Legion of Doom?

Employees returning to work after COVID 19 have another threat – Legionellosis...
Published:  05 August, 2021

For 27 years we have been practicing Health & Safety in the motor trade across the UK. In all this time we have not seen Legionellosis as being a call for concern as water systems would be in constant use. However, during these unprecedented times, many businesses in the motor industry have been forced to close for periods of time. This inactivity has given the legionella bacteria perfect breeding ground in pipe, tanks and showers.  Contrary to popular belief, Legionellosis can be fatal.
    
Legionellosis is a collective term for diseases caused by legionella bacteria including the most serious Legionnaires’ disease, as well as the similar but less serious conditions of Pontiac fever and Lochgoilhead fever. Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and everyone is susceptible to infection. The risk increases with age but some people are at higher risk. They include people over 45 years of age, smokers and heavy drinkers, people suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease, people suffering from diabetes, lung and heart disease, and anyone with an impaired immune system.
    
The bacterium Legionella pneumophila and related bacteria are common in natural water sources such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs, but usually in low numbers. They may also be found within a company’s hot and cold water systems.

Where does it come from?
Legionella bacteria are widespread in natural water systems, e.g. rivers and ponds. However, the conditions are rarely right for people to catch the disease from these sources. Outbreaks of the illness occur from exposure to legionella growing in purpose-built systems where water is maintained at a temperature high enough to encourage growth, e.g. cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems and spa pools used in all sorts of premises (work and domestic).

How do people get it?
People contract Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling small droplets of water (aerosols), suspended in the air, containing the bacteria. Certain conditions increase the risk from legionella if the water temperature in all or some parts of the system may be between 20-45°C, which is suitable for growth. It is possible for breathable water droplets to be created and dispersed e.g. aerosol-created by a cooling tower, or water outlets. There is also a risk if water is stored and/or re-circulated, and if there are deposits that can support bacterial growth providing a source of nutrients for the organism e.g. rust, sludge, scale, organic matter and biofilms.
    
The bacteria can multiply in water in temperatures between 20°C – 45°C. As the temperature rises above 60°C the majority of bacteria will be killed within five minutes. Maintaining water temperatures above 50°C and below 20°C is, therefore, the main method of controlling Legionella in domestic water systems as recommended by Health & Safety Authorities.

What should I do?
The incubation period is between two and 10 days so when returning back to work to a partial or unoccupied premise,  it is recommended to purge showers and water systems at the highest temperature for five minutes.

For expert Automotive Health & Safety contact us today or visit our website:
www.safetyconsultingservices.co.uk


Preparing for the MOT wave

Published:  27 July, 2021

LKQ Euro Car Parts suggests how garages can adapt to the new MOT demand curve 


LKQ Euro Car Parts round-table

Published:  20 July, 2021

LKQ Europe, the parent company of LKQ Euro Car Parts recently sat down with journalists from across the continent, and Aftermarket was there


Investors in People – a recruitment tool?

Can the Investors in People standard help you find the best staff?
Published:  09 July, 2021

After running a successful repair centre for 20 years, it was clear that finding quality staff to grow and improve our business was becoming more problematic.  A respected friend who runs a communications company locally had posted on Facebook that he had recently joined the Investors in People Standard and had transformed his business through it.  After a short conversation with him, I got in touch with IIP (Investors in People), and our journey began.
    
The Investors in People Standard is a business improvement tool designed to advance an organisation’s performance through its employees.  It provides an expert overview of the organisation, offering valuable insight and pointing the way to improvements from an independent and objective perspective. One of the claims made by IIP is as a “benchmark for any well-run organisation, signalling to customers and employees your commitment to good business and people management excellence.”

Humbled and horrified
What difference has it made to us? Well, firstly, the biggest change has been me. As a very hands-on Managing Director and co-owner of our family-run business, I had always assumed that if the staff had a problem, they would tell me.  However, when I conducted my first staff appraisal (on the recommendation of IIP) I was both humbled and horrified when I learned of issues in the workplace and in employees private lives. It became clear that there had to be opportunities for more one-on-one conversations and also Toolbox Talks, a short meeting in the workshop to keep staff up-to-date with any changes or issues cropping up in the workplace. This keeps staff more connected with the success and progress of the business and, hopefully, more involved with the day to day concerns as well as providing opportunities to share any issues.

Aims and retention
Through working with IIP we also now have a company profile which states the following:
    
Overarching Aim: To build a loyal clientele and a company that will experience longevity and fane a trustworthy reputation, with client recommendations at the heart of what the business stands for.
    
Mission: To deliver optimum customer service at a fair price, and the promise to customers is we will Cut Costs - Not Corners.  We deliver on this promise by providing a professional service to every customer, ensuring work is completed right the first time and to budget.
    
Values: Loyalty to staff and customers; Good workmanship; Quality customer care; Investment in staff development (personal and professional).
    
Our employee contracts have been updated and we have company handbooks for each member of staff. As part of the ongoing IIP involvement each member of staff has an interview with an IIP representative who then gives anonymous feedback to me along with any recommendations for implementation.  
    
We began this journey with IIP in 2015 along with Investors in Young People (IYP) for our staff under 28 and became the only organisation of our type in Britain to attain both awards at the same time.
    
Has this helped us recruit staff? Probably not.  Has it helped us retain staff?  Absolutely!  Being in a situation where we’re about to appoint a new member of staff we find ourselves in a position of not having to advertise. The new employee about to start with us is coming because of a recommendation from another member of staff. Just as our business grows with customers recommending customers, maybe our staff will continue to grow with employees recommending other potential employees.

Graham Clark is the owner at Anderson Clark Motor Repairs, an award-winning independent garage based in Inverness.



Measure your business

Tina is back, and is looking at how KPIs can help you gauge how successful your business is, and how this can help you
Published:  28 June, 2021

I often get asked what targets and KPIs I set and how often I check them. Being a bit of an analytical geek, this is something of great interest to me. First, let’s examine what KPIs actually are. The acronym is short for Key Performance Indicators, and these are are crucial measures on your business that can demonstrate how your business is performing.
    
Why do we measure our business?
Your KPIs will provide you with an analytical view of the current situation in your business. No made-up numbers, no hypothetical scenarios, just real historical data, bespoke to you. At CCM, they enable us to track our processes, workshop loading, efficiencies, productivity, compliance, customer quality and retention and assist with our growth and progress.
    
Where might you find your KPIs? It could be that you have recently carried out a marketing campaign. If so, measuring the resulting data will confirm whether the campaign has been successful, show what added value has been generated, and will assist  you in making informed decisions in the future.
    
Every so often we make assumptions on what we believe and not on what the data tells us. We used to offer an early bird MOT at one of our depots for £25, but it had to be at 7:30am and the customer had to wait. We offered this as we had a technician who always started at 7:15am and often would be waiting around. This early bird slot was taken every day and was booked about two weeks ahead. Our assumption was that it was because of price. This was the wrong assumption however. I picked up a little gem on one of Andy Savva’s courses that made me think outside the box and question some of what we do and why.
    
So, we carried out a survey on those customers that took up that offer. The results were very revealing. The majority of customers wanted that slot as it enabled them to have their MOT done and still give them time to get to work by 9:00am. So, this was nothing to do with the price. What do you think we did then?

How do we know what to measure?
Like the sub-head says, how do we know what to measure? One way of working this out is by using the SMART acronym. If it is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed, then anything can be done. Identify where you think you may have an issue that is quantifiable. This is where the fun starts.
    
Do not be presumptuous. For example, one that a lot of people talk about is staff productivity and efficiency. “Your results of your analytical data research have identified that you have a technician who is under-performing.”
    
How many people would just take that at face value and assume the technician is slacking off. Dig deep, delve around and you may be surprised. Yes, the technician could be slacking off, or very often it could be related to issues out of their control, such as wrong parts, moving vehicles around, incorrect data from front-of-house. But it could also be that they are being given tasks that they are not competent in doing and this will highlight a training issue.  It often takes time to get to the bottom of why.

When do we tackle these KPIs?
At CCM we have a dashboard spreadsheet which list all our KPIs in one place and these get updated monthly. This gives us the platform to compare each depot, not with each other but each on its own merit. It flags up any anomalies and allows us to investigate before a problem develops. Often there is a logical explanation, but it needs validating. These results are discussed as a team. If there is an issue, they normally have the solution. It educates them about what they do, how it effects the business overall and makes them accountable. It is a team effort after all.
    
One of my important KPIs which I like to discuss with the team is our recovery rate. Let’s say the labour rate that you charge your customers is £90 per hour. Then factor in all the scenarios where your labour rate gets discounted. Yes, we are all guilty of doing this at some point. At the end of the month, your total labour sales divided by your total hours sold gives you your true labour rate, known as recovery rate. Be aware of what will affect this. If you carry out MOTs at your garage, this will impact your recovery rate. Assuming you allow 45 minutes for a test, normal workshop labour for a 45-minute job, based on your rate of £90, will be £67.50 but your MOTs will be sold at £54.85 or even less. This is fine, we just need to have cognizant of the impact of low-cost MOTs have on our recovery rate. At CCM, we aim for 88%-90% which we often achieve.

