While the last 12 months have not been a great time for most local businesses, several factors have helped auto repair shops weather the storm better than many other industries. That’s true even while many people’s vehicles stayed parked in their driveways for months. Some of these benefits were time-specific. Examples of this include the classification of repair shops as essential businesses, and repair requests from stimulus check recipients who could finally afford them. But one of the best things independent shops have going for them is the average age of a car.
The pandemic pushed some families without second cars to purchase one rather than relying on public transit or ridesharing – this reduced the supply of vehicles and increased their prices further. And the industry’s current microchip shortage is forcing auto plants to shut down, bringing down new supply even further.
The bottom line is that the average odometer of an in-use vehicle has a higher reading than at any point in history, and that number is only rising.
This is good news and bad news. One negative of vehicles becoming ever more reliable is that many of them continue to make it down the road for more than 100,000 miles with nothing more than the most essential of maintenance – oil changes, brake service and new tires. Customers who wait until they get stranded on the side of the road to call you won’t be calling for a long while after they get their vehicle.
But the growing age of vehicles also means that the average driver spends more years than ever behind the wheel of a vehicle without warranty coverage. Customers who commit to servicing their vehicles well before they start falling apart can expect to spend a decade or longer in them before it makes sense to leave their old vehicle behind. Even if customers finance a vehicle for five years, that’s a lot of years without a car payment.
The challenge is that many people don’t prioritize maintenance unless they can see or hear a problem. And because engines and transmissions last longer than ever before breaking down, a vehicle in need of maintenance is less likely to “ride rough” or provide direct feedback to the driver that it’s time for a peek under the hood. So even as the vehicle is becoming less safe to drive, and maintenance left undone is turning into damage done, owners continue to put off maintenance until its convenient. Which, of course, is never.
That’s not good for you – but it’s not good for vehicle owners either. They’re trading a little bit of time and money for a lot of their vehicle’s lifespan. It turns out that vehicles are a bit like teeth; you show me someone at the dentist with six cavities, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t get cleanings twice a year.
Three Ways to Help Auto Repair Customers See the Value in Maintenance
1. Don’t Make it an Upsell
Have you ever gone into a store to buy a $20 product and had an employee offer you a 3-year warranty for it? Nobody is paying for that, and they know it. That’s why they really don’t even bother trying to sell it. They don’t even tell you what the warranty covers or how it works. They already have their finger on whatever key takes them to the next screen, and they’re just waiting for your permission to press it.
That’s what happens when the person selling the product doesn’t believe in it – and you’re not going to sell much preventative maintenance if the person talking to the customer feels this way. Maintenance isn’t an attempt to make a few extra high-margin dollars off of a customer before they can get out of the door. It’s an opportunity to change your relationship with your customer (see bullet two for more on this).
Before anyone goes into a conversation about the value of preventative maintenance, make sure they have whatever information they need to truly believe it’s in the customer’s best interest to say yes. Service writers need to feel better, not worse, about how well you’re serving the customer after convincing them to schedule preventative maintenance.
2. Explain How Vehicle Maintenance Makes You the Good Guy
After you’ve dealt with the customer’s repair, tell them you’re always happy to help them however you can, and that you’d appreciate the opportunity to do the scheduled maintenance on their vehicle because it makes you the good guy instead of the bad guy.
When customers don’t let you do preventative maintenance, shops make their money when vehicles break. The more work required to fix the problem, the more money shops make. That makes you seem like the bad guy – and because many customers don’t get around to coming in for vehicle maintenance, you have to deliver a lot of bad news.
Scheduled maintenance turns this relationship around. When customers let you do scheduled maintenance, you make money by keeping their vehicle safe, extending its life and preventing expensive surprises. You and the customer benefit from the same thing – a reliable vehicle. That makes for happier customers and it makes your job more enjoyable, too.
3. Show Customers You Care About Your Relationship with Them
Another way to show customers you’re trying to build a relationship with them and not just upsell them is to offer perks and benefits for customers who bring their vehicle in for preventative maintenance checkups at regular intervals. The benefits to offer depend on your shop’s size, location and equipment, but could include a free car wash or mini-detail with service, discounted labor, priority scheduling, or free or discounted towing if the car is disabled nearby.
It’s also a nice gesture to send regular customers a hand-written note one to two times a year thanking them for their business. It’s a gesture that they’re not likely to get from the big franchise down the street, and a reminder that their business really does matter to your shop.
To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help you bring more cars into your shop, call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.