Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Networks are Stealing Our Customers

The independents do it better?

What? Who are these people make false claims to our customers. This is a rallying cry to everyone in our industry. Let’s get off our asses and show the independent guys what we are made of. The new car dealership does it far better than any independent shop can ever claim. Let’s start by comparing the shops…

• Your dealership has the highest skilled and trained technicians.
• Your dealership has the highest skilled and trained service advisors
• Your dealership has the technology to fix your car
• Your dealership has the tools for your car
• Your dealership has the parts from the manufacture to fit your car correctly
• Your dealership has the nation-wide Parts and Labor warranty in case of a failure
• Your dealership has the most competitive prices, far better than the competition!

Your independent shop has…

• .
• .
• .
• .
• .
• . I am drawing a blank

I do not understand then why is CNN advising the public to go shop for auto repair at the independent shop. CNN reported that the independent shops do it cheaper and save hundreds of dollars for the consumer. The fact is that most dealership offer competitive prices on services, maintenance and the major repairs. The new car dealership has the right tools to accurately diagnose the problem. The new car dealership has the right technician trained to correctly repair the problem.

I have numerous independent mechanics in my neighborhood who charge as much or more that my dealership charges. Almost daily customers come to my shop with a repair bill and a problem. The problem is that the untrained shop technician charged the customer hundreds if not thousands of dollars and the car is still not fixed. The independent mechanic or shop owner tries to arm the customer with false claims that this component should be under warranty. Or sends the consumer into my shop and says “there is a recall for this part’, “Go to the dealer for this”. The consumer arrives to find out that is not the case at all! Now the customer is mad at me - the dealer.

Do you want to know why this happens? It is because we the dealer have lost the PR Battle. for one am not going to sit idly by and let the independent shop owner, the muffler chains or the tires slingers beat me at my own game. I have a tool, my blog – and my website, along with my social community to counter act these false claims and ideas.

In 1997 Ford Motor Company started a program called “Around the Wheel”. This program was instrumental in helping the Ford Dealerships improve the retail business in the stores. As a Ford Dealership Service Manager during that time, I would drive around and visit the other independent shops and look for Ford cars and trucks. Although unscientific, I noticed a sharp decline in the amount of Ford cars in the parking lot.

Many customers have bought into the independent repair chain marketing programs. These programs advise customers that the muffler shops and jiffy oil change places do a better job than the dealership. They also claim that the prices are cheaper. This is certainly false. Most dealerships that I know of do lube work around the $9.99 - $29.99 price range. In a recent survey I completed in Los Angeles the oil change guys were starting around 19.99 and on up to 39.99 for simple oil services.

Many customers cite mistrust and mystery as reasons for not shopping at the dealership. The mistrust comes after the purchase when customers start looking around to prove they got a great deal on the car and find that someone would have sold the car for $100 bucks less. It builds a feeling resentment towards the dealership. When marketers suggest a better alternative, the consumer buys right in.

We as dealers need to clarify the mystery regarding the dealership. We need to show our customers how our dealership works. Invite them into our shops and see the hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment. Show them our shops, tool boxes and most of all our people. That is our greatest asset. Our people make us the best at what we do. Our staffs are the best at what they do. Our force is what makes us who we are. They are the ones working hard to improve the lives of the American people. They are the ones keeping us safe on the road today.

I suggest that we need a wholesale marketing campaign focused around the dealership. Advising customers that the only mystery of the dealership now over. We need to build a trust with the buying public and drive our customers back home. Back home to our shops. Back home to our Dealership. I am going to start today, either single handedly or with your help I am going to change the way the public thinks about the dealership…

And I challenge CNN, FOX and the rest of the media to report on the facts about the business that I love; the new car dealership. Come visit my store and let me show you how customers are treated and care for especially in this economic environment!

Steve Shaw

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