Challenge yourself
The list of KPIs is endless. Find the balance where you have enough KPIs to give you a good overview of your business without it taking over everything you do. Focus on measuring things that are core to your business. Do not compare yourself with others, what results that one garage get will not necessary be the same for you which is why it is imperative that you look at your own data. Remember, data is powerful.
    
I have had an immense amount of guidance from Andy, his Financial Course is a mind-opener and the knowledge I have gained about our business from measuring is awesome.    
    
Be warned, it is addictive. Once you start, you will find it hard to stop.



Two years and counting

Aftermarket speaks to EAG CEO Tony Bhogal as the new incarnation of the company celebrates its second-year trading
Published:  23 June, 2021

At the end of March, Excel Automotive Group (EAG) celebrated two-years since it was purchased by Tony Bhogal with Adrian Lamb.
Since then, the company has arranged distribution deals for TRICO wiper blades, Suplex coil springs, Monroe shock absorbers and coil springs, Champion wiper blades, RYMEC clutches, Celect braking and Brembo braking, as well as its own steering and suspension, wheel bearing and transmission ranges. If that’s not enough, the company also found the time to gain approvals with several UK buying groups, including A1 Motor Stores along with joining the IAAF. All of this with a pandemic to deal with too. Here at Aftermarket, we thought this would be a good time to find out from Tony how it’s all been going.  
    

It’s been two years of the new incarnation of EAG? How do you think it’s going?

Since taking over the Excel Automotive Group (EAG) business two years ago, Managing Director Adrian Lamb and I have been busy getting the business back onto a solid footing. This has included significant investment in staff, stock and systems. In the first year, we relocated the business to a 30,000sqft warehouse in Leeds and thought this would be sufficient for a few years, but we are already considering additional warehousing due to the significant increase in stock, sales and customers in our second year of trading!
    
We have been continually investing in stock and have added some brilliant brands to our range, which now includes Suplex, Brembo, Monroe, Rymec, Marelli, TRICO and various DR1V brands, in addition to our own EAG branded steering and suspension, wheel bearings, strut top mounts, driveshafts, CV joints, calipers, etc.
    
We are also in detailed discussions with other brands that are keen to work with us and take advantage of our unique distribution solution for suppliers, as we can cover this both locally and nationally.
    
None of this could have been achieved without the fantastic team that we have at EAG. Everyone has a desire to succeed and ensure that we meet or exceed our customers’ expectations, which in itself has sometimes been a challenge as a consequence of our rate of growth. However, we have been fortunate that customers have joined us on our journey and have given us considerable support and encouragement. In the current climate, the whole EAG family should be proud of our achievements and we are looking forward to the future.


Where would you like to see the business in another two years?

In the next two years, we will be working to consolidate our position as a key supplier of parts into the automotive aftermarket. Chris Haw joined the business as UK Sales Manager and he is working hard to develop and grow our customer base. Also, Chris Burnside, ex-Livingston Autoparts, has joined us as Operations and IT Director, so we now have a very experienced team in place to continue our ambitious growth plans.


How are you finding your customers? Both in terms of their reaction, and getting them in the first place!

Due to our combined experience in the aftermarket, we had already cultivated solid relationships with many customers and businesses in the industry, which certainly helped when Adrian and I took over EAG.
    
Since then, we have continued to manage and grow these relationships, as well as develop new ones with businesses we may not have dealt with in the past. I believe that our customers come to us because of our reputation in the aftermarket, as well as our extensive range of product and availability. We put a lot of investment and focus into our customer service and it’s something we pride ourselves on.


What challenges and surprises have there been along the way, and what have you learnt?

I think the biggest challenge was getting the company sorted when we took it over and growing it to what it is now. Running a business is a difficult task, and Adrian and I want to make EAG one of the largest suppliers in the UK, something that we’re on our way to becoming. Luckily, we haven’t had too many surprises along the way, but one thing that Adrian and I have both learnt from our years in the market, is to hire the right people. We have an incredible team at EAG and without them, we wouldn’t be able to do the great work that we do.
    
We also have a desire to ensure there’s the product availability for our customers, which we still have some way to go on, but we are working on increasing both the range and availability, in addition to improving cataloguing and pushing sales through our online trade portal and through TecCom.


Does experience help? Or do you find you learn more than you already knew?

I think that experience does help a lot, but as the industry continues to evolve, we all need to adapt and understand new technology and systems that are developing and this is something that no amount of experience can help with.
    
Adrian and I have made sure that we hire the best people for the job, who have the experience and know the aftermarket and its products inside out, as that’s what makes a good salesperson and helps our customers the most. These are also the people that can share their knowledge with us and the rest of the company, so it’s certainly a win-win situation.


If you’d had the choice, would you have picked the pandemic as a time to be rolling into year two? What particular issues did this cause?

I don’t think there’s ever a good time for a pandemic! Having it happen so early in our business was unfortunate, but like many other companies, we had to adapt and quickly. I feel that we achieved this and went on to have a successful year despite everything, also as the industry was allowed to remain open, we found that business remained steady for us and many others during 2020.
    
Obviously, our main concern was for our staff and their safety, so we ensured that we implemented all of the safety precautions the government advised, which is difficult in a situation like a warehouse, but we were very stringent with it and will continue with a cautious attitude until this pandemic has eased.
    
Do you think COVID-19 inspired any innovations for EAG in terms of approach or anything else that have really worked out that might not have happened otherwise?
    
Due to growth and the reliance on delivery because of the pandemic, we invested more money into our delivery fleet and also began offering our local customers same-day delivery and national customers next working day delivery.
    
We have also been working very closely with MAM to improve and enhance the IT systems that we inherited. This has included the implementation of the MAM Warehouse Management System, which is already resulting in improved efficiency and accuracy of processing orders.

    
You knew starting up that Brexit was going to be an issue, however – any bumps on this side?
    
Thankfully, we have not been impacted as much as our competitors, who rely on the Far East for their products. They have suffered from supply delays and increased costs due to freight and materials. This has clearly benefitted us since we source the majority of our parts from the UK.
    
I think with Brexit we just had to be prepared, listen carefully to all of the information we were given by the government and decide our action plan from there. We knew that leaving the European Union was going to have an impact on every industry, especially the aftermarket, but we’re confident that we will continue to have the great relationships we have with our suppliers in Europe, as we do now.


Complaints How we deal with them

Published:  01 June, 2021

This is our belief at CCM. While every attempt is made at customer satisfaction inevitably occasionally things go wrong which leads to customer complaints. We encourage customers to give feedback, especially negative to enable us to improve our services. If you are happy, tell others. If not, tell us.
    
Face to face complaints
These can sometimes be the worst. It puts you on the spot and it is human nature to become defensive. As hard as it is, do not react. What happens in that moment, your emotional brain engages and you react on emotion not on rational thoughts. Stay calm. In a face-to-face situation, body language is a giveaway. How you stand, where you put your arms, your facial expression all tells its own story. You must try and remain in a neutral stance, so that you do not come across as defensive.
    
You need to listen, but in the right way. The biggest mistake people make is that they listen to respond and do not listen to understand. Of course, you want to defend your team but this is not the moment to do it. Listen to what the customer is complaining about, be empathetic, show some understanding and acknowledge what their complaint is about. Ask them what their ideal resolution would be. Let them know that you have taken on board what has been said, that you will investigate their issue and you will get back to them with your findings.

Written complaints
Some people find it easier to complain in writing, not having the ability to feel comfortable complaining face to face. The absolute first, is to acknowledge the complaint immediately. Again, show empathy and understanding, explain that you will investigate and respond with your findings. Do not let people put you under pressure, explain that you need time to investigate properly as you do not wish to make a rash decision. Do not get off topic, it is so easy to come back with what you have done good and not actually deal with the issue. Stay focussed on the complaint.

Honesty
At CCM, one of our team values is honesty. If you find during your investigations into a complaint, that you have made a mistake or your conduct/service has not been what it should have been, be honest. Own up. Imagine how your customer feels when you own up and admit, “yes, sorry, our service was not up to scratch.” We recently had a complaint from a long-standing customer regarding our poor service and the fact that there was an error on her paperwork. Said customer went on to say how they continuously use us as our service was usually superb but was very disappointed this time.
    
Following my investigations, I discovered we did make a few errors with her paperwork. I responded with the following: “This is a process that we follow, to ensure that we order all the relevant parts that may be required as to not hold up the job. In this instance, it seems that we invoiced you without deleting said parts from your invoice, which was a mistake on our behalf. I am not making excuses for our team; we have been very busy doing out upmost to keep customers vehicles on the road. It is never our intention to mislead and we strive to carry out good workmanship and service. Please accept our sincere apologies for the upset that this has caused you.”
    
The email went on with the customer apologising for complaining and admitting that the whole COVID-19 situation had got to her and that she had overreacted. Would her response have been the same if we had got defensive, denied doing any wrong and just pushed the blame back at her?

Bad reviews
It is upsetting when someone tarnishes your reviews with a bad one, but I believe it makes them more credible. Can anyone really get five-star reviews all the time with no negative remarks at all? Anyone who looks at reviews, never just read the bad ones, you will read many. Having the odd bad one makes you human, shows you do and can make mistakes and sometimes your service does slip. How you respond is much more important that the bad review. Would one bad review stop someone using you? Absolutely not. The point is, how you react to someone, causes a reaction. What reaction do you want?
    
