By Bob Greenwood
Many shop owners have never embraced the new way of doing business. Their attitude is that things have not changed and the shop is still focused on price as “THE” issue within their marketplace.
Consider the following enlightening statements:
In 1898, Charles H Duell, Commissioner of the U.S. Patents office said, “Everything that can be invented, has been invented.”
In 1943, Thomas J. Watson, Chairman of IBM, predicted that there was a world market for “about five computers.”
In 1977, Ken Olsen, President of Digital Equipment Corp., authoritatively stated that “there is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.”
These statements were made by men who were experts in their field. They based their statements on their past experiences and realities of their time.
Many Shop owners will focus on the words above “realities of their time.” and justify in their minds why price remains the key focus issue in their market place. I submit that it is time to serious embrace the following statement:
“We, the Independent Sector of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry, are called to be architects of the future, not its victims.” A Shop has a tremendous amount of “influence” within a marketplace IF the business truly understands it can create a future. Are you, as a shop owner/manager an architect of our industries future? This is probably one of the most serious, thought provoking, questions of the current generation. We have never looked at our industry in this way.
Consider that if the average shop owner in Canada has been in business 18 years, he or she now has a “responsibility” not only to set up the next generation of their business (succession) but also set up the state of their marketplace they will leave behind.
Consider “price” is a culture, “value added” is a culture, “wow factor” is a culture and “service” is a culture. Which one of these culture words does not guarantee a future? “Price” is the answer that jeopardizes the entire industries future. The remaining words enhance the aftermarkets future.
Consider that a shop owner can be the architect of their marketplace. This is done by establishing a complete culture throughout the entire shop business as to a “way” of doing business.
Consider that the following 10 policies throughout a shop’s business develop a “culture” that can change a given marketplace as well as the Net Income of the service centre business:
- Everyone within the shop itself has clients – the internal workings of a shop’s business is just as critical to establishing a “culture” as do the external workings of the Service Centre. If the Service Advisor and the Technicians realized that their client is not only the person on the end of the telephone and the client they service, but also each other, then perhaps there would be more communication between the internal parties. Consider that “Service” improves Net Income. Does each person within the shop understand what “service” means to each other they work with?
- The shop must be fanatical about the words “customer service” – In other words nobody blames anybody within the business in front of the client as to “why” something went wrong…….they simply make it right!! AND understand they have the “authority” by Management to make it right. The client “rules” in this service shop and live by the words “we will not let you down.”
- Continuously striving for improved service levels – All staff and Management have an attitude “there is a way we can do this better and I WANT to be part of that solution.” No one within the shop believes we have the best service in town YET. There are always ways to improve service levels and we must find that solution.
- Policy and procedures that “befriend” clients must be eliminated – Get rid of procedures, rules and so called company policies that chase clients to the Dealership competition. “We” as an Independent Automotive Service Shop are here to serve you and “stand by you”. This is a definite culture change that is long overdue. Remember we are talking about developing long-term “clients”.
- Allow your people to make decisions – they call this empowering your people. How can you expect your employees to handle angry customer/client situations if you haven’t taught them how or given them the authority to correct the situation? Consider it is far easier and less costly to correct most situations then to find another client of equal volume and cash.
- Believe that “Service” drives NET income – today “service” rules. The client requires the work performed in an accurate and timely manner for safety,, reliability and efficiency. If the culture within your Service Shop system is totally “service” driven, the net income of the Shop WILL improve.
- Listen to your clients – if you are not prepared to truly listen to your clients then how do you determine “what they value”? You perceive value is price, but in reality they truly value something else, consequently, over time, the shop loses the client’s business because the shop didn’t deliver what the client valued.
- Define to the market and staff the service levels plans – what do you mean and how are you going to deliver them?
- Care about your people – Staff relations will mirror your client relations. Treat your people poorly and they will in turn, treat the businesses clients poorly as well. The opposite also is true. Treat your staff well and with respect and watch the difference in your client relationships with the shop and the volume of business that you do with each client.
- Staff reviews are a must – Shop staff must “understand” that they are, and “feel” they are, an important part of the success of the business. The facts are “they are”. How the bookkeeper collects or manages the receivables is just as important as the clean-up person disposing the shop’s garbage in a timely manner. There is a very powerful saying about staff relationship building that goes like this; “Praise your people in public, condemn your people in private”. Your relationship with each staff member reflects on the bottom line of the business. Think about this carefully when analysing the shop’s “profitability”.
The culture of an Independent Service Shop business reflects on the marketplace it works within. A weak shop culture will produce a weak client marketplace, whereas a strong, positive shop culture will produce an excellent marketplace to sell in. This is most prevalent in smaller communities. If all shop owners within the larger city communities carried out their “industry responsibilities” properly, then price would NOT be so prevalent as a “culture” in their society.
Consider that no one else has more influence on a client in terms of “how” they see our sector of the industry than the Independent Shop they have service their vehicle. When you “train” a client well and the shop has earned the client’s trust by never misleading or letting them down, then the culture of that client changes towards the shop’s culture.
Consider a “price culture” shop trains to, develops, and attracts a price marketplace. A “value-added”, “service orientated” shop culture trains to, develops, and attracts a value-added, service orientated, clients. The latter enjoys less stress, is more profitable and enjoys a better ROI than the former.
I truly believe that with the right discipline, focus, and effort, you really can be the architect of your future. Consider accepting and committing to this challenge….. and re-energize your business.
Don’t believe it to be possible? …… Well…You are the expert within your marketplace today. Consider what was said by experts in 1898, 1943 and 1977.