will not recover your investment if we make this repair."


You may think I would be going out of business turning away repairs, but to the contrary, they seem to bring me even more customers that produce very healthy margins.


I love, if you can love anything inanimate, and like this business very much, and I am sure my customer can see and feel I do like very much what I do. Having said that, the standard I use when dealing with my customers' cars is like if my wife and children would be riding in that car. I make sure that I do communicate that fact to my customers.


Another thing, you will not come on as pushy if you tell the customer what his car needs like you would like to be told what your car needs to be in top reliable shape. Let them know the last thing you would like to be is stranded on the side of the road because your mechanic failed to inform you your belts needed to be replaced.

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I have noticed over the last year or so that many people are putting off necessary repairs. I usually have customers kids' cars in around now while they are on spring break. I have not seen one this year. I do not know if it is related but we were really busy up until the middle of February and now for four weeks it has been pretty quiet. I am not sure how everyone else's business is doing but this is unusual for us.

I know everyone goes through this at some point in time but this is really kind of eerie how quiet it is. The people we do have come in now do not have the money or just do not want to do the repair. I had a lady today. A new customer who just got off her "free oil changes" for two years at Toyota and will be coming to us. Like Joe has said, this is really a big problem for all of us. The dealers are sqeezing us on everything. The car manufacturers are removing maintenance and we are stuck on the outside looking in. We really need to brainstorm to come up with some ideas to combat this situation. I talk to customers constantly about their "free" oil changes. They are not free but they do not want to hear about it. They hear free and they jump on it. The dealer has them worked into the price of the car purchase. We know that but they seem oblivious to that fact. I am definitely shaking my head more and more these days and wondering if this field is going to pay the bills. I have done this over 20 years and it is getting worse. Cars are made better and there is definitely a lot less need for repairs than even 10 years ago. I know people are keeping their cars longer but they do not want to do maintenance and only do the bare minimum lately just to get through. Any thoughts from anyone else? Is anyone else seeing this? I have to make a decision by mid summer if this keeps going. Jim

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  • 2 months later...

I agree with Jeff and I've tell you why I believe the dealers do and say what they do. A lot of them offer free maintenance for "x" number of years so they really try and stretch the maintenance cycle. It's disgusting if you ask me.



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How do you verify that all of your technicians are doing a "complete" vehicle inspection for all vehicles? Do you have a tracking system setup that you use? I would be interested in learning how shops keep track of which techs are doing a complete inspection and which are just skimming through the inspections.

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      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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