By Elvis L. Hoffpauir, MACS president and COO
No one likes to part with their hard-earned money, and that’s particularly true in tough economic times. It’s somewhat easier when a purchase can be planned, budgeted, even anticipated with some relish, appreciated as a reward for hard work. But let’s face it: automotive repair doesn’t stack up in this column for most consumers. They view the repair dollar as a necessary evil to get them back to where they were before.
Your customers’ research on the Internet prior to their visit to your shop isn’t likely to do anything to improve their mood either. More than one site I’ve explored in connection with this issue grossly oversimplifies mobile air conditioning repair and service (“It’s usually just a leak in the system.”), offers to sell some magic repair elixir for $29.95 or cheap tools for a bit more, and finally ends by advising the consumer, if ultimately left with no other option than to seek professional help, to march into a repair shop and demonstrate that they are fully knowledgeable about the needed repair and are not in the market for unnecessary parts and services. The consumer is left with the warning that repair shops are out to make money, in the context that the latter is not the natural objective of business, but only just short of criminal.
Now, if a customer comes into your shop and says something like, “I’ve run all of the diagnostics, checked the TSBs and studied the wiring diagram, and I think the problem might be this …” you probably want to listen carefully and, if the customer is right, see if they’re looking for a job!
More likely, the customer will point vaguely in the direction of the exhaust manifold or perhaps the horn, and confidently opine that THAT is the source of the refrigerant leak. That customer, full of Internet “knowledge” will enter your shop with a chip on their shoulder the size of a sequoia, convinced that they must be eternally vigilant against daylight robbery.
Clearly, there is a need for consumer education to counter the misinformation and mischaracterization of automotive service that is so readily available on the Internet. In fairness, some professional service shops, distributors, manufacturers and organizations like MACS and other trade groups are actively and continually engaged in providing accurate information to consumers, but this work is too important to leave solely to others.
Every shop owner should take the initiative to educate and provide useful information to his or her customers. Component cutaways, system posters, wiring diagrams and other schematics can be displayed in a customer waiting area for effective show-and-tell.
How about a “rogue’s gallery” display of all of those magical elixirs so readily available on the Internet, perhaps with photos illustrating their potential effects? Point of purchase information brochures can also be used to educate your customers. Even your advertising, if carefully thought out, can play a useful role.
Get aggressive about communicating facts to your customers to help them cut through the misinformation and make the best service choice.
When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.
If you’re a service professional and not a MACS member yet, you should be, click here for more information.
You can E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://bit.ly/cf7az8 to find a Mobile Air Conditioning Society member repair shop in your area. Visit http://bit.ly/9FxwTh to find out more about your car’s mobile A/C and engine cooling system.
The 32nd annual Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Convention and Trade Show will take place January 18-20, 2012 at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.