Sometimes people have genuine reasons to complain, be honest if that is the case, do what you can to rectify the situation. That is what people will remember. Firstly, that you acknowledge that you were wrong and secondly, that you did something about it. Sometimes people just need to let off steam. By being empathetic and understanding can be enough for them to rant and walk away. Sometimes people just need to complain because that is their nature. In this case, there is nothing you can do. Just do not invite or encourage them to come back.
    
One of the most common complaints is about costs. Do not take ownership of someone’s problem. When communicating with customers regarding their vehicle needs, do not use negative words, like “unfortunately, I’m sorry to say, sadly, I’m afraid.” It is not your fault that their vehicle is broken, failed or needs a service. So long that you have communicated to your customer throughout, any issue with costs should be avoided. Most of the time you find that you have done no wrong. It is often a misunderstanding, or someone’s expectations not being met. In all these scenarios, use them as examples to improve. Why were there misunderstandings, why was that person’s expectations not met, what can we do to make sure this does not happen again. Remember, do not be defensive, think about your body language, be empathetic and treat people how you would like to be treated. You will be pleasantly surprised.

What you can do
Have in place and on show a customer care charter detailing that you use OE quality parts, that all repairs and servicing meet or exceed the expected standards of this industry. Explain that staff are continually trained and provide the best possible standards of workmanship. This enables your staff and your customers to know that you are doing everything possible to deliver high quality work and service. Then add what the procedure is when a customer wants to make a complaint.
    
Have a vision and values. This is imperative as it becomes the guidelines for staff to use when dealing with any issues. Give your Front of House staff autonomy to deal with the little niggles that come in. Positive intent;  believe that your staff will look after your best interests, allow them to issue a refund or offer a discount if that is what they believe is the best resolution. Some complaints are very minor and can be dealt with immediately.  Make sure everyone is aware of the escalation route, time scale and who to escalate to. Any complaint must be acknowledged immediately, with the intent of following up/investigating in a reasonable amount of time. This must be communicated to the customer. Ask the customer what their ideal resolution is. If the customer finds the proposal unsatisfactory, then is the time to move to mediation or legal settlement. When a complaint has been resolved, follow this up again, depending on the size and nature of the complaint. Overall, effective communication is crucial. Lastly, and crucially, ensure that you act fairly and honestly.


Subs-free HaynesPro a hit with TechMan GMS users

Published:  13 May, 2021

TechMan’s integration of HaynesPro data as part of its GMS offering has been welcomed by Bedfordshire-based Jackson & Phillips Automotive Services, among others.


Quick reaction

Adapting fast to changes in the industry is key to future success according to BM Catalysts
Published:  29 April, 2021

BM Catalysts, UK manufacturer and exporter of catalytic converters, DPFs and front pipes, is no stranger to adapting rapidly to meet the ever-changing industry, consumer demand and diverse vehicle car parc. The firm believes that reacting sooner rather than later can offer more opportunities to forward-thinking aftermarket companies.
    
Ahead of Brexit on 1 January 2021, BM Catalysts launched an online Brexit resource to offer advice and guidance on the new rules. The company says any problems encountered as a result of Brexit will be “short term” and it can already see improvements in trade supply routes.
    
The brand also reverted to a short-term buying strategy of volatile raw materials like rhodium and palladium to remain competitive as the prices of precious metals remain unsettled. By reacting quickly to both Brexit and fluctuating precious metal prices, BM Catalysts has been able to create efficient processes and strategies to stay ahead of the game.

Brexit issues short-term
With the company investing considerable time and resources into preparing for Brexit, it has ensured that the necessary infrastructure is in place to help facilitate supply of its products as seamlessly as possible to customers in over 35 countries worldwide, despite the challenges.
    
From its UK manufacturing base, customers also continue to receive dedicated sales and technical support, alongside marketing support to help develop and grow sales of BM Catalysts’ ever-increasing product offering.
    
BM Catalysts has been working closely with logistics partners on new systems and additional paperwork for customs and border controls. Nearly all BM Catalysts catalogued part numbers meet the standard required to claim UK origin, meaning they are not subject to tariffs under the Free Trade Agreement between the UK and EU.
    
It’s been taking a little longer than usual for overseas customers to receive their orders as a result of changes to customs procedures and clearance, but we’re seeing this time shorten every day.
    
From when the order is placed to the point of dispatch, lead times from our end remain the same and we’re fulfilling 100% of all orders thanks to our high availability of products.
    
We’re confident in our process. It’s not the first time we’ve had to navigate through difficult times with changing legislation and we thrive in these situations, putting in place solutions to help ensure the best possible working partnerships for our customers.

Volatile precious metal prices
Raw materials used in the manufacturing of catalytic converters continue to fluctuate rapidly, prompting BM Catalysts to revert to a short-term buying strategy of precious metals to remain competitive and ensure that when the commodity prices reduce, these savings can be passed on to the marketplace quicker.
    
Over the past two years, precious metal prices have increased significantly. Rhodium, used in the manufacture of catalytic converters, is one of the most expensive precious metals. It’s also one of the rarest elements on Earth and arguably one of the most volatile pricewise, having begun 2020 with a value of just over £4,000 per t oz before increasing a huge 210% over the following 12 months. At the time of writing, it remains volatile with sudden rises now common, with the price having increased by 60% since the start of December alone. It is now trading at well over £20,000 per t oz.

What’s causing the price rises?
There are many factors influencing the sharp rise in precious metal prices, in particular rhodium, which has left the price of gold in its wake. The main use for rhodium is in catalytic converters that are designed to clean vehicle emissions. Rhodium, amongst other precious metals including palladium and platinum, act as the trigger for the chemical reaction which starts to break down harmful exhaust gases. The global drive to improve air quality, particularly in areas like China and Europe, has seen demand surge for rhodium and palladium. Furthermore, the move from diesel to petrol trend puts additional pressures on rhodium supply which is not used in diesel applications. This tightness of supply is another contributing factor to its sky-high price. More than four out of every five ounces of rhodium are mined in South Africa, extracted in minuscule quantities alongside more abundant metals such as platinum, palladium and gold.
    
According to a market spotlight by Heraeus Precious Metals on 1 February 2021, while rhodium availability looks set to improve: “A fundamentally imbalanced market will keep prices at historically high levels.” The report also pointed to the lengthy refining process of rhodium as an indicator of prices remaining high as demand still exceeds supply.”

Catalytic converter thefts rise
London Police are reporting a 50% increase in the theft of catalytic converters compared to the same time in 2019, as precious metal values continue to soar.
    
Motor insurer Admiral says it received 400 claims in one month alone in 2020 for damage caused to vehicles from the theft of catalytic converters. It also says that thieves are focusing on hybrid cars as the catalytic converters found on these vehicles contain a higher concentration of precious metals and are generally less corroded.
Police in Kent say they are “relentlessly pursuing” thieves after seeing an increase in catalytic converter crime in the area. Criminals are able to steal the catalytic converters in under a minute and are carrying out the offence in broad daylight. This flurry of crime in Kent has led to the local police offering garages in the area permanent security-marking kits for technicians to mark the catalytic converters on cars when they are brought in for a service. That way if the part is stolen, it will be harder for the thieves to sell on, and easier for police to locate, identify and return to the owners if it’s recovered.

What is the long-term outlook?
In 2008, rhodium touched £5,560 per t oz as the global financial crisis hit, which then saw the metal price crash by 90% just weeks later. This was an artificially high price and is unlike the price rises we see in the market today. The current price of rhodium has never been seen before and with that brings the risk it could crash again like in 2008. With so much uncertainty over the future of the price of this rare metal, 2021 could be another volatile year with either regular price increases or a sudden drop. BM Catalysts’ short-term buying strategy helps ensure prices remain competitive if precious metal prices drop significantly.
    
Although the automotive sector is the primary consumer of these precious metals, demand, and therefore cost influences, also come from buyers such as jewellery makers and commodity investors. An increased cost of the precious metals used in the making of catalytic converters has to be reflected in their sale price; it’s unavoidable. The price of the precious metals used can be up to 90% of the overall cost of producing a catalytic converter, underlining the fact that the price of parts is dictated almost entirely by the market performance of these metals.

Insight is essential
Ongoing education and insight are key, and therefore it is important to offer support and continually listen to partners and the wider aftermarket. By working collaboratively BM Catalysts is able to identify trends and potential issues and adapt accordingly to stay one step ahead.





Simplified, sustainable and sporty

Published:  20 April, 2021

Bridgestone – now recognised as a global leader in sustainable mobility and advanced solutions – has received a number of positive test results in recent times for its product range, which has been simplified and revitalised in the past two years.
    
Notably, the new Potenza Sport, the Turanza T005, the Weather Control A005 EVO and the Duravis All Season van tyre are recent additions to the line-up and all (bar the Potenza Sport and Duravis) benefit from Bridgestone’s unique DriveGuard run-flat technology, which allows motorists to keep on moving for 50 miles, at speeds up to 50mph, after a puncture.

