A long time ago, there used to be a nine-to-five world. People would start work at nine in the morning, have a lunch break and finish up at five, later driving home to family and dinner.
Today, that world seems as distant and nostalgic as those old photographs from the 1950s. Many people today work hours that are hardly the ones our parents or grandparents remember, often staring earlier and working later. And even after coming home, many have other priorities to think of as well: taking the kids to after school events, sporting games or trying to make it to the gym for an hour’s workout before having to rush off to do the shopping and picking up the dry cleaning. The idea that someone today can schedule an automotive repair or maintenance work on the old nine-to-five work schedule has become all too rare.
Stellar Auto Service has seven bays and two full-time technicians. We keep pretty busy and are even thinking of expanding to better serve our growing clientele; and we are even thinking of extending our hours so we can better schedule service work around people’s now very hectic and often ever-changing work and life schedules. I believe this will become a growing trend in our industry over the next few years. Today’s car owner is beginning to expect the service provider to be as flexible in the hours of operations as many other businesses today. If someone can do their grocery shopping in places that stay open until midnight or later, can pick up their dry cleaning late into the evening or can have CAA meet them on the road to replace a broken car battery or do a quick tire change, they will demand the same from their service provider. Today’s business world is coming to realize people’s work and home schedules are not fixed and business must accommodate those schedules. People will demand that they drop and later pick up their vehicle at a time that is convenient for them; and if that person is a very good client, it will be very hard to tell them ‘No’ because your shop happens to close at 5 p.m. but they can only come at 8:00 p.m. to pick up the car.
That is not the only thing that is putting pressure on many of us in this industry. The biggest problem I’m seeing on the horizon is getting access to the diagnostic and reprogramming tools needed for today’s newer vehicles. For example, many of the newest cars are coming equipped with tire pressure sensors as standard equipment. The problem is that if one has to reset those sensors for whatever reason, it is very difficult to get the necessary tools to do the job. Either the OEM will not release the tools to the independent service provider or he or she will have to purchase the tool at a cost that is much too expensive for many to afford. So this means when someone comes into the shop, it may be possible to do about 90 per cent of the work needed; then the customer has to be sent to the dealership to get the reprogramming work done on the system. With vehicles now coming out with more computer controlled systems and sensors, independent service providers will have to work together to get access to the tools and codes. If we don’t, no matter how late we might stay open or how many bays we have, we will lose business as we find it more difficult to service these more complex systems without the right tools.