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By Zs Automotive
I just opened an auto repair shop about 4 months ago, but I'm still working my full time job as a tech therefore I open the shop from 4 pm until 9pm M-F and 8-5 on Saturday. I'm starting to build customers but most are from referrals and neighbors I don't get much traffic cars. I'm starting to think that the hours I'm open don't really work for the auto repair business seems like after 6 everything dies. Has anyone worked this kind of hours or what do you guys think about this odd hours.
First time in 40 years I got my 1st credit card fraud case. Guy calls my assistant wanted tire price, he gives price, guy says you take CC over the phone, company is paying for tires , I know almost all my customers, guy calls back wants tires , my assistant ask a few questions they cut a deal. Ok here is where I would have got suspicious. 1- guy wants a odd size tire 2- the guy that comes to pick up is not the name of the guy he said was coming. 3- The guy carries the tires out. Ding, Ding, Ding. This assistant has been with me for 17 years, great guy, did not get all the info on CC although he got the 3 digit code. This had warning bells all over it to me. The card goes through , no big deal. Now month later we get charge back. I call my CC provider . I am screwed. A few bad make it worse for all the good people, now my shop no longer take CC over the phone , period. You know I guess the handshake days is over,sad times in America. You know I have a great database of consumers, shoot, I have probably 50 CC on file that pay as we repair. I will continue with that although the walk of the street guy unless a referral is stopping. This world has a lot of crooked people in it. "GUYS BEWARE"
By Joe Marconi
This is a different tip this week, but important.
There have a lot of phony scam phone calls claiming that the IRS is starting a law suit. If you receive a phone call claiming to the be IRS, hang up. The IRS does not use an automated phone message to start any correspondence, audit or law suit.
Also, please pass this information to friends and relatives.
By Joe Marconi
As the economy recovers, new car sales will increase. The aging US fleet, which was predicted to be a boom for repair shops, never really materialized as we thought it would. As an industry, independent repair shops survived and some faired quite well. Just not to the extent that many of us predicted. That’s not to say we did not have opportunity, we did. However, as we painfully found out, when people are out of work, feel poor, and when consumer confidence is low, it makes our job a lot more difficult. Shops owners were put to the test and proved to be both resourceful and resilient during the great recession. Shop owners will be challenged once again, very soon.
Consumers are returning to the new car show rooms. That 220,000 mile, 12 year old Ford Taurus, your customer has been driving, has seen better days. It’s time to go car shopping. Around the country dealership are preparing for the surge in sales and we, as repair shop owners, need to prepare also. Why? Consumers will see and experience a different breed for new car dealerships. Many new car dealers are starting to “get it.” The economic climate in the U.S., along with stiff competition from Europe and Asia resulted in many casualties, resulting in a steep decline in new-car dealership numbers, particularly among the Big Three. But just as in the wild, the thinning of the heard is good news for those new car dealers that survived.
New car dealers and car makers understand, better than ever, that the service department can have a decided influence in future new car sales. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, a GM spokesman stated that when consumers use the dealer for their scheduled maintenance, those consumers are twice as likely to purchase another GM car. Plus, no one car maker dominates the market to the degree where their dealership can solely rely on car sales as their only income stream. Income from the service department and parts department are crucial to today’s dealership model.
Marketing programs and strategy, such as Toyota Care, and other free maintenance plans will continue and most likely spread to most car companies. The aim is to lock-in the customer to the dealership through the service department, which hopefully will reduce the defection rate that was so prevalent in years past. Just do a search of your own database and you will find many of your customers who have not returned to you since purchasing or leasing new cars because of perceived “Free Maintenance.”
New car dealerships across the country are also undergoing remolding and restructuring. Improvements will be made in not only increasing dealership physical size, new equipment and appearance, but changes to the service area as well. This is all geared toward enhancing the customer experience. Some average sized dealerships will be transformed into mega-dealers. The overall goal: To capture as much of their prospective market as possible.