Experience
In a nod to the past, Bridgestone has leant on its many years of motorsport experience to produce the Potenza Sport, which is arriving at dealers shortly having been revealed in December 2020. This next generation tyre represents a new standard in premium, high-end sports performance, providing best-in-class performance in the dry supported by a premium wet package.
    
Tested by TÜV SÜD, one of Europe’s most respected independent automotive testing institutes, Potenza Sport achieves the best performance in both dry braking (shortest braking distance on a dry surface) and cornering and straight-line stability (maintaining vehicle stability when travelling both in a straight line and through a curve) versus competitors in the premium segment. With an EU label A-grade in wet grip across its full line-up and deemed best performer in wet cornering and handling in further tests performed by TÜV SÜD as well, Bridgestone Potenza Sport also offers outstanding wet performance. In a huge early coup for the product, it has been selected as the exclusive original equipment tyre for the Lamborghini Huracán STO supercar, as well as long-time partner Maserati’s MC20 supercar.
    
For the present, and so much snow, frost and ice to negotiate in recent times, Bridgestone’s latest Duravis All Season van tyre is also being seen as a crucial piece in the overall product jigsaw, which boasts an ‘A’ rating in wet handling.
    
Like the Weather Control A005 EVO consumer tyre, the Duravis All Season has been designed to deliver year-round control, safety, and convenience, using Bridgestone’s advanced, high silica NanoPro-tech compound technology. Bridgestone has combined the compound with a new mixing technology that improves its silica dispersion to give the A005 EVO excellent fuel efficiency and enhance its overall snow potential.

Sustainable
When looking to the future, Bridgestone’s commitment to providing sustainable mobility and advanced solutions can be seen in the fact that around 30% of all new OE fitments developed by Bridgestone EMIA in 2020 were created specifically for EVs. From its ologic technology, created specifically for BMW’s all-electric i3, to the pioneering ENLITEN Technology, Bridgestone has always supported the development of EVs through groundbreaking tyre technologies. As well as shaping a sustainable future of mobility in its product output, Bridgestone is showing equal commitment to investing in greener practices in the development of those products, as 2020 proved.
    
Virtual Tyre Modelling represents the future of tyre development at Bridgestone, and its already in use today. The technology enables Bridgestone to create a digital twin of the tyre at its development stage, reducing the volume of physical prototype tyres, and subsequently raw materials, needed, and cutting the product development time by up to 50%. Thanks to Bridgestone’s continued advancement and application of the technology in 2020, 20% fewer experimental tyres were used in the development phase of OE tyres in EMIA from 2019. Furthermore, thanks again to the use of Virtual Tyre Modelling and the rise of indoor testing, Bridgestone EMIA reduced the distance of its fleet tests for OE by 25% from 2019 to 2020.
 
Cutting-edge
We’re pushing the boundaries of what is possible in engineering to deliver new cutting-edge products that are developed in more advanced and sustainable ways to offer a superior performance. In our Turanza T005, Weather Control A005 EVO, Duravis All Season and Potenza Sport we do believe we have one of the most impressive consumer product portfolios in the marketplace today. It’s also great that we’ve been able to work in partnership with the world’s leading car manufacturers to meet our collective environmental goals and shape a more sustainable future of mobility, via our ENLITEN technology.






Tomorrow never knows: TechMan eases GMS switchover for multi-site garage owner

Published:  13 April, 2021


The owner of a midlands-based fleet servicing specialist who felt that business development was being held back by its previous garage management system said fear of change held him back from switching to TechMan for two years, and now he has done it he is advising other garages in a similar situation to make the switch now.


I love it when a plan comes together

Payment plans may have found their moment; What are the options for garages looking to help their customers spread repair costs?
Published:  06 April, 2021

Payment plans are not a new idea. Washing machine? Boiler? There’s a service plan for that. If you buy a new car, or even a used car, from a franchised dealer, many will have a plan set up to keep the customers costs down, and keep them coming into the service department. The one area where it has not really gained traction in a major way is within the garage sector.     
    
Will the unique circumstances of 2020 and 2021, change that though? With many people still on furlough on 80% of their usual income, and many more wracked by seemingly endless financial uncertainty, looking to control spending on vehicle repairs could look like an attractive option.
    
A number of established organisations in the sector have already set up schemes that you could take up, effectively an off-the-peg solution. We spoke to some of them to see what is on offer.

Footing the bill
“35% of consumers say their income has taken a hit as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak,” said Colin Cottrell, Marketing and Central Operations Director at LKQ Euro Car Parts. “Many might find it difficult to cover the cost of repairs to their vehicles as a result, but when access to a car is vital to the livelihoods of a lot of people, they need to find a way of footing the bill.
    
“Giving customers the option to take advantage of short-term financial support is critical to ensuring business continues to come through the workshop doors – and so that cost doesn’t become a barrier to drivers accessing the services they need to stay safe and mobile.
    
“That’s why we’ve partnered with Payment Assist, which provides plans for drivers to spread the cost of a one-off bill or purchase over four equal instalments, with no fees attached. This is something we proactively promote to garages, so they can offer interest-free loans and help to relieve the financial burden their customers may be under, while ensuring they can still get the job done. There’s no credit check required for any jobs under £1,000, and only 25% of the total bill needs to be paid upfront.”
    
Explaining how if works, Colin added: “Garages just need to visit www.payment-assist.co.uk and enter their unique business details, before setting up their agreement with the customer. If the application is successful, the garage will receive confirmation that the customer has been billed for their first payment, as well as confirmation of future payment dates, helping them to carefully manage their own cashflow.”

Three ways
According to Andy Robson, Parts Operations Director at PSA Group, Eurorepar Car Service is committed to offering customers three ways to pay: “It’s good to see that the motor trade is moving with the times and keeping up with the consumer trends that are shaping other sectors. A good example is the growth of flexible payment options to meet the growing expectation that a customer should have a choice of payment methods to suit their financial situation.
    
“Our national network of Eurorepar Car Service (ERCS) centres, for instance, is offering customers the ability to pay the old-fashioned way when the work is completed, or pay in more manageable, regular instalments as part of the Drive Now Pay Later initiative. Later in 2021, we will also be giving customers a third way to pay: by signing up to a service plan. Having three ways to pay means that customers will not be left battling an unaffordable one-off payment, even if the work itself has been carried out to a high standard.
    
“ERCS centres have so far reported an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the Drive Now Pay Later initiative. Essentially, the idea is that customers can spread service and repair bills of more than £50 across four equal payments. This flexibility means that vital repair work, which might otherwise have been delayed or cancelled, can be carried out at the right time.”
    
Andy added: “What it boils down to is adopting a customer-centric approach to the way you do business and taking pride in offering customers something that is truly of value to them. With Drive Now Pay Later, we are giving people the peace of mind that their vehicle is in a safe state of repair, while affording them the flexibility to pay their bill over a manageable period. That’s exactly what people need in these uncertain times.”

Preferred
Commenting on their experience with Drive Now Pay Later, Craig Williamson, a Director at Cheshire-based ERCS centre Ignition Autos said: “The initiative has proved very popular with our customers so far. It’s been essential for many this year, but we have also seen a lot of people use it as their preferred method of payment regardless of whether they could afford the up-front cost. It makes a lot of sense really. It’s interest-free and people are used to paying things like credit card bills and subscriptions on a monthly basis. It’s been a great addition to our offering.”
    
ERCS has partnered with EMaC to deliver the Drive Now Pay Later initiative.
    
Liam Finney, Director of Commercial Partnerships at EMaC, said: “Our Drive Now, Pay Later+ product is a flexible, interest-free monthly payment option that allows consumers to spread the cost of unexpected vehicle repairs. It not only enhances business revenue and profitability, but also builds lasting relationships and increases consumer satisfaction.  
    
“As the UK’s leading Service Plan provider, we immediately noticed the similarities with our core Service Plan product and welcomed the opportunity to add a complimentary solution to our portfolio.”
    
Liam added: “Our network love being able to offer consumers the option to spread the cost of vehicle repair work – so much so that many now use DNPL+ as their primary payment option for red/amber work, service, accessory and value-added product purchases.”

Timely
There is more than one shape for plans. For example, Servicesure offers its 554-strong network of member garages the option to sign up to Auto Service Finance (ASF), an interest-free credit payment facility.
    
The nationwide garage programme, run by The Parts Alliance, launched its partnership with ASF in 2018 and since then has financed more than £1.2m in repair costs.
    
ASF enables customers to cover the expense of vehicle repairs by spreading payments over six months and is available to customers making transactions between £60 and £3,000.
    
Commenting on the offering, Servicesure Head of Garage Programmes Paul Dineen said: “We know many people in the UK are suffering financial hardship after being impacted by the pandemic, so 2020 was a very timely and significant year for us to have the partnership with ASF in place.
    
“It allows our garage members to offer what could be a crucial lifeline to customers who may struggle to pay for essential repairs in one go. Safety is the most important aspect of any vehicle and we don’t want people putting off necessary work because of inflexible payment options.
    
“Offering people the opportunity to spread the cost of repairs through interest-free credit could be the difference between keeping their vehicle on or off the road, so it’s a tremendously beneficial scheme for our Servicesure members to able to offer customers.”
    
