Automotive service facilities worth emulating are always known for providing value instead of low prices.
My field experience has convinced me that the low-cost provider is not the role model we seek.
Near-term or long-term, the businesses to imitate are those that have built a loyal following of motorists who appreciate and want value.
Value means providing top-quality work at fair or competitive prices. The auto service businesses I admire the most-and the ones that are consistently healthy year in and year out-are value providers instead of price providers.
Some owners and managers I encounter are griping that the current cost of gasoline is forcing more motorists to be more cost-conscious about maintenance and repairs. These bosses are struggling to cope with these additional price objections. Unfortunately, the knee-jerk reaction for some has been to lower their prices.
First of all, reactions to higher fuel prices are nothing new. I watched the impact of higher fuel prices as far back as those that occurred in 1973-74 during the Arab Oil Embargo and 1979-80. Increased gas prices tend to make most consumers more cautious about all expenditures, including the costs of operating automobiles.
Therefore, higher gas prices affected providers of a wide range of goods and services. Find me the names and case histories of local service providers that survived this challenge and later thrived by lowering their prices.
Second, lowering your prices was not a solution to price objections in 1979 and it's not appropriate today, either. Offering to lower your prices is just an easy response, an easy out. However, it's never good for you, your technicians or the long-term health of your business.
Price objections are price objections, regardless of the impetus for them. To me, you either learn how to deal with price objections or step away from the service counter for good.
Whenever someone objects to your price, you instinctively should explain why your goods and services are better than those offered by the price cutters. For example: You fix the vehicle correctly the first time, on time; you use top-quality parts that last; you stand behind your work, etc. In other words, instinctively build up the value side of the sales equation.
Third, if you give in to requests for cheaper prices, what do you convey about yourself and your operation? To me, the service writer or service manager who caves in and lowers the price is admitting that his or her original quote was, in fact, too high. The auto service businesses I see that are consistently healthy don't engage in these price-adjusting games.
Fourth, auto service facilities that are healthy year in and year out are built on the philosophy that the most desirable customers are the ones that expect the vehicle to be fixed correctly the first time. Notice that there was no reference to the words money or price in that sentence. Fixing a vehicle correctly the first time requires skilled labor and an array of modern shop equipment. Typically, the low-cost providers can't afford skilled labor and the proper equipment for the very reason that they don't charge enough to afford them.
Fifth, there's an excellent reason to emulate auto service facilities that focus on fixing the vehicle correctly the first time. Consumer studies show that an overwhelming majority of people rank ``fixed right the first time'' as the single most important factor in selecting an auto repair provider. Surveys show that ``lowest price'' or ``cheapest price'' is a low priority.
Also, go to a well-established, reputable service facility that's consistently healthy. Ask the owner who makes better and more desirable customers-the penny-pinchers or the truly value-conscious. They'll say ``value-conscious'' people every time.
Make no mistake. There always will be service providers who cater to penny-pinchers and cheapskates. They have their place in the marketplace and you have yours. Personally, I believe it makes dollars and cents to imitate auto service businesses that stress value.
Whom or what you emulate is your business. Just don't try to pass yourself off as something or someone you aren't.
Dan can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]