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Free towing, free shuttle, pickup and dropoff


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Hi guys,

 

I am new to this forum but am hoping to gain lots of insight into the automotive repair industry and hopefully be a contributing part of the forum as well.

 

My question for current shop owners is whether any of you have tried, free towing, free shuttle service or even free pickup or dropoff of customer vehicles. I am just wondering whether to incorporate any of these services into my business plan for a tire and auto repair shop? First I am wondering whether it is something that customers truly appreciate and whether it will draw people in because of it? Also I would like to know how costly it was to you and if it was truly profitable or was it just a waste of money?

 

I am thinking of offering something along these lines just simply to help with the location problem to a mechanic shop, a lot of people complain that a shop they like is not in the right location or that it does not have convienient hours of service. I was thinking that this could be a possible solution to this problem.

 

Also this shop will be located in Kansas so i would like relative info for this area. thanks guys!

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Well right now I am leaning more toward loaner vehicles for those who have their vehicle in for more than a day or so. But I don't know whether to add a shuttle service as well for those who need it but I just don't know whether people will see that as an added value to their service or just not really care. From what I have found from researching my customer base is that they care a lot about price, quality, time, trust and customer service so I'm trying to kinda build the business around what customers want.

 

I would like to hear what people have tried in this area. What has proved to be beneficial to you business or what has been a waste in terms of gaining customers and ultimately profit?

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I have 1 loan car right now. I can't count how many jobs I've sold when I mention 'free loan car'. I've never really considered a shuttle, but I have been toying with the idea of a 'pick up and delivery' service. Pick up and delivery service would go well with free loan cars, but like Joe said, you are walking the line of Nordstrom and Neimen Marcus at that point.

 

Now that I think about it, pick up and delivery should definitely be offered! It doesn't require any investment up front. You have to buy a loan car, you have to have a shuttle vehicle, but you and a service writer, service writer and tech, 2 techs, or whoever can go pick up the customers car from their work/home and then return it when done.

 

Just my thoughts...

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I have 1 loan car right now. I can't count how many jobs I've sold when I mention 'free loan car'. I've never really considered a shuttle, but I have been toying with the idea of a 'pick up and delivery' service. Pick up and delivery service would go well with free loan cars, but like Joe said, you are walking the line of Nordstrom and Neimen Marcus at that point.

 

Now that I think about it, pick up and delivery should definitely be offered! It doesn't require any investment up front. You have to buy a loan car, you have to have a shuttle vehicle, but you and a service writer, service writer and tech, 2 techs, or whoever can go pick up the customers car from their work/home and then return it when done.

 

Just my thoughts...

Pickup and delivery was definitely another one of my ideas but to me that seems even more expensive than just a shuttle service cause now you have to pay two workers to go get the vehicle and bring it in, what you think?

 

So did you just give the loaner out to someone whos vehicle was going to be in like over a day? Also how were the maintenance and costs of licensing insuring and all that? High low?

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A lot of this depends on what size shop you are running.

 

Pick up and delivery still seems cheaper to me vs. a shuttle. Plus, the hardest part is getting customers in the door. Pick up and delivery eliminates that.

 

I give the loaner out to folks who are usually doing something bigger than a regular service, but it's really a case by case type thing. If it's a really slow day and someone wants to drop their car off for an oil change and tire rotation on their lunch break, I'll give em the car so they can go eat somewhere. If I know a car is coming in for a timing belt, water pump, valve over gaskets, brake job, and 90K later, I'll hold the loan car for that customer.

 

Again, more I think about it, the more loan cars and PU and delivery services leave more decisions up to you. You can decide when to loan out the car and when to hold it. You can decide when/if you can PU and Deliver a car or not. Shuttle leaves you at the mercy of whenever a customer shows up (granted, there are ways around this too).

 

Maintenance on loan car is pretty cheap... After all, you do own an auto repair business. Insurance is cheap (going to depend on what your loan car is though (2013corvette vs 1992 cavalier))

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Ok cool so you think a combination of a loaner and pu or delivery is best? The only reason I see pu and delivery as more expensive is that it takes two of your employees and a vehicle where shuttle only takes one employee and a vehicle and you could prolly find some old retiree that might do it for cheap if not free. What you think? I'm for sure sold now on a loaner over a rental though.