Paul continued: “Those whose economic situation has been negatively impacted by the pandemic are most likely to benefit from this option of interest-free credit in the short term. In addition, it represents an important step forward in the industry.
    
“With most transactions in our lives, we’re now accustomed to having the flexibility to choose how we pay for them. Furniture, cars, holidays, mobile phones, boiler servicing; these are all common outgoings that we associate more with flexible instalments than rigid lump-sum payments.
    
“This level of flexibility isn’t currently part of the culture in the automotive aftermarket. However, we expect these kinds of payment solutions and interest-free credit to become far more common in our industry in the years ahead. Why would people shell out big payments for vehicle repairs in one go when they could approach the transaction the same way they’re used to in every other element of life?”

Tremendous
The average invoice value of an ASF transaction with a Servicesure garage is currently £639 and 62% of its transactions are for vehicles over nine years old.
    
“From a garage’s point of view,” observed Paul, “there’s no disruption to cash flow because ASF pays them in full within seven days. The main challenge for a garage comes in a customer not necessarily expecting to have this option of flexibility, but reservations around trust are typically easy to overcome in conversation.
  
“Any customer driving away from a garage is doing so with total faith that their vehicle is safe to drive. That’s a tremendous amount of trust placed in the professionals in our industry and it’s a strong foundation for a garage to build on when it comes to the payment options they offer.”
    
Paul concluded: “The number of new vehicle registrations dropped significantly in 2020 and we know the UK car parc is only getting older, so the automotive aftermarket has a strong future. What’s important is for independent garage owners to put themselves in the best possible position to win this work, so offering flexible payment solutions can only benefit them in that respect.”




IAAF Conference 2020

At the end of the year no one predicted, the IAAF Conference 2020 provided a window on the world that could come next...
Published:  08 March, 2021

With 2021 just around the corner, the IAAF Conference provided a full-stop to the year  everyone would rather forget. Appropriately for 2020, instead of a day out in Milton Keynes, we were online.


How can automotive businesses be more gender inclusive?

Published:  08 March, 2021

On the occasion of 2021’s International Women’s Day Aftermarket looks at female involvement in the automotive sector


MAM solutions "pivotal part" of Northumberland factor success

Published:  02 March, 2021


The owners at Northumberland-based Cramlington Car Parts say they have been really impressed by the way Autopart Online and Autocat have helped the business keep expanding.


2021: Time for a digital revolution in the aftermarket?

Does 2021 mean it’s time to throw out the new ideas and go digital in the garage sector?
Published:  15 February, 2021

The Coronavirus pandemic hasn’t slowed the pace of technological and regulatory change in the automotive industry; if anything, the opposite is true. Consumers and industry have seized the opportunity to recover sustainably, and all of us have incorporated more digital solutions into our everyday lives to ensure we can access the people, products and services we need. So, what does this mean for independent garages?
    
While many were understandably focused on survival last year – and although this year will bring challenges of its own including Brexit – in 2021 it’s important for workshop owners to take back control. There are two digitalisation gaps to close.
    
To remain competitive, independent garages need to keep up with the rest of the automotive sector in terms of digital capability and connectivity, while matching service providers in other sectors to meet consumers’ expectations.
    
We know that many garage owners are cautious about making business investments in the uncertain climate we’re in, but deployed in the right way, digital technology can improve efficiency, profitability and competitiveness from day one.

Digital solutions for business management
Downtime in the workshop is costly – and potentially more likely, now that seasonal demand patterns have been disrupted by shifting MOT deadlines. The onus is on garages to proactively manage their workload, which is where digital garage management solutions come in.
    
Using data to accurately predict how long each job will take is essential, so that work can be scheduled effectively, and technician resource scaled up or down as needed.  Haynes Pro data underpins quoting for and scheduling work through our CarSys garage management software, which is also loaded with customer and vehicle databases. This means technicians can look up MOT and service histories at the touch of a button.
    
As well as maximising productivity on the workshop floor, garage management software can streamline back office processes, too. CarSys comes with a direct link to our catalogue, facilitating 24/7 online parts look up and ordering, as well as stock management features, a help centre and the ability to sync with leading accounting solutions, Sage and QuickBooks.
    
Parts ordering in the independent aftermarket has traditionally been done over the phone, but online orders can be faster, as well coming with the added benefit of a digital footprint. This is something we’re encouraging garages to consider in 2021.
    
Those that buy through our trade website, Omnipart, have got complete visibility of their order until the moment it’s delivered – again, helping them to schedule work. Returns and warranties are also easier to manage – and workshops’ phone lines are freed up for their customers to use.

Digital visibility for customers
While many customers will still book appointments by phone so they can discuss what’s required on their vehicle, it’s likely that they’ll choose a garage through online search. Even if they’ve been given a word-of-mouth recommendation, they might well check the garage out online before going ahead. Garages with a credible online presence are best placed to win business. While we’re supporting by sending work into quality independent workshops via our Fit It For Me online service, there’s a wide range of much higher-value service and repair work that sits outside of this. That’s why in 2021, our advice to garages is to invest in their digital presence, which includes their websites, social media channels and other digital customer communications like emails.

Digital capability and connectivity in the workshop
The vehicles in the UK car parc are getting more advanced all the time, with the introduction of sophisticated software and systems designed to enhance performance, efficiency, safety, and the overall experience at the wheel.
    
In a recent survey, we uncovered that 29% of independent garages sometimes have to turn away work because they don’t have the skills and/or equipment needed to deliver work on more modern vehicles. The risk is that this becomes more common, unless they invest in their digital skills, tools and connectivity.
    
The immediate priority for workshops is being ready to service Euro 6 vehicles and hybrids, many of which are now in their fourth and fifth years of ownership and are no longer going back to the OE dealer for maintenance and repairs. As well as being connected and able to carry out important software updates, technicians need to be trained on the latest technology, and provided with the tools and equipment needed to safely and accurately diagnose and repair any faults. Take ADAS for example. This technology is already present in 10% of the UK car parc and will be mandatory on all new registrations from 2022. Often the root cause of an ADAS-related complaint will be a sensor that needs recalibrating but that can’t be discovered by manual inspection. All of the major diagnostics suppliers including Hella, Bosch, TEXA, Autel and Hofmann Megaplan have now added ADAS calibration equipment to their product portfolios, to help garages correctly resolve any issues once they’ve been identified. It’s important to note that while workshops tend to have a three-year grace period while the newest vehicles are in warranty and go back to the dealer, the same can’t be said for bodyshops. In addition to being able to repair Euro 6 and hybrid vehicles, bodyshops can already expect to see EVs coming through the doors – but the good news is that similar tools and skills are required.

Delivering with digital along the value chain
The events of last year meant that garages had to focus on short-term, business-as-usual goals over the long-term investments needed to get match-fit for the future. 2021 will be the year of digital transformation in the independent aftermarket and we’re excited to be a part of it.


2021 Techman: Tips for a fast start

GMS providers and Top Technician and Top Garage sponsors TechMan examine ways to begin 2021 with a blast
Published:  10 February, 2021

With so many businesses falling victim to the COVID-19 outbreak, workshops have had their fair share of challenges during 2020.
The common theme heard from garages is this; They now realise shortcomings in their business processes that they used to live with are now a priority needing to be urgently addressed. This may be the only way to work towards recouping the lost takings from 2020. Time is always at the top of the agenda for all concerned. This could be the time it takes to perform an admin task, or to book a new customer in the diary, or to look up parts prices, or to produce an invoice, or to tell a customer their car is ready to collect. Then there is the time a technician spends  on a job versus the time given to them on job card. In short, small time gains at any level can produce massive improvements to bottom line figures by end of the year. How do garages tackle the dilemma? Also, how far can a new GMS go to relieving some of these pains? These are TechMan’s five top tips for consideration:

1. Analyse processes
Every garage that comes to TechMan will be aware of areas they can improve on. Key places to begin include understanding where the majority of costs to the business come from, what steps in their process cause bottlenecks or where delays are coming from and what steps of the process take the most time to get done.

2. Develop a culture of adaptability
Common sayings like “we have always done it this way” or “I’m not sure if my guys are ready for this” can cripple change within a business. Lead from the top and use examples your team will understand, like streaming music online or using a smartphone. In 2021 workshops must embrace new ideas and working practices to stand any chance of competing in tomorrow’s world.


Evo to evolution: Performance 3000

Aftermarket heads way out west to find out what gets the pistons pumping at Yeovil-based Performance 3000
Published:  01 February, 2020

When Aftermarket visits a garage, we usually find ourselves in a polished, visit-ready environment. At the very least, they will shove the clutter in a corner until we’re gone. That made it extra refreshing to poke our heads inside the door of Performance 3000 in Yeovil. Forget oily rags, this was a genuine building site, and we couldn’t be happier to be amidst the meat of a “what we will be doing to our business” anecdote.

Co-Founder Mike Randino talked us through the plan: “We have a warehouse that is now empty and is now in the midst of being knocked down as we speak, ready for moving our two commercial ramps. This will give us the space for putting in our new Class 7 MOT bay. To the right we have another warehouse, this was originally full of performance suspension, exhausts, air filters etc.  When we finish, we will have three commercial four-poster ramps, and two two-poster ramps. At the moment, we are only on two four-posters and two two-posters.

