Article > Opinion

Ready For Some More Business?

By Mark Phillips

John Watt, national manager, CERTIGARD Franchised Operations, Petro-Canada, has a great idea for repair shops: Get customers asking for non-essential work to come in on slower days. The reason? He believes shops can make a whole lot of money by doing so.
Mark Phillips
Watt believes that customers who bring in their vehicles for small stuff aren’t getting the attention the vehicles deserve. Say someone brings in a vehicle for an oil change. If the shop is slammed, most likely, that vehicle won’t get a thorough review to see if that  vehicle needs anything else. That vehicle owner will leave the shop happy because they got the oil change they wanted. But what did the shop miss? Therein lies the sweet spot, Watt believes.

Watt, who spoke at the recent 15th annual Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium in Chicago, gave some numbers and scenarios which seem plausible. Watt gave an example where a shop has 14 vehicles in the bays on a particular day, and five of them need only an oil change. Nine of the other vehicles produce $4,250 worth of work. The five with oil changes produce only $250.

“The techs, busy with the other nine vehicles, had no time to do proper road tests and inspections,” Watt said. “The customers left the shop thinking nothing was wrong with their vehicles.” Five “less reliable” vehicles are on the road for the next three to six months and the drivers don’t know it, Watt said. But say those vehicles each needed $450 worth of other work? (Which, given the current state of economic affairs and the fact owners are letting work slide even longer and longer, seems entirely possible.) If this scenario happens just twice a week, 52 weeks a year, it adds up to a potential of $234,000 in missed sales. If this figure is applied to only 80 percent of the country’s auto repair shops, it adds up to $43.5 billion a year.

Those five vehicles were let into the shop to satisfy the customer’s timing. It’s time, Watt believes, to change the customer’s expectations. He suggests asking them to come in on slower days where the vehicles can get a closer look and the shops can generate more business.

What’s this mean to you? Obviously, more sales. Now, I know as well as anyone, this sounds a lot easier on paper than it likely will be to accomplish in real life. But it’s worth a shot.

Most-Valued Possession
Ask a bunch of people these days what their most valued possession is, and they’ll likely give you varying answers. Research in Europe, Germany and Japan shows that those in “Generation Y,” generally recognized as people born from the mid-1970s to the very early 80s value their mobile phone more than any other possession. (They’re different than “Generation X” types, who were born after 1963, the end of the Baby Boomers).

Ask someone older than Generation X or Y and they’ll likely tell you they value their automobile the most. Based on that, Daimler and PSA Peugot Citroen are testing programs that are similar to car-sharing, according to an article in The Financial Times newspaper.

Where the mobile phone concept comes in is that those in Generation Y apparently show a liking for being able to use pay-as-you-go for vehicles. Or being able to pay for car use based on packages of minutes and data, just like they do with a mobile phone.

This pay-as-you-go concept isn’t just being tested in Europe, it turns out. Daimler’s trying it out in Austin, Texas, according to the FT.

If this trend, and that is a big “if,” somehow catches on, there are obvious far-reaching implications for those in the automotive aftermarket­­­.

Is this a long way off? Probably. But things these days seems to change much more rapidly than in times past.
  Previous Comments
avatar   Ed   star   6/12/2010   12:33 PM

I spent the first 4 1/2 years of my career in the shop. The concept of full vehicle inspections during scheduled maintenance is nothing new or groundbreaking. What would be groundbreaking is the customers' acceptance you are trying to prevent a problem from becoming more expensive and not "You are just trying to rip me off because I am a woman/guy who doesn't know anything about cars". No matter your approach and technique, this is their conditioned response. You could take them out to their vehicle and explain it to them in the most basic of terms, but it is still like taking Gomer Pyle to the Museum of Modern Art's Andy Warhol display and trying to describe what the painting is conveying, all you will get in response to that is, "I think I will have tomato soup for lunch tomorrow".

Is it sell-able? Yes, but what impression did you really give them is the better question.

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