Article > Opinion

Repairing the Repair Image

By Jon S. Owens

Want to repair the industry's less-than-perfect image? The solution starts every time you interact with a customer.

As this year draws to a close, the urge to reminisce overcomes many folks, especially those of us in the media who feel our "unique" vantage point is valued. As such, you're certain to be exposed to a multitude of recaps of everything that happened this year. Who are we to buck this trend? Just when you thought there couldn't possibly be another list about what happened in '04, along comes your December issue of Counterman.

No need to worry, there won't be a test or anything. It's just that we felt bad because the aftermarket is never mentioned in any of the so-called mainstream media's year-end lists. So, we created our own.

I understand society, in general, is a tad more interested in the presidential election than our own Right to Repair issue as the top political story of '04. And maybe, J-Lo's split with Ben ranks higher among the general population than Steve Handschuh's split from NAPA. It wouldn't surprise me if Usher has sold more records than O'Reilly has brake pads.

Of course I'm joking, but there is a kernel of truth here. The public just doesn't care about auto repair. A recent speaker from the tire industry referred to it as "consumer apathy." I wonder how much apathy consumers have toward an engine bearing, water pump or shock absorber? If they really don't care what brand of tire goes on their vehicles, then they most certainly don't care what brand of alternator is installed. We are an industry born of need, not want, and that will always influence how we are perceived. And, generally speaking, we're not perceived in the kindest of light.

Most in the industry feel our image needs an "extreme makeover." But I think we're in better shape than that. Millions of consumers interact with our industry every single day of the year. It is this interaction that will ultimately determine our industry's image. As such, we control our own destiny, and I think that's good.

However, many efforts to enhance our image overshoot the industry's rank and file, landing silently upon an uninterested public. We need to place a much greater emphasis on educating and training the professionals who interact with consumers on a daily basis at the store and service outlet levels of our market. Give them the tools, information and incentive to exceed consumer expectations. Allow them to back it up by delivering on our promises. By doing these things, slowly but surely, we will begin to have a dramatic impact on our industry's image.

Every year, the Better Business Bureau publishes a list of the industries that receive the most complaints from consumers; auto repair always ranks near the top. With a little effort from everyone who interacts with customers, that's one list we'll not make again.

I hope you enjoy the Counterman "lists" contained within this issue, and happy holidays to you all!

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