Auto Service World
Feature   January 1, 2010   by Auto Service World

Demand Study: Who Will Listen?


Over the years, there has been little debate that service providers could be generating more work, and more profits, than they do. The topic of underperformed maintenance has become practically a mantra for this industry both north and south of the border.

And yet, despite claims that billions upon billions of dollars are being left on the table (numbers that I personally find hard to equate with the lot of the individual business, or of my own service needs for that matter), the situation at the grassroots level has remained virtually unchanged.

Certainly there are some excellent communicators out there at service counters across this country–some are owners, some are techs, some are dedicated service advisors–but all the very best have one thing in common: a strong ability to communicate what work should be considered on a vehicle.

Paradoxically, the worst also have a common set of operating principles: fear of the customer, fear of communicating all but the most desperately needed work, and assumptions about what the customer can and will pay for.

Frankly, I’ve never worried about the former group; great business operations and great teams have always found a way to win customer business and make those customers happier in the process.

But, unfortunately, I have also learned that there are those among the latter group who are destined to repeat their failures over and over again, because they don’t believe there can be any other way.

The first group, well, they are going to take care of you and you are going to take care of them because they are your best customers.

The customers that fit into the other group should get some of your attention (of course, a customer is a customer), but do not delude yourself into thinking they can be turned into the top-notch shops you wish they could be.

What you, as a jobber, need to be able to do is determine which shops within your customer base do not fit into either of these groups. This is where the real growth potential lies.

An open mind is your first clue that you can help a customer improve his approach, and the Automotive Industries Association of Canada’s Demand Study is a great tool for doing this.

First, get yourself a copy, highlight a few key numbers (like the per-invoice shortfall average of $239), and then shove it under the nose of every business owner you can get to. Based on their reaction, you will know where their potential lies for you.

Customers who dismiss the study’s findings out of hand without really looking at them are not likely to be receptive to any programs to help them improve. Apportion your time accordingly.

But if it gets a customer’s attention, and prompts him to talk about the study and maybe how he can realize the benefits for his business, you might really have something.

Then you can talk about ways to improve the shop’s approach, through programs like the Motorist Assurance Program, Car Care Canada, and other communication tools.

While the message of the demand study–that the business is really out there for the asking–is not necessarily a new one, the clarity that the new study provides is. Rather than talking about those billions of dollars in missed opportunities, you can ask a customer about the $239 per invoice he’s missing out on. Does he want 200 bucks a ticket more? And then you can do the math for the business. It will probably come out to something like $200,000 a year.

And if that doesn’t get your customer’s attention enough to justify making a few changes, well, perhaps nothing will. — Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor aross@jobbernews.com

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NEXT MONTH

Heating up winter business: Brakes, Emissions, Oil Change, Lighting, Wipers, and More.


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