Attention all owners, managers and service personnel: Let's start the new year off on the right foot with a little positive reinforcement and encouragement!
First of all, be thankful that your work and your jobs cannot be shipped offshore or to any Third World country. Neither slave labor nor sweatshop workers can do what you do, which is keeping the heart of our transportation system functioning. The job calls for a skilled technician with a good head on his or her shoulders. Now, more than ever, automotive service requires thinkers as much as doers.
If a fuse blows, almost anyone can change it. But it takes an experienced professional to diagnose why that fuse failed and fix the problem.
Why, even the proverbial tire buster will have to cope with sophisticated electronics before you know it. After all, widespread use of tire pressure monitoring systems is right around the corner. One slip of a tire-mounting tool or pry bar and an expensive pressure-sensing transducer/transmitter assembly is trash. Yes, you know the era is near when the lowest person on the traditional service department totem pole must be informed and well-trained to do the work correctly. Knuckle-draggers, be gone!
Second, you realize that ultimately this kind of technology will only enhance your value in the motorist's eyes. Once a driver has had a ``knuckle-dragger'' at a competitor's dealership damage something like a tire pressure sensing assembly and had to wait for a specially ordered replacement to arrive, he'll truly appreciate and value the caliber of worker in your service department.
Third, you're not the cheapest guy in town-nor do you want to be! Experience shows that the local king of low service prices usually has the biggest ulcer. He's got no stomach left because offering the cheapest repairs in town prevents him from paying decent wages. Therefore, his pay scale attracts the dregs of the work force and the accompanying personnel problems-including employee absenteeism and turnover. You know the saying: When you pay bananas, all you'll get is monkeys.
Fourth, you don't feel that much pressure to lower prices because you know that price motivates only a relatively small percentage of the motorists on the road. For the overwhelming majority of service prospects out there, the top priority is getting the vehicle fixed correctly the first time. What's more, these people know there's a value associated with this level of service and they're going to have to pay it.
Fifth, you're not a gigantic discount retailer that's moving several million toasters a year out the door, every one of them made in the Third World. This retailer has all the room in the world for a hefty markup as well as the potential price advantage associated with outrageous volume on a commodity item.
You're smart because you haven't let that big-volume, discount-store mentality pollute your thinking. As I've discussed in previous columns, auto repair pros can't make up for low prices with bigger volume. Auto service facilities have labor costs that don't diminish and never will diminish as volume increases. Therefore, you never kid yourself into lowering prices based on flawed arguments. Toasters aren't auto repair.
You also realize that high-quality parts-the kind that you install confidently because the part lasts and lasts-carry a commensurate price. What's more, the room for a reasonable markup on high quality auto parts does not and will not rival the potential markup on a toaster. You're certainly entitled to make a decent profit on the parts you sell and install. But toasters aren't the same thing as auto parts-period.
In summation, I applaud you and your perspective. I commend your insight into the finer points of successful but reputable automotive repair and maintenance. Charge accordingly because you're worth it. Continue culling out the clientele that really values what you offer.