Should you be concerned? Well, you should. This is not to say that I think all the dealers will become so powerful that they will knock us into oblivion. Most dealers will make all the cosmetic improvements, make all the attempts at the delivering great customer service, and pour tons of money into their dealerships. And most of them will fail at making a difference. The reason? Ultimately, the car makers and car dealerships want to sell new cars. And that makes them vulnerable. If the heart and culture of the company is truly not in line with the customer and maintaining their car, no plan will fully work. Only those dealerships that truly give up the notion of buy and replace a car every few years, will make an impact.
So, what do we do about this? The first thing is not to bury your head in the sand and fall prey to that old adage that the dealers don’t know what the heck they are doing and that none of your customers would ever think of going back to the dealer for service, especially after the warranty period. That may have been true in 1990, not anymore.
The perception of the new car dealer is slowly changing and people are also economically tired. One of the reasons why they will buy a new car is because they are tired of putting money into that old clunker. Car makers and salesmen will continue to campaign their propaganda that these new rocket ships on wheels need very little maintenance and because they are so complicated, the dealer is your “best” choice.
More propaganda will be from “free maintenance”, and will help to condition the consumer that not much is needed on their car. Why will the consumer believe this? It’s because for the first few years not much WAS done if they went back to the dealer for service.
Now let’s add extended oil services into the mix. It wasn’t long ago that our goal for customer retention was to see a customer’s vehicle about 4 to 5 times per year. That was when the accepted oil service interval was anywhere from 3 to 5,000 miles. Take a look at the new car service intervals today; 7,500 to 10,000 will soon be the norm. This will no doubt cause a decrease in car counts and revenue for many shops.
In spite of all this, we the independent shop owners have the edge. We were the first to understand that we thrive because we are part of the community. We were the first to understand that our customers come to us because we are genuinely interested in their welfare. There are no ulterior motives at play. We don’t sell new cars and we don’t sell car parts. Rather, we look to extend the life of our customer’s cars and promote preventive maintenance which ultimately lowers the overall cost of owning an automobile.
We also understand that our customers come to us because of who we are. People come to us not because of a particular brand name. This is our greatest strength. It must drive new car dealer’s nuts that we can be so successful without any brand name like Toyota, Ford or GM hanging over our bays. Yes, this is our greatest attribute. We survive and thrive because of who we are.
The new car dealers are coming after our business. That’s a fact and we all know it. Those of you who don’t heed the warning will be in trouble. This is my fear. Those of you who continue doing business the same way you did yesterday will also be in trouble. Earlier I spoke of the thinning of the heard. I am afraid that this may also happen with many of our colleagues if we don’t plan and prepare today.
Never forget that it’s you who will make the difference. If you’ve gotten this far with all that has happened the last few years, my bet is on you. See you in the future!
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And Now, A Word From Our Sponsors…
You’re home, kicking back on the couch watching your favorite TV show when a commercial comes on. It’s one of those ads for some new pill on the market. The announcer asks if you suffer from the aliment they’re describing, and then tells you about this great new medication that will set things straight. Of course, it’s soon followed by all the apparent side effects associated with this new drug. A lot of times, the part about the side effects takes longer to describe than the benefits of this new wonder pill. Eventually, the commercial ends the same way they all do, “Ask your doctor about . . .”
Let’s say you’re one of those hypochondriacs and you head to the doctor because you believe you’ve got “it”, whatever “it” is that was described in the commercial. The doctor performs a few tests and maybe a little blood work only to find out there’s nothing wrong with you. But, being the hypochondriac that you are, you demandingly tell your doctor that in fact you are ailing from whatever was described in this TV ad and, you know exactly what new modern pill will fix you right up. The doctor on the other hand, sends your psychotic self on your merry way, washes his hands of the whole thing, and probably refers you to someone in the Sigmund Freud side of the medical biz. (Not before he gives you your bill of course.)
Don’t you think your doctor already knows about this new drug? If not, I’m sure it wouldn’t take much for the doctor to do some research and find out all there is to know. And, don’t you think it would be wise to follow the advice of your doctor rather than some announcer on a TV commercial?
