By Andy Fiffick, Chairman and CEO MACS Worldwide, Owner Rad Air Complete Car Care, Cleveland, OH
I don’t know about your area, but here in Northeast Ohio the automotive repair industry is in a state of confusion. I don’t know what to think of our larger competitors and their thinking. In a nut shell, they are giving away their services, their value and their knowledge for free. What’s worse: they are tarnishing our industry with each passing day.
One national chain is actually offering nearly everything for free in our market. Buy one tire and get one free. Free brake pads, alignment checks, A/C inspections, free LOF, wheel balancing, tire rotations, brake inspections, DTC checks and the list goes on. This has ignited an advertising war, and now the local chains and shops are jumping to also offer free services just to keep their bays full. One local chain sent out a direct mail piece with nine different “free” offers. Others are following in the same path. I can imagine what the public thinks about our industry. At best, I believe they are thinking:
1. That shop must be in trouble if they are desperate enough to give away their services for free.
2. Heck, vehicles must be easy to fix if anyone can do it for free!
3.What a bunch of morons! Do they believe I think I can really get something for free? How degrading!
Of course nothing is for free, and the offers come with a long list of conditions and requirements. Once the consumers figure out there is really no deal at all they are angry and begin to believe our industry is corrupt and dishonest; a black eye for us all. Furthermore, they devalue our industry and degrade our creditability. Shame on the shops, owners and managers out there that rely on these tactics to increase sales.
In my own organization, we have been seeking new technicians for several of our shops and you would not believe the horror stories we hear during the interview process. From national chains, local chains and new car dealerships, our interviewees have told us they are under increasing pressure to sell repairs, maintenance and services the clients really do not need just to meet quotas and take home a decent pay.
They are embarrassed to work at the facilities and are seeking honest jobs with a fair wage! Many shops require quotas each week. They need to sell or recommend a certain number of LOF changes, transmission services, brake jobs, cooling system services, alignments, oil system flushes, P/S or brake flushes, and more. The quotas must be met regardless of how many appointments are scheduled or what year/make/model or condition of vehicle comes into the shop.
Additionally, the average sales order must also meet a minimum requirement. The entire operations staff is paid on commissions and special incentive plans from top to bottom. This practice breeds an unhealthy environment and makes honest and trustworthy people adjust their moral compass just so they do not get written up, demoted, fired or take home a less-than-decent paycheck. The worst part of this is the owners and operators knowingly enact and enforce these practices just so they can line their own pockets at the expense of consumers and employees.
Maybe I live in the dark ages, but we still believe in serving the client and taking care of them and their vehicle’s needs as if they were family. We operate our shops more like Goober in the old TV show “Mayberry RFD.” Goober went out of his way to help you, save you money and would never sell you something you don’t need. Goober operated his fictional shop with strict values of honesty, integrity and professionalism; a lesson for us all.
Our business plan has been developed to follow these four words: honesty,
integrity, morality and professionalism. Because of this, our business has grown nicely without quotas, commissions or bonuses. We operate with three distinct rules:
1. Fix the vehicle right the first time.
2. Charge a fair price.
3. Make sure the client is happy!
Because of these rules, we have no need for upselling, dishonest practices, backstabbing, or job-stealing among our staff. We think of our employees as our number one asset and part of the family. They work together as a team to repair what the client needs and nothing more. We sleep very well at night knowing we are taking care of our clients, and in turn our clients keep our bays full all the time. In our book, that’s a “Win-Win.”
My wish is for all of the owners and operators out there who propagate contempt and dishonesty into our industry to leave and find a new profession – maybe in Siberia, Russia. The long, cold winters will give them time to contemplate the true meaning of the words honesty, integrity, morality and professionalism and how we can change the world and our industry for the better if we practice them in our operations.
With full service bays, happy clients and satisfied technicians, I can sleep and dream of a new hunting rifle, a boat, or a new ATV! No real worries keeping me up at night.
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