“James Trott, my business partner, is actually an engineer and we have a machine shop. That is now located in our main warehouse. This was just done during lockdown, I had seven weeks to list lots on EBay. This produced a nice income to help us through the period, and released a lot of space.Once we have got our MOT bay in, and all our ramps in there in the correct place, we can then start working on moving forward.”

The change is part of an ongoing evolution for a business that was previously a mainstay of the performance market: “I used to be well into performance vehicles. We have come away from that market now.”  

Change
As Mike said, the direction of travel has changed, and with it, the typical customer. No more cash-rich boy racers then?
“Today, we have more of the professional middle-aged customer,” he confirmed. “This is a total change. I believe my experiences in the performance market helped me to get to the stage where I am now though. That is where I learned about customer service, and I find it natural.

“Back in 2004 when I started the business, the internet still wasn’t as massive as it is now. As a result, the performance market was all about socialising, working people, getting into groups, being friendly. This was all customer service. Even if they were not buying anything, you still had to give the professional approach. When they wanted to spend £5,000 on a performance engine rebuild, they remembered you.

We wondered if some of the professionals coming in are the grown-up versions of the earlier customers, who suddenly found the urge to have a really smooth ride, and were willing and able to pay for quality servicing:” There are a few, “ mused Mike, “but not as many as you would expect. I would say it is a whole new customer base really. There are a few exceptions where they have matured and got better jobs and bought a better car and no longer want a noisy exhaust, they want a comfortable ride, and they have come out of that scene as well. Our labour rate has increased quite a bit compared with when I originally started in 2004.”

Beginnings
Spooling back before Mike and the guys went all respectable, and before they went all noisy, we wondered how the garage got started in the first place: “I began my apprenticeship at one garage,” revealed Mike, and nine years later I bought it with my close friend James. That’s it – that’s my history. I have worked at one place, and then I bought it.

"That’s the dream, surely? Well, while consistency has its advantages, there are a few shortcomings, as Mike explained: “Because I have only ever worked at one garage, in the early stages of ownership, I lacked the wider experience of how a garage can be run. What I had learned here was the only way I knew. Over time, I had to develop.

“When I started employing people with wider experience, who have worked at five or six different places, I found some of the things I had missed out on. Now I have gained that experience, but it has taken me a long time to get to that position.”
On the other hand, this has meant Mike has learned the value of what people can bring to the table: “I have had staff come and go, but there are still things in place that they introduced. For example, our General Manager Tim used to work at Euro Car Parts, and many other factors before. He makes sure we are ordering the right parts first time.”

Top Garage
In 2019, Performance 3000 was a Top Garage finalist, and the business is on course for another great showing in 2020/2021 too. We wondered what Mike had gained from taking part:

“It was a great experience. Apart from the competition as a challenge in itself, you get to know the top people in our industry. That is what has changed it for me. Plus, afterwards at the Awards Evening afterwards it was nice to be able to have a chat with the judges.
“I have subsequently joined the Automotive Support Group on Facebook. When you look at the problems everyone else is having, and everyone has problems of one sort or another, you realise that your problems are not that bad.”

Networking
Mike has been getting himself out there, in a professional sense:  “It has only been in the last three years that I have been networking and socialising more with the top people in the industry. Before this I was more focused on just getting on with my own stuff and running my garage my way.

“I knew I needed some training, but you need the money too and so you just keep going. Then, after the 2019 Top Garage final and David Massey giving me the chewing out of my life about not knowing the relevant figures, I have done all four of Andy Savva’s Garage Inspector training courses. I have also completed a Diploma in Management and Leadership from Plymouth University, this also covered business marketing. Since then all I want to do is marketing now, but my workshop is not ready, and I am chomping at the bit.

“Looking at it now, I am surprised at how basic some of it is. Once I got involved in it, I was asking myself ‘why didn’t I think of that before?’ I am amazed at how easy and achievable some of it is.

Battlefront
This rolled into our next question, which was around plans for the future, which for Performance 3000 will be lining up the workshop and refocusing on marketing by the sound of it:

“We are working on attacking the main dealers,” confirmed Mike. “When you start looking around the area, why was I just going after the main dealer around the corner from me? If you have a Mercedes van, the nearest Mercedes-Benz CV outlet is 35 miles away from here. That is the same with Peugeot and Citroen vans. Even with Mercedes-Benz on the car side, the nearest dealer is 25 miles away. Tim is getting all the pricing ready so we can go after their customer base. It will be all genuine parts, and we will be promoting the fact that this is our approach. It is already working for us, and we haven’t done any marketing on it yet.”

Online is his weapon of choice in the battle: “Trustpilot reviews make such a difference. You can just direct a customer; ‘Read about us on Trustpilot sir’. It sells itself. This makes the marketing all the more easier, when you have something to back it up as well.”
Looking back and ahead, Mike added: “We have really come out of the performance market. I have even sold my rolling road. Now, is all about servicing, MOTs and repairs. It is definitely the way to go. When you have been in the performance market, you realise how easy a standard garage actually is, compared with one-off rebuilds. That stuff gives you headaches. They say customers can be hard work, but not if things are explained to them correctly and they are dealt with in the right way. Communication is key to everything.”  


How to use PPC to connect with potential garage customers

Take a look at how building a PPC campaign can help you to connect with potential customers
Published:  27 January, 2021

Over recent years, we've seen a shift in the aftermarket, where newer, more sophisticated cars are becoming increasingly complex for professionals carrying out repairs. This has meant that garages looking to adapt to these new conditions have been required to invest in the latest equipment to ensure they can keep up with the demand for more intricate jobs.

For many businesses, we've also seen a move away from the traditional static local customer base, with savvy car owners willing to travel further for high quality repair work. So, it's understandable that many garage operators might be looking to capture this growing market, attracting a wider client base that could lead to increased ROI and an opportunity to expand operations.

With this in mind, it may well be the case that you're looking for the best ways to attract a wider audience to your garage. Pay-per-click (PPC) adverts are very well suited for targeting users who are searching for a particular product or service, and they could be the key to a successful marketing campaign. Here, I'm going to share a few tips on using PPC adverts to connect your auto-repair business with new customers.

Read up on PPC before you get started
Before you dive into the world of PPC, it's important to do some research. In a nutshell, pay-per-click ads are those sponsored results that appear on search engine results pages and sometimes in other locations. Text ads are likely to be most suitable for a garage business, which allow you to focus on specific phrases relevant to your business. You place a bid to appear for certain user searches, but don't pay the platform for the ad unless the user clicks through. By choosing the right keywords, they allow you to target the exact audience you're looking for, while allowing you precise control over your budget for bidding. I highly recommend you find a good introductory guide, such as this one from HubSpot, to get up to speed: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/ppc

Choose where to advertise
There are a few options when it comes to PPC advertising, including Google, Bing, and Facebook ads, though Google Ads is by far the dominant market and where most businesses start their campaigns. The sheer volume of traffic available through Google means that you can find an audience for almost any niche you wish to advertise in and there is the potential for lots of conversions to be won via keywords with high commercial intent. However, it is possible to have success on other platforms, so it may be a case of trying out different options until you find one that proves fruitful.

Brainstorm and refine your keywords
To target the right audience with the right services in your PPC ads, you'll need to carry out in-depth research to identify the keywords you'll be bidding on. It can really help to define what you want out of the campaign from the start, so think about what aftermarket services you want to push and what services are your most popular or provide the greatest ROI. Then, think about what your customers will be likely to search to find those services to create your seed keyword list.

Once you have a list of seed keywords, you can begin to refine them using a tool like Google Ads Keyword Planner or SEMrush, which will give you accurate data on their search volumes, keyword difficulty, and their cost per click. You can also use the 'related keywords' search function these tools offer to see if there are any phrases you've overlooked.

In addition, you can check whether there are any phrases that are considered related but are likely to be a mismatch if your ad shows up for them. These can be a money sink, because if a user clicks through but finds your page is not what they're looking for, they will bounce, and your budget will be wasted. If you identify these phrases, you can add them to your campaign as negative keywords, and your adverts will not appear.

Look at what your competitors are doing
Do you know of any other garages that are having success thanks to their online marketing? Then they might have set up a good PPC campaign that's worth looking closely at to see if there's room to replicate their success or find a gap that they've missed.
There are specialist tools that can help you analyse PPC performance of other webpages — Neil Patel has a good round-up here —   https://neilpatel.com/blog/25-sneaky-online-tools/ — but you can also use the keyword planners I mentioned previously to get an insight into what paid search terms your competitors are ranking for.

Set your budget
One of the advantages of PPC advertising is that you can exercise a great deal of control over your budget, allowing you to decide how much you want to bid for each keyword and set a cap on the total amount you want to spend in a week or month. This means that you can set yourself a budget and be sure that you won’t find you've overspent later.
When it comes to setting your limits, it's worth taking a look at Search Engine Journal's PPC budget and bidding guide — www.searchenginejournal.com/ppc-guide/budgets-bidding — to find out exactly how much you should be willing to spend per click.

