MAYWOOD, Ill. — While it's perhaps better known as a tool and equipment maker/marketer, for years Bosch Group has mounted an effort to also offer consumers a choice for quality auto repair under its Bosch Service Centers banner.
The company's consumer Web site, launched in November, is the latest innovation Bosch has brought to its international network of service centers, according to Mike Lippman, BCS (Bosch Car Service) concept manager.
“We had a Web site in the past, but the new site is more consumer friendly,” Mr. Lippman said.
The Bosch Service Center program has been active in North America for 25 years and in Europe for considerably longer, according to Mr. Lippman.
There are approximately 14,000 Bosch Service Centers worldwide, of which about 1,500 are in North America.
As with the previous Bosch Service Center Web site, the new site helps consumers find the nearest Bosch Service Centers to their homes. However, the new site refines the search.
“A lot of our service centers specialize only in certain makes and models of vehicles,” he said. “We wanted to make it easier for customers to find service centers that repaired or serviced their specific make of car. So the new Web site identifies the makes and models each service center handles. The old Web site only gave locations.”
Bosch both seeks out service centers to invite to join its service center network and accepts inquiries from interested repair shops, Mr. Lippman said. The Web site, however, has made it easier for shops to contact Bosch about its service center program, he said.
Bosch Service Center candidates are independently owned auto service operations willing to fly the Bosch flag, he said. There is no annual dollar quota of parts and services for each affiliate to sell, he said, though Bosch Service Centers are expected to be loyal to Bosch for parts and services.
Prospective and ongoing Bosch Service Centers, however, must pass rigorous company evaluations. While there is no written set of criteria, Bosch Service Centers must meet the highest standards for facilities, the skills of their technicians (“ASE certification is part of it, but not exclusively,” Mr. Lippman said) and standards of customer service.
Bosch employs inspectors—from both the company and independent contractors—constantly in the field to ensure that Bosch Service Centers continue to meet the parent company's standards, Mr. Lippman said.
Although the company wants to establish new Bosch Service Centers, it also stands ready to strip errant centers of their membership at any time.
“The program has always been based on quality, not quantity,” he said. “The program is fluid, and it both adds and deletes. We want to make sure our customers get a quality experience every time. When people ask me what our criteria are, I always say, 'If I wouldn't have one of my own family members go into a shop, it would not qualify for our program.'”
Helping techs find work
Besides helping customers find the precise Bosch Service Centers they need, the redesigned Bosch Service Web site also has a message board that allows technicians to send their qualifications to the Bosch Service Centers of their choice to see if positions are open, Mr. Lippman said.
Bosch doesn't keep figures on how many techs have found jobs with Bosch Service Centers since the message board began, he said. The job applications go to individual stores, rather than to a central clearinghouse.
Also, Bosch Service Centers don't post job openings on the Web site, Mr. Lippman said. “But the Web site allows shops to follow up on applications if there is mutual interest.”
Meanwhile, the goal of Bosch Service Centers is to have affiliates in every major market in North America, he said.
“Some areas are better represented than others. We really haven't designated any specific areas, but we're looking across the country.
“We have a large presence in California, but that doesn't mean we wouldn't like more Bosch Service Centers there. The same is true on the Eastern Seaboard, and in Florida and the Midwest.
“We're not looking to oversaturate our markets, and we certainly don't want to create new Bosch Service Centers too close to existing ones,” he continued.
“We don't want a Bosch Service Center on every corner, but we do want one within easy driving distance for every customer.”