EDITOR’S NOTE: The following guest column from William Ha, an automotive marketing expert who is also the supervisor of customer experience at Kia Motors Canada, is intended as a auto repair playbook to assist automotive retailers recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the world begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the automotive repair side faces obstacles it has never contended with before.
People advised to stay home have logged fewer kilometres. In turn, less driving has reduced vehicle collisions, cut the need for wear/tear repairs, and limited car enthusiasts from modifying their vehicles, all resulting in reduced labour and parts dollars earned nationwide.
Here are some no-cost ideas to help workshops get back on the road in this unique time:
PRACTICE ‘SITUATIONAL VIGILANCE’
Making time to talk to industry peers and head office weekly, reading industry publications like Automobile News | tomobile.org Canada, reviewing your CX (customer experience) surveys and deliberately tracking data are all what I call practicing “situational vigilance.”
Make being engaged and aware a habit, to remain agile business-wise. JD Power Canada’s ongoing COVID-19 Vehicle Owner Pulse study reported in May that half of motorists surveyed said a workshop offering pick-up/drop-off service (PUDOS) would make them feel more comfortable when getting their vehicle serviced. Many dealers have offered PUDOS already, and have or will incorporate disinfecting with their service. Also, track specific metrics related to PUDOS like dollars earned per customer, percentage of recommended work approved vs. waiters, and who among your clientele values it so you could find ways to build on this service.
SPECIFIC VEHICLE STRESSORS
Like us, our vehicles have had to face new stressors during the pandemic. Examples include extended idling due to mandatory curbside pick-ups and drive-through use, short trips and overall less highway driving. Emphasize these severe service conditions to justify servicing like oil changes based on engine-run time and not mileage, charging- and cooling-system testing since AC systems will be working harder while idling in drive-thru lines next month, and throttle-body servicing to reduce engine carbon buildup.
SEASONAL SERVICE OPPS
With summer road trips more likely due in part to flying restrictions, be thorough on multi-point inspections and deliberately check all AC systems, especially in older vehicles since AC repairs can be lucrative and you can sell the value of not waiting until a heat wave hits to address needed repairs.
Summer is also the time to sell rustproofing, especially to customers who intend to keep their vehicles longer now due to economic uncertainty. When oil-based undercoating is applied in the summer, the drier, hotter weather enables oils to creep and cure better into nooks and crannies than in cooler weather, thereby enhancing protection.
SHOW AND TELL
Showing customers service videos or their vehicle’s actual worn parts while explaining additional service needed shows honesty and authenticity, increasing the likelihood they will understand and approve work. Videos are especially helpful now given social distancing, and it’s easy to find old parts from the casting bin to help explain required repairs.
GARNISH THE INVOICE
To demonstrate value to customers for money spent, add to invoices all no-charge services performed (i.e. map updates, car cleaning, sanitized interior, added air to spare tire), and point them out to the customer. I’d also suggest adding a line to the invoice showing the cost per day or cost per km driven since their last service to their current visit. If an oil change and brake service was $300 and the customer’s last visit was 120 days ago, for example, the current service represents just $2.50 per day ($300 divided by 120), which offers a different way to perceive the cost ($2.50 is less than the price of a Tim Horton’s Iced Capp, for example).