Write a great PPC advert
Once you've chosen your keywords and decided how much you're bidding, it's time to write a great PPC advert. Now, your space is very limited in one of these ads, and you will only have limited room for headlines, description lines, and your URL. That's why you need to focus on making the copy as succinct but impactful as possible to attract those click throughs.
You'll need to start with the nucleus of your ad, which is the keyword you want it to appear for, but be careful to introduce it naturally in a way that doesn't sound spammy. This should not be that hard if you have chosen a good, relevant phrase to describe what's being advertised. You'll also want to include at least one USP in the advert to make your services stand out from the crowd. Whether this is a free initial estimate, guaranteed turnaround time on repairs, or something else, is up to you.

Finally, you will want to end with a good call to action, which is a phrase that pushes the user to click on your advert. To have the most impact, choose words that promote action like ‘get’ or ‘find out’, value words like ‘free’, ‘save’, or ‘best’, and those that are personal like ‘you’ and ‘your’.

Conclusion
By following my advice here, you should be able to set up a solid PPC campaign to connect your garage with a wider customer base. Remember, if you're not hugely confident in approaching tech-focused activities yourself, you can always get advice from an expert, like a digital marketing firm.


How to add big bucks to vehicle servicing

Published:  26 January, 2021

Kalimex provide three ways to increase your income from servicing through the use of products from JLM Lubricants


How can I be BE Of service?

Rebecca knows her strengths lie in business, but many overestimate their automotive knowledge, and we know how that can end up
Published:  15 January, 2021

Having run my own independent garage for many years, I am lucky to be surrounded by highly talented and professional guys who mend, repair and diagnose vehicles.  If you were to test me on running a garage, I’d be red hot, but never ask me to mend a car. I simply can’t. There would be some very disappointed owners and dangerous cars too. In fact, I’m so impractical that
it hurts.
    
It is funny though, that so many people think they can mend cars and service them too. The number of cars bought for MOT that have substandard repairs and end up in our garage is not funny. Often, they belong to families with children that have been driving them for weeks or possibly even months. I wonder how many accidents are caused by substandard repairs.
    
Those of you who are a little older (with the chrome hair colour), may remember a ‘service’ when you were younger that took hours and included cleaning and resetting everything. The customers then drove away in a car that genuinely felt and ran better. Servicing nowadays is just not the same and the only thing you probably will notice is the wash or no service light on the dashboard.
    
Did you know, many years ago the motor industry was threatened with a Super-Complaint? I’m not sure what this would have looked like. Maybe some kind of muscle-bound complaint letter wearing a cape? Seriously though,  the essence of it is was that the government would have had to have step up and rule on many things our industry did. “What does or should, a service entail?”That would have a been a significant question.
    
Currently, I can open a brand-new garage with my fabulous admin team. We can get a wonderful website together and in the small print write that our ‘full service’ will include a thorough wash using high quality products and that we will definitely black your tyres. It may also include a check to ensure that the clock is set to the right time (we all know how annoying customers find that), ensuring that Radio 1 is on button one, a free litre of oil (specific to your car of course) and a stamp in the book.  How sad is it that I could do this?  Why is this not wrong?  Where is our Superhero, even if they do have their pants on the outside? We really need this to change.
    
Now I know this will bring more paperwork, but how lovely would it be if all technicians were licenced and insured? We could be like our neighbours in Germany, where mechanics and owning a garage is considered the same professional standing as being a solicitor. This would bring wealth and much needed respect to our industry.
    
So, next time you’re shown a photo of a ridiculous repair and you’re all guffawing over it and someone like me asks you to explain the joke, remember that, not only could
the person who carried out the repair own a garage, so could anyone.




 


See your garage through your customers eyes

Take a step back, says Andy, and consider how your set-up will look to your customers. It could teach you a lot
Published:  22 December, 2020

High-quality service is defined by the customer’s experience while in your care and custody. Operational excellence ensures that the customer’s cars will be ready when promised and fixed right the first time.
    
It’s about understanding what your customer is trying to tell you when they are communicating their frustrations with the vehicle as it is about the proper diagnosis and professional quality work.

Moments of truth
Selling service is perhaps the most difficult of all sales to make. Buying a product – something you can hold in your hand or wear - constitutes the purchase of something you can touch or feel. Purchasing a service is something else entirely. When a vehicle owner buys a service, that person is really purchasing a promise – a promise that will be fulfilled in the future. That requires trust and a great deal of faith.
    
Your ability to perform is based upon a lot of things, not least of which is technical competency. However, you can’t demonstrate that technical competency until you are given the opportunity to do so. The vehicle owner can’t see technical competency. They can’t touch or feel it and you can’t hang it out in front of your garage like a sign.
    
Service starts when a customer sees and responds to an advertisement, hears about your business from a friend or relative, calls, finds you on the internet or just walks in.
    
For this reason, MOTs, or “moments of truth” have to be created – moments when a customer has the opportunity to come into contact with any member of your team where they will form an opinion about your business. These opinions will occur before, during, and after the work on their vehicle has been completed. They will ultimately define your personal and business success.
    
I cannot stress enough the consistent execution of your processes and procedures is the catalyst for your business to be recognised as one of the best. Do a great job the first time, and something less the great the next, and you are unlikely to see that customer again! The more people you have working for you, and the more services and products you have, the greater the challenge it is to achieve this consistency.  

Productivity
All of this consistent high-quality service is only sustainable in your garage if your productivity and workshop efficiency levels allow you to make a profit. Productivity is a by-product of your technicians and reception staff having the ability to execute processes and procedures flawlessly. It will take more than one training course, the odd staff meeting or for that matter the odd investment in tools and equipment to reach the elusive dream.
    
Survival, in a complicated and changing world, is about assumptions. Assumptions allow us to function when we find ourselves beyond the limits of our understanding and experience. When we talk about standards, we’re just defining these assumptions in a more scientific language.     
    
Success in the garage business can be all about assumptions as well. We surround ourselves with a wall of assumptions to help us to make sense of the chaos we confront every day. To large degree, our success is based upon just how accurate many of these assumptions are. One of the ways we do that is to provide service based upon what we believe is best for the vehicle, assuming that what is best for the vehicle is best for the consumer when that might not necessarily be the case.  
    
In the end, these assumptions are about what we believe the customer wants, needs, and expects from us, not necessarily what the customer’s actual desires and expectations are.

Compelling value proposition
A perfect example of this, is the constant battle between ready when promised and fixed right first time. My experience of running garages has taught me that these two topics jockey for position as the number one customer concern when vehicle owners are seeking a garage service or repair rather than the myth that price is first and only consideration.
    
Understanding these topics, or you could say behaviours helps you learn about the relationship that exists between the provider of garage services and the recipient of those services. It is all about questioning our assumptions then re-creating a service environment that is responsive and respectful when it comes to those things are most important to our customers. It’s about who we are and who we will need to become just as much as it is about customer expectations, retention, loyalty, and satisfaction.
  
In the end, it is about creating a compelling value proposition – something your target customer will not be able to resist – and then delivering your services in a total quality service environment. It’s all about managing the whole scope of your relationship with the vehicle owner, recognising that perception is reality and only perception matters to your customers.

Confront your assumptions
Take this as an opportunity to look at your relationship with your customers in a new and different way. Confront your assumptions about customers, business in general, and our industry and consider how different things could be if we change the way we look at them. Remember, if you change the way you see things – if you change your standards and assumptions about your customers, your business and our industry – you may just change everything. In an industry like ours where confidence, self-image, and profits have been notoriously low, that might not be such a bad thing.
    
If you have that elusive dream of becoming a great business, a local garage that’s respected in the community, respected by its customers and staff then accept now that you have to change the way you currently operate. You need to think about the business in a way you have never thought about it before. You have to see it in the future, not in the present. That’s exactly what I did before I started Brunswick Garage. I knew then that I could not be an all-makes service operator and have the ability to provide the level of service that is required.

Walk a mile in their shoes
I encourage you to step outside your business, remove yourself as the owner and place those customer shoes on. Walk a mile in their shoes, so to speak. Take a stroll from outside your premises, look at your sign, your brand image, is it clean bright and inviting. Pass through your reception, is it welcoming to your customer, is it clean bright and warm. Are your customers able to wait while their vehicle is being repaired in a clean, bright warm area, having refreshments?
    
Go through the workshop. Is it dull, dirty, things everywhere, are the technicians tool boxes clean and in order? Would you be happy to walk a customer of yours through to show them their vehicle or would you be too embarrassed?    
    
You will be far more successful with their help and ideas of all your team than you could ever be without them. This new way of thinking will make your team feel valued and more important than ever before.

Final thought
If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do! Just remember, if you always do what you always did – you will always get what you always got.

www.thegarageinspector.com


See your garage through your customers eyes

Take a step back, says Andy, and consider how your set-up will look to your customers. It could teach you a lot
Published:  11 December, 2020

High-quality service is defined by the customer’s experience while in your care and custody. Operational excellence ensures that the customer’s cars will be ready when promised and fixed right the first time.
    
It’s about understanding what your customer is trying to tell you when they are communicating their frustrations with the vehicle as it is about the proper diagnosis and professional quality work.

