Auto Service World
Feature   August 1, 2006   by Bob Greenwood

Good service just isn’t good enough anymore

Delivering your service in an "excellent" format will impress the consumer and allow the independent shop to move his/her business forward.

Every level of the independent sector of the aftermarket industry must be fully aware of the type of development required in a maintenance and repair shop today that services the consumer. Too many shops continuously cling on to the tradition of selling themselves at a cheaper price, then still end up having an unhappy customer after the services have been performed. That tradition creates a bad reputation perception for the entire aftermarket.

Consider that in the past, survey after survey confirms that the retail consumer really does prefer the independent shop over the new car dealerships. Consider also, though, that new car dealerships are now focused, as never before, on customer’s satisfaction and retention coupled to ensuring a pleasing physical environment awaits the retail customer base.

A high percentage of new car dealerships charge a higher door rate than the average independent, yet the independent shop requires more training, more equipment because the independent works on all makes an models, and on top of that the independent shop still has to pay the same employee taxes as do the dealerships. The question that begs to be asked is why is the average independent focused on a lower price, as statistics are proving the dealerships are currently winning over the consumer and at a higher price. New car dealerships are taking market share away from the independent.

It has been a tradition of our sector of the industry in referring and embracing a mind-set that states “the importance of providing good service to the consumer at a competitive price.” I think that statement is stale, dated and out of touch with reality considering the complexities of both the vehicles and the business today. It is time to re-write that statement and have every level of the aftermarket get their head around and acknowledge “the importance of providing excellence to the consumer at the right price.” There is a difference with the statements. The first statement has emphasis on “competitive price” which in essence states we can beat a price that you have been quoted. The second statement emphasizes “competency and knowledge” with the word excellence. Competency and knowledge is more important today then price.

New car dealerships are sending the message to the consumer that they are focused on “them.” This personal attention can be attractive and the special details they are providing such as washing every vehicle, proper, timely service notification and “going the extra mile” for their business can be impressive.

There is only one way to beat that level of service and that is by executing better than the dealership can. Delivering your service in an “excellent” format will impress the consumer and allow the independent shop to move his/her business forward by attracting and retaining a client…the same type of person the dealership wants.

Independent shop owners and managers must clearly explain this to the staff. It is imperative everyone is on the same page at the same time. It is imperative that the staff understand the complexities of today’s competition and realize they must come to work each day with the real desire to beat the dealerships at their own game. With a focused shop, this can be achieved. Get your team to follow you out of the trenches because they believe in your vision and purpose, not because they are afraid of the consequences if they don’t. Your people are the shop’s greatest assets. Consider that management can buy a employee’s time; you can buy his/her physical presence at a given place; you can even buy a measured number of his/her skilled muscular motions per hour…BUT…you cannot buy enthusiasm, you cannot buy initiative, you cannot buy devotion of hearts, minds or souls…You must earn these.

Good service is just not good enough anymore. We must strive for “excellence” which requires the following attributes to become the culture of the independent sector shop:

1. Sensitivity to the customer’s needs and anxieties. Listen carefully to them and look them in the eye when you do so.

2. Become the Expert in your customer’s situation by understanding their outcome expectations.

3. Take Responsibility to ensure that the customer’s expectations are exceeded.

4. When this happens, the shop will become Valuable to the client as the trust factor begins to build.

5. By becoming valuable, it means you have become Involved with the client by understanding his/her expectations completely.

6. This means the entire personnel of the shop has now made a Commitment to work together and ensure they never let the customer down.

7. When all these dots are connected, the shop and its personnel are now perceived as Excellent at what they do. This is the highest public perception a shop can achieve.

Notice the first letter of every highlighted word, when put together, spells the word “Service.” This is a new definition of service that raises the bar to take the business back from the real competition to a level of excellence. This service level is in-depth and requires management’s full focus to ensure it is executed within the shop. When it is executed, then the shop has reached the level of understanding that says they understand “the importance of providing excellence to the consumer at the right price.”

The profitability of the shop begins to change with the culture change of the shop, since a better clientele is starting to be attracted for full vehicle maintenance and all service work…a client that used to go back to the new car dealership. Consider your approach to your business.

Robert (Bob) Greenwood is President & CEO of E. K. Williams & Co. (Ontario) Ltd. and Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. Bob has 29 years of industry-specific business management experience. He has developed shop business management courses for independent Service Providers recognized as being the most comprehensive courses of their kind available in Canada. Bob is the first Canadian Business Management Consultant and Trainer to be recognized for his industry contributions when he received the prestigious Northwood University Automotive Aftermarket Management Education Award in November 2003. E. K Williams & Co. (Ontario) Ltd. offices specialize in the independent sector of the automotive aftermarket industry preparing analytical operating statements for management purposes, personal and corporate tax returns and business management consultation. Visit them at and sign up for their free monthly management e-newsletter. Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. is a leading edge company devoted to developing comprehensive shop management skills through the e-learning environment. Visit and take the free overview. Bob can be reached at (613) 836-5130, 1-800-267-5497, FAX (613) 836-4637 and by E-Mail: or