Auto Service World
Feature   August 1, 2001   by Auto Service World


It is time to stop selling to installers.

Change seems to be so difficult for this industry to embrace, yet change we must or we die.

That type of change statement refers to the business strategy for the jobber’s day-to-day operation and the business’ future financial prosperity. We all know it is an accurate observation.

On the lighter side, because this is a summer issue of Jobber News Magazine, there are some changes to terminology used every day in business that should be cleaned up as well if you expect to have a professional image with the people you sell to.

Just for once, I’m going to talk about words, not actions.

Some jobbers adapt to new industry terms with ease, while others seem to stick their head in the sand, wanting to ignore the obvious by saying “all that stuff is hogwash.”

One example comes immediately to mind. It has been acknowledged by all in this industry that a competent person who diagnoses the problem, and then brings today’s automobile back in line with the manufacturer’s technical specifications, is no longer a “mechanic”, but a “technician.” A technician has a very high level of diagnostic abilities and knowledge and he is a person who spends a tremendous amount of time each month perfecting these skills.

Despite this fact, it is amazing how many jobbers still refer to everyone in the bays as a mechanic. If you do not acknowledge the difference, you can be perceived as just an old-fashioned parts salesperson. The shop owner and the technicians who work for him know that the last thing they need is another salesperson walking through the door of the shop, trying to “sell” them something.

There is another term that the entire aftermarket should change in their everyday vocabulary and everyday thoughts. It would serve their businesses well if they did, because it is a term that the people who operate automotive shops hate and it does not reflect the true description of the repair business today. Those who use it can often convey in their tone of voice alone that they are talking about a group that represents the bottom of the food chain.

It is the term “installer”.

This terminology reflects the actions of a shop owner in the 1930s. It implies that the person is of a lesser profession and it does not reflect the real importance that this level represents to the entire automotive aftermarket industry today.

It is time for a terminology change. It is time to acknowledge the change that has taken place within the maintenance and repair side of the industry, and the important effect it has had on interactions with the retail consumer. This, in turn, reflects on the sales that the other three levels of the industry rely on.

Consider changing your day-to-day terminology, and your mind-set, from one that caters to the “installer” to one that is serving the “service provider.”

The term service provider–I’m sure the industry will change it to a buzzword, calling them “SPs” as it did with warehouse distributors to “WDs”–does reflect what goes on at this level of the aftermarket today. The better service providers are concentrating on providing value-added services to their client base. They are focusing on understanding who they are selling to and customizing their service to that individual, based on their needs and expectations with their vehicle.

Service providers are also at the top of the food chain, not at the bottom. If the front line troops do not sell, and fully satisfy their customer base, then the revenue stream is affected down the line to the jobber, WD, and the manufacturers. If the service provider is not effective in operating his business profitably, then it has a very real dollars-and-cents effect on everyone else in the industry.

Successful service providers are looking at maintaining today’s customer’s vehicle for life, not just the one-time sale for this season.

This level of the industry has changed dramatically, and the skill level required to be successful today is great. Today the competent service provider is a true business professional.

Speak accurately about the top level of our commerce. Understand how important it is to truly understand what is going on out there. Reflect this in your day-to-day thinking, conversations, and actions, then just perhaps over time, your business relationships could improve quite dramatically.

Step out of the box. Out with the “installer” and in with the “service provider.” Consider it.

And welcome to our new century.

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