By Murray Voth
Regardless of how hard we work towards alternative transportation in Canada, most households need to own at least one vehicle. It is a necessity and a fact of life.
However, owning a car is challenging for the average consumer. It takes a large loan or cash outlay to buy one. It takes a fair bit of money to insure it and keep it fuelled up. And unlike a house or a condo, a car does not maintain its value. (According to a study done by CAA, nearly one in four Canadians ranked depreciation as the least expensive aspect of owning a vehicle. But in fact, depreciation is actually the most expensive – typically accounting for about half the cost of car ownership.)
And then there are repairs and maintenance. And there are a lot of misconceptions in this area as well, given that most vehicle owners do not understand the technology they drive, and generally do not have the knowledge to repair and maintain their own vehicles.
So from the consumer’s standpoint, finding someone to help them with their second-largest financial commitment in life is paramount. But what are they looking for? What do they want from a service provider?
Now, most North American car owners expect honesty from the shop they take their car to, so honesty is not a differentiator; it just gets you into the game. Most car owners expect competence and quality repairs. That again is not a differentiator. No one wakes up in the morning thinking that they are going to go to a shop that is dishonest and does poor work. So why do shops always talk about how great their work is and how honest they are? It is pointless.
So what does the driving public want?
One: They want to be listened to and heard. They want us to slow down, and ask questions they know the answers to. So stop being so technical with them! They want a relationship with the people who look after their car.
Two: They want to be cared for as a person, not as a number. That means that the car repair and the invoice are not the stressor; the fact that the customer will not be able to visit someone in the hospital because they don’t have wheels is the stressor. If we took the time to ask questions about their day, we might find that offering them a shuttle ride to the hospital is the greatest solution we could offer them.
Three: They want transparency about the repair process. That means offering clear communication about timelines, costs, delays, and how things work at the shop. They don’t really need you to explain the actual details of the repair process; they want to know what they can expect from you.
Four: They want to be able to make an appointment request with your business digitally. We’re well into the twenty-first century now; if you don’t have this capability, it suggests you are behind the times in other areas too.
Five: Over the years there has been a perception by shops that “Will-wait” appointments for oil changes and other minor services are what consumers want. (Some consumers have expressed that is what they want as well.) But that is a stressful way to run a shop, as well as a limited way to look after a vehicle properly. However, when good shops explain to their clients that they have a secure after-hours way of dropping off a car and its keys, and a way of picking them up in a lock box, many clients never wait for their car again. They leave it for the whole day! They just thought they had to wait for their appointment.
The title of the article is “back to the very basics,” and I am already in the weeds! So here’s a standard checklist:
1. A customer contacts your shop to make an appointment, and the appointment is made.
2. They drop off their car at the date and time of the appointment, and you write down what service is requested or the customer’s concern, such as a funny noise.
3. You create an estimate for the initial service operations and get authorization to proceed.
4. You ensure parts are on hand for initial services and repairs.
5. You assign the vehicle to a technician for the service, inspection, troubleshooting, or repair.
6. The technician reports back to the service advisor.
7. The service advisor creates an updated estimate.
8. The service advisor contacts the client to update and present the estimate and get further authorization.
9. The service advisor orders parts required to proceed.
10. The service advisor reassigns the car to the technician.
11. The technician completes repairs and services
12. The service advisor finalizes the invoice and calls the client that vehicle is ready for pick up
13. Arrangements are made for a shuttle if necessary, or after hours pick-up if required.
154. The client comes in to pick up the vehicle, the service advisor presents and reviews the final invoice and takes payment. (If arrangements have been made for after-hours drop off and pick up, then digital payment arrangements need to be made.)
Are all of your employees familiar with these steps? You would be surprised how many people working at shops are just flying by the seat of their pants. But most importantly, do your clients know and understand this process?
None of us like to feel out of control. For most vehicle owners, bringing their car to a shop is not their comfort zone; they feel out of control. When we keep them informed along the way and show them that we have it all under control, they relax. People don’t pay for car repairs; they pay for how they experience car repairs.