Sometimes I feel the same way when somebody comes into the lobby and starts explaining to me their perceived failure of their personal car. I give them my advice on the matter, which usually goes in one ear and out the other. I’m just a mechanic you know, and not a highly trained professional. (A little sarcasm there…probably would have done better if I was the announcer.) But, what if automotive commercials were portrayed in the same manner as these new drugs on TV?
You know, instead of the trash talking commercials telling consumers how their shops are better than every other type of automotive shop in town, or those parts stores that sell everything from A to Z and offer a life time warranty. Let’s be honest people! Ok, ya gotta a cheaper product, I’ll give you that. But, throw a disclaimer in there with that 60 seconds. Let’s talk about the effects of putting a cheap part on a car. And, seriously… let’s talk about the qualifications of these grease rack nut busters.
Rather than telling everyone all the virtues of your warranties and how friendly your counter people are, let’s focus on those side effects from taking the cheaper route. How about informing the public of what happens when you use the wrong viscosity oils and not that all your mechanics can leap tall buildings and swing through trees. (I took a poll… 4 out of 5 mechanics can’t leap tall buildings, nor swing through trees.)
It’s no wonder automotive repair ranks up there with the most dreaded and/or distrusting ventures the average consumer wants to be involved with. They hear all this talk about maintenance, maintenance, maintenance, but find out that if they accidentally skipped an oil change once or twice their car hasn’t exploded or fallen apart… (Yet). It’s hard for an unknowing consumer to trust a mechanic when some goof ball announcer is on the TV telling them something entirely different than their mechanic. Inevitably, maintenance is put on hold, or it’s completely forgotten about. When the car does break down (which it will) it generally leads to some heated exchanges about the extensive repair costs and/or the car being traded in for the next maintenance ignored family truckster.
My advice to those people who put these automotive commercials together, instead of taking up 60 seconds of air time trying to tell me how much better you are how about informing the consumer of the side effects, tell them about cheap parts, and poor maintenance. And, one more thing, all mechanics and all repair shops are not the same. Unless you’re comparing apples to apples, there are no comparisons to be made. When a shop that specializes in let’s say tires, puts an ad together on late night TV or on the radio saying they are a full service shop, and we (the mechanics who have been in the business for years) know all too well that particular shop doesn’t have the technicians to cover their claim. Where’s the disclaimer there? I suppose that’s freedom of speech, a 1st amendment kind of thing. Maybe so, but the side effects means a trip to a reputable shop to fix it correctly. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had to diagnose a car for a shop like I’m describing, or do the actual repair for them.
Maybe I’m being a bit of a hypochondriac about the health of the family car. Or maybe I’m just trying to look out for my customers and warn them before they get caught up in all the hype they see or hear. I can’t say all these ads are bad, they’re not. But, with a few bucks you can create your own slick ad campaign, and the actual quality of the parts or shop can be over shadowed by some catchy slogan or song, which gives that false impression of excellence to the consumer. In the end who’s left to deal with the side effects? The consumer of course.
It’s “buyer beware” out there. Seems selling cheap parts and bragging about your abilities isn’t a crime, while advertising some new drug and not telling the consumer it can cause heart attacks and hearing loss (in some cases)… is. I guess it’s not important to know those cheap brake pads that the discount lube shop put on are going to fail at 75 mph and quite possibly send you into oncoming traffic. (Your results may vary)
Anymore, I just roll my eyeballs when one of these automotive commercials comes on late night television, and I’ll bet a doctor does the same thing when one of those drug ads comes on. But, at least for the doctor’s sake, the manufacturers have to state all the side effects in the commercial. But for the speeding projectile we call the family car… you’re on your own. Those side effects are only noticed after that customer wants to go cheap and not follow their professional’s advice. It’s a soap opera of problems out there… will it ever change? Will those brake pads fail? Can we expect better consumer awareness in the future? What’s next? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out.
Now back to your regularly scheduled program.
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