This year's Garage of the Year choice was one of the most difficult to make. Each who made it onto the finalists' list deserves recognition and, in the final analysis, the differences between them wer...
This year’s Garage of the Year choice was one of the most difficult to make. Each who made it onto the finalists’ list deserves recognition and, in the final analysis, the differences between them were very small. So instead of going into why one shop was finally awarded Garage of the Year, I’d like to focus on what made all of these shops outstanding.
In the first place, there is a consistent effort placed on customer service and using various business and management procedures to keep everyone in the operations, from the service writers to the technicians in the bays, focused on meeting customer expectations. This is not as easy as it sounds. While many independents say they focus on customer service, many fail to do so. Customer service is often spotty, more around getting the car back to the customer quickly at the cheapest price, or selling a $19.95 oil change as an inducement to getting them into the shop’s front door (I just recently passed a shop which was selling that service at that price). Instead, each of the shops did not undersell themselves in terms of price: their door rates were what they needed to be to stay competitive and yet profitable, and they charge appropriately for diagnostic work, instead of the tendency of some shops to give that service away for free.
Each shop’s management practices also emphasized clear customer communications, a consistent means of addressing issues. Finally, each of the shops put a high premium on building long-term customer relations, using a maintenance model as the standard on which to keep people coming back.
These practices are going to become important for every independent in Canada if they plan to survive in the next few years. Right now, Canadian car owners are feeling the economic pinch and cutting back on expenses. Already, retailers are reporting people are forgoing many purchases, cutting discretionary spending and postponing purchases on various big-ticket items. The same is happening with vehicle repair and maintenance. Some people are pushing back work on their vehicles in an effort to save money. The temptation amongst some shops will be to drop prices, much like consumer retailers are trying to do right now, to attract business. But this is a mistake and is to be avoided. In the J. D Power and Associates report we did in August, price was not a deciding factor in how the majority of Canadians decide on where to take their vehicles to be serviced or whom to stay with. If price was the major factor, then Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire would have been much higher on the J. D Power and Associates list; in fact, they ranked near the bottom in customer satisfaction, so that should be a clear signal to the independents that a focus on price alone is a sure way to drive customers away. Instead, what J. D Power and finds, and is supported by other studies as well, is that focus quality of technical and customer service is what attracts Canadians and keeps them loyal to a shop. So take that as a lesson. All of Garage of the Year finalists and this year’s winner understand that and are profitable and growing because of it.
Some people are pushing back work on their vehicles in an effort to save money. The temptation amongst some shops will be to drop their prices, much like consumer retailers are trying to do right now, to attract business. But this is a mistake and is to be avoided.