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Consider your expeneses first.

Who will be dropping off and picking up customers? Will you have to hire additional help or will you or one of your techs be responsible for this? From prior experience at our shop, we have had to work around the customers schedule when to pick them up, which can sometimes be a haggle - yet, they do appreciate it. We provide a shuttle service to select customers, meaning, if they are leaving their vehicles for major repairs- not a simple oil change, rotation, inspection, etc.

Liability is also a factor to consider.. accidents, tickets, etc.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think Joe gives a really great overall explanation. To put it simply, you just need to ask yourself, does this service create value for my customer and for my business. If your customer loves having a rental car, but it is lowering your bottom line, what is the point in doing it. I think rental cars are one of the easiest added service to offer, and the most beneficial for customers. It's the least disruptive to their lives and it does not require you to have one of your employees sitting outside someones house or driving around looking for them for 45 minutes. However, we do not offer them because of the expense.

 

If you are considering offering rental cars and you are thinking about purchasing your own, I suggest you really do the math with regards to cost. First is insurance. Someone here mentioned that is was not that bad. I have to wonder if that insurance company knows exactly what that car is being used for. Because when I inquired I was shocked at the cost. Also, logically it seems like maintenance would be minimal as you would do the repairs yourself, but when I did the math, I was surprised how much more it was than I thought. Then there is gas. If you want the customer to take care of this, it starts to take away some of the value of the "free loaner car". The last one and the most important in my opinion is the liability. Is it worth losing your business should something go wrong while a customer is driving that car. Occasionally we will "get a customer a loaner car". We call Enterprise, the customer does the paperwork with them and when they return the car, we pay the bill. The only liability we incur is the rental fee.

 

There is a large Mercedes dealer near us that advertises that they have over 100 rental cars. They use Enterprise. Our Home Depot rents trucks. This is all done through Penske. I believe these companies know is is more cost effective to do it that way and that it limits their liability.

 

I would love to hear what you decide and how it works out for you.

 

Scott

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Hi every one we drop off and pick customers to work or home, and the customers love it.

 

We have one driver and just want to know what is your distance and how do you book them in.

 

Our driver drops customers off at 3.5 miles, but some customers test it and want us to drop off at 7 miles which delays other customers waiting for the service.

 

Also does any one have a book in system with drop off and pick ups.

3 a day etc?

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

         5 comments
      I recently spoke with a friend of mine who owns a large general repair shop in the Midwest. His father founded the business in 1975. He was telling me that although he’s busy, he’s also very frustrated. When I probed him more about his frustrations, he said that it’s hard to find qualified technicians. My friend employs four technicians and is looking to hire two more. I then asked him, “How long does a technician last working for you.” He looked puzzled and replied, “I never really thought about that, but I can tell that except for one tech, most technicians don’t last working for me longer than a few years.”
      Judging from personal experience as a shop owner and from what I know about the auto repair industry, I can tell you that other than a few exceptions, the turnover rate for technicians in our industry is too high. This makes me think, do we have a technician shortage or a retention problem? Have we done the best we can over the decades to provide great pay plans, benefits packages, great work environments, and the right culture to ensure that the techs we have stay with us?
      Finding and hiring qualified automotive technicians is not a new phenomenon. This problem has been around for as long as I can remember. While we do need to attract people to our industry and provide the necessary training and mentorship, we also need to focus on retention. Having a revolving door and needing to hire techs every few years or so costs your company money. Big money! And that revolving door may be a sign of an even bigger issue: poor leadership, and poor employee management skills.
      Here’s one more thing to consider, for the most part, technicians don’t leave one job to start a new career, they leave one shop as a technician to become a technician at another shop. The reasons why they leave can be debated, but there is one fact that we cannot deny, people don’t quit the company they work for, they usually leave because of the boss or manager they work for.
      Put yourselves in the shoes of your employees. Do you have a workplace that communicates, “We appreciate you and want you to stay!”
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