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October was a very rough month in retail sales for us, across the board it came in down about -40%, yes, almost half of our average sales. Corporate accounts were down -16%.
What is going on, what are we supposedly doing wrong? November is on par with the past years but not by much.
We track our marketing meticulously, we ask our customers for feedback, what do we know? This is what we know, our customers are struggling financially, many are living in houses that their mortgages are not being serviced, they are in dire straights.
We have gone deeper into our research, but are not happy with what we are seeing. Bottom line, social and political economic policies are broken, we are in big trouble and we instinctively "feel it" but no one in political office will point it out because it is a thankless job.
I am an optimist, but even I have a hard time being positive about the present outlook.
By Joe Marconi
It's been a long tough winter for many shops. Now that we are in spring, some shops are doing good, and for others, not so good. It's hard to determine if there are any trends. Usually after a tough winter, business rebounds and sales are up.
How are you finding business so far this spring? And what are your thoughts about business and the economy?
By Joe Marconi
Working with extended warranty companies can be frustrating. Some go over the line and make me question if we are still in America.
The other day, Mike one of my service advisors was obviously upset on the phone. He was calling to get authorization for a claim. The claims rep questioned our labor rate, stating that the average labor rate in our area was $30 dollars less than ours. The claims rep also stated that he wanted to see all our part invoices because they only pay MSRP list (whatever that means) with a cap at 15% over what we pay!
It was obvious that he was strong-arming Mike. My opinion? These tactics must stop. Who are they to tell me that my labor is too high? Who are they to dictate to what I can charge? Who are they to demand me to send them my part invoices. This is America, right?
I told Mike to give that I would call to finalize the claim. I gave rep an earful and refused to back down on my labor rate. I also refused to fax him part invoices. I actually told him, what if I got the parts for free? What are you going to pay me? I simply told, Just give me what you are paying and the rest is coming from your insured He did not like that, and I did not care.
Luckily, we have a policy to warn customers about these warranty companies, and inform the customer that they will be responsible for the balance that Their warranty company does not pay. In the end, the warranty company was the bad guy, we were the heroes, and the job was done the way we want.
By Joe Marconi
How to capitalize on the tough winter
Spring is here… well technically it is. There will be a lot of winter related work and we need to capitalize on this. Take care of your customers. Make sure you inspect every car. Don’t get tunnel vision and just focus on the immediate concern. Remember the concept of total car care.
This strategy will benefit the customer by identifying key services and repair issues, saving the customer in the long run.
It’s all about taking care of your customers. And the added benefit? What it will add to your bottom line.
By Joe Marconi
This year has been one of strangest years in business I have ever experienced. I have lived through many roller coaster economies in my 32 years as a shop owner, but this time around it’s a bit different. Although the media tells us the economy is better, I don’t think they have spoken to the same people I speak to on a daily basis. But, we will live through whatever is going on and come out even stronger, I am confident of that.
One very positive aspect is my car count, which remains strong. A clear indicator that consumers are still coming to me, it’s just that their discretionary income is somewhat less these days and their concern about the short term and long term future has them a little leery about spending.
The other day I had to leave early and called the shop later that day to see how things were going. I know that the schedule was booked and expected to hear good things. My service advisor sounded a little down and told me that he just can’t sell anything lately.
Now, let’s clear things up. A few “no’s” once in a while is normal. You can’t make every sale. But when a service advisor of this caliber who is accustomed to making sales get rejected more than usual, it starts to eat at him.
The next morning I sat down with my manager and two service advisors and explained to them that people are worried right now. Do not take it personal and just stick with our game plan. Always remain positive and look for ways to help people. Give them options, plan out the services they need and try to understand the situation from their point of view.
When you see an employee getting a little discouraged, it’s your job as the boss to give them an emotional pat on the back and point out all the good they have done. Maintaining morale and optimism will go a long way and just may make the difference between success and failure.