Auto Service World
Feature   November 1, 2009   by David Halpert, Assistant Editor And Tom Venetis, Editor

AIA Delivers Success At This Year’s Ontario Grand Forum

AIA Canada held the 2009 Ontario Grand Forum at the Doubletree by Hilton in Toronto, bringing together aftermarket manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and auto-technician professionals as well as ...

AIA Canada held the 2009 Ontario Grand Forum at the Doubletree by Hilton in Toronto, bringing together aftermarket manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and auto-technician professionals as well as some of the most outspoken critics in the automotive industry.

After a few brief welcoming remarks, Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc., spoke to the attendees about “Service Professionals in a Consumer World.”

“If there is one thing you need to do,” said DesRosiers in his opening comments, “It’s think strategically. There’s no silver bullet that will have your customers coming back into your store!”

DesRosiers pointed out that customers, when it comes to automotive-related repair or maintenance work, often see such purchases as something to be done grudgingly. It may be necessary for the care and maintenance of the vehicle, but it is inconvenient, disrupts the work day and sometimes comes with sticker-shock. The challenge for service providers is how to overcome that grudge purchase mentality and steer customers away from dealership service operations.

The key to getting people to come to the independents requires two things, DesRosiers said. The first is to stop worrying about the customers who focus on price alone, the bargain-hunters who will take a vehicle from one shop to another looking for the cheapest price, or see if they can convince the shop staff to cut them a deal.

They are not worth the aggravation or the effort, as no matter how good of a deal you may wish to give them, they will always claim someone else can do it cheaper.

The next step is to focus on what customers do look for in an independent service shop. DesRosiers said in all of his research he finds customers look for four key things from independent service providers: doing the work right the first time, trust, fair pricing and having the job done on time and guaranteed. Focusing on those key customer drivers will help bring customers and sales for independents.

The focus on improving sales was the theme of ‘Mac’ McGrovern’s two-part presentation at the forum. Director of marketing and training for KYB America, McGovern said too many technicians are leaving profitable maintenance and repair work ‘on the table,’ with some studies suggesting in Canada some $88 per day for each technician, amounting to some $2 billion country-wide. McGovern suspected that amount is too low and is closer to $250 for each technician. Multiply that by five days and a shop could be seeing $195,000 in lost revenue.

The problem is a lack of proper sales training, parts knowledge and techniques for effective customer communications. By improving a technician’s technical training and parts knowledge, investing in sales and communications training and using such things as the Motorist Assurance Program’s standards for identifying clearly to customers what work is required and what is suggested, more profit-earning sales repair and maintenance work can be had.

Some of the other well-attended lectures at the forum included “Operational Planning -Stop Hoping…Organize” by outgoing AIA Chairman and national manager of Petro-Canada Centrigard, John Watt and “What’s New in Automotive Technology” by technical instructor for the Canadian Automotive Repair and Service (CARS) Dave Vollmer.

During the Ontario Grand Forum, AIA Canada announced it would offer to sign the voluntary agreement on the Right to Repair known formally as the Canadian Automotive Service Information Standard (CASIS). Aftermarket critics were initially sceptical that the agreement might threaten the process of the current Right to Repair (also known as Bill C-273) currently making its way through the legislative process.

However, on October 16, an interpretation guideline was issued by the car companies which clarified their position on aftermarket access to engine calibrations. That clarification now clearly states that the aftermarket will receive identical flash download information, the same as the OEM authorized dealers.

As a result, the AIA Board of Directors made the decision to put the full weight of AIA’s support behind the CASIS agreement. While AIA Canada hasn’t officially signed the agreement as of yet, they are optimistic about future discussions with auto manufacturer associations.

“As a result of the clarification AIA is confident that resolution of the key concern for AIA members has been achieved, and therefore AIA has formally requested to become a signatory of the CASIS Agreement. By signing the agreement, AIA has come to the conclusion that support of a legislated option such as Bill C-273 to remedy the access to information issue is no longer necessary.”

Although the CASIS agreement would allow independent service and repair shops to flash computer modules, update/reset computer modules, and restart vehicles, it would not allow them to alter any OEM engine or vehicle system control module firmware, take vehicles out of compliance with environmental or safety regulations or alter the engine performance of vehicles.

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