Moments of truth
Selling service is perhaps the most difficult of all sales to make. Buying a product – something you can hold in your hand or wear - constitutes the purchase of something you can touch or feel. Purchasing a service is something else entirely. When a vehicle owner buys a service, that person is really purchasing a promise – a promise that will be fulfilled in the future. That requires trust and a great deal of faith.
    
Your ability to perform is based upon a lot of things, not least of which is technical competency. However, you can’t demonstrate that technical competency until you are given the opportunity to do so. The vehicle owner can’t see technical competency. They can’t touch or feel it and you can’t hang it out in front of your garage like a sign.
    Service starts when a customer sees and responds to an advertisement, hears about your business from a friend or relative, calls, finds you on the internet or just walks in.
    
For this reason, MOTs, or “moments of truth” have to be created – moments when a customer has the opportunity to come into contact with any member of your team where they will form an opinion about your business. These opinions will occur before, during, and after the work on their vehicle has been completed. They will ultimately define your personal and business success.
    
I cannot stress enough the consistent execution of your processes and procedures is the catalyst for your business to be recognised as one of the best. Do a great job the first time, and something less the great the next, and you are unlikely to see that customer again! The more people you have working for you, and the more services and products you have, the greater the challenge it is to achieve this consistency.  

Productivity
All of this consistent high-quality service is only sustainable in your garage if your productivity and workshop efficiency levels allow you to make a profit. Productivity is a by-product of your technicians and reception staff having the ability to execute processes and procedures flawlessly. It will take more than one training course, the odd staff meeting or for that matter the odd investment in tools and equipment to reach the elusive dream.
    
Survival in a complicated and changing world is about assumptions. Assumptions allow us to function when we find ourselves beyond the limits of our understanding and experience. When we talk about standards, we’re just defining these assumptions in a more scientific language.     
    
Success in the garage business can be all about assumptions as well. We surround ourselves with a wall of assumptions to help us to make sense of the chaos we confront every day. To large degree, our success is based upon just how accurate many of these assumptions are. One of the ways we do that is to provide service based upon what we believe is best for the vehicle, assuming that what is best for the vehicle is best for the consumer when that might not necessarily be the case.  
    
In the end, these assumptions are about what we believe the customer wants, needs, and expects from us, not necessarily what the customer’s actual desires and expectations are.

Compelling value proposition
A perfect example of this, is the constant battle between ready when promised and fixed right first time. My experience of running garages has taught me that these two topics jockey for position as the number one customer concern when vehicle owners are seeking a garage service or repair rather than the myth that price is first and only consideration.
    
Understanding these topics, or you could say behaviours helps you learn about the relationship that exists between the provider of garage services and the recipient of those services. It is all about questioning our assumptions then re-creating a service environment that is responsive and respectful when it comes to those things are most important to our customers. It’s about who we are and who we will need to become just as much as it is about customer expectations, retention, loyalty, and satisfaction.
    
In the end, it is about creating a compelling value proposition – something your target customer will not be able to resist – and then delivering your services in a total quality service environment. It’s all about managing the whole scope of your relationship with the vehicle owner, recognising that perception is reality and only perception matters to your customers.

Confront your assumptions
Take this as an opportunity to look at your relationship with your customers in a new and different way. Confront your assumptions about customers, business in general, and our industry and consider how different things could be if we change the way we look at them. Remember, if you change the way you see things – if you change your standards and assumptions about your customers, your business and our industry -  you may just change everything. In an industry like ours where confidence, self-image, and profits have been notoriously low, that might not be such a bad thing.
    
If you have that elusive dream of becoming a great business, a local garage that’s respected in the community, respected by its customers and staff then accept now that you have to change the way you currently operate. You need to think about the business in a way you have never thought about it before. You have to see it in the future, not in the present. That’s exactly what I did before I started Brunswick Garage. I knew then that I could not be an all makes service operator and have the ability to provide the level of service that is required.

Walk a mile in their shoes
I encourage you to step outside your business, remove yourself as the owner and place those customer shoes on. Walk a mile in their shoes, so to speak. Take a stroll from outside your premises, look at your sign, your brand image, is it clean bright and inviting. Pass through your reception, is it welcoming to your customer, is it clean bright and warm. Are your customers able to wait while their vehicle is being repaired in a clean, bright warm area, having refreshments?
    
Go through the workshop. Is it dull, dirty, things everywhere, are the technicians tool boxes clean and in order? Would you be happy to walk a customer of yours through to show them their vehicle or would you be too embarrassed?    
    
You will be far more successful with their help and ideas of all your team than you could ever be without them. This new way of thinking will make your team feel valued and more important than ever before.

Final thought
If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do! Just remember, if you always do what you always did – you will always get what you always got.

www.thegarageinspector.com


IAAF Conference 2020

Published:  03 December, 2020

At the end of the year no one predicted, the IAAF Conference 2020 provided a window on the world that could come next 


Going exponential with the IGA

Aftermarket speaks to IGA CEO Stuart James about how the IGA is helping the sector face current challenges, as well as whatever comes next
Published:  02 December, 2020

The IGA hasn’t been dealing with a single big issue for its members and the wider industry in 2020, it’s been dealing with a multitude. Coronavirus was just the starting point for a whole host of challenges for the entire sector.    
    
Let’s unpack it all. COVID-19 necessitated the lockdown, which led to the furlough scheme. As a result we ended up with the MOT exemption, which eventually provoked a campaign to end it as soon as possible. While this was going on, there was also the problem of getting garages classified as retail so they could claim for business rate exemption. Once we came out of all this, businesses needed to start thinking about how to make the most of a good situation by promoting themselves more effectively and making enough money, while coping with about a year’s worth of MOTs squeezed into three or four months. This is just the headlines. Talk about exponential growth.

Belonging
Heading up the industry fight-back on about five fronts, was IGA Chief Executive Stuart James. He and his team have been pretty busy since March: “During the Coronavirus lockdown period between March and June, we were flat-out. We had a great number of fights, but garages realised that the value of belonging to the IGA far outweighs what we charge in terms of the actual return on investment.”
    
Reflecting on the impact of the lockdown, he observed: “Lockdown itself was a really difficult time for garages. First of all, the government said garages could remain open to support essential workers, which was a very sensible thing to do.
    
“The reason the government did it makes sense; to keep people in their houses and to keep them isolated. I understand that, but for garages it absolutely took their workflow away, and crippled a great number of businesses. The garages were furloughing their staff, and about 50% of independents shut down.
    
“We supported the government’s efforts throughout this whole crisis, because it has never happened before and everybody was learning as they went. Then of course the government announced the six-month MOT exemption, which for 19,500 independent garages means losing their primary source of income.”
    
Commenting on the IGA’s efforts to resolve the inconsistencies in local authorities’ classification of independent garages within business rate relief legislation, Stuart said: “The other main area of support that the garages needed was of course access to business rates relief. Garages were originally excluded from the list of businesses that were entitled to the rates relief.”
    
The IGA campaigned for garages operating from industrial premises to be specifically included on the list of businesses eligible for the Retail Business Rates Relief Scheme, enacted as part of the government’s support measures for businesses.
    
“We really took that battle to the government, and they were very responsive,” continued Stuart. “We supported garages individually who were fighting for the rates relief and we ended up with a very high success rate. It took an appeal, or two or three attempts in most cases, but a great number of councils conceded that they were supporting consumers and that they were retail operations, and they paid out. There were nine councils that were particularly challenging, but on the whole most of them accepted that garages were retail and were entitled to that rates relief.

Strengths
This is of course where a trade association’s real strength is – being able to fight for individual businesses and for the whole sector.
    
“Yes,” confirmed Stuart, looking at the IGA’s overall efforts over the period, “and for the garages, it was a real time of need. I hold my head up high, in knowing that when our members need us, we are there. It was the whole industry as well though. We really were there for them. We put the battle in.
    
“We wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and we wrote to the Transport Secretary, who wrote back to us in just over a week! We then sent the responses out to our members, so they could see actually what we were doing. We were very transparent and open about it. I will say that the government has been very responsive. We pushed the Chancellor for a flexible furlough scheme, and again his response was very positive. He introduced the new flexible furlough scheme and brought it forward to July, when it was originally scheduled to take place from August. They took on board our arguments and I applaud them for that.”

Online presence
While the IGA has been flat-out supporting the sector through COVID-19, the organisation has also managed to keep producing material for its membership. In September, IGA members received the Garage Guide to Online Presence, a paperback book produced in-house that shows garages how to take control of their online identity.
    
The growth of online work providers has been seen as having created a barrier between garages and their customers. While it might not be on purpose, the result is the same. “There is a perception that we have an issue with work providers,” commented Stuart, “but that’s not the case. Our concern is the way they work. As they become stronger and more known to the consumer, they create a break between the consumer and their customer. You have got an intermediary in the middle. The garage will then start to lose its identity, in favour of the work provider.”
    
“The Garage Guide to Online Presence covers everything garages need to promote their own identity online, whichever way they want to do it – websites, branding, social media, online reviews, it is about their online presence across the board. It is there to help garages from a beginner’s guide to a more advanced level.
    
“This too is part of the COVID-19 situation,” added Stuart. “It is trying to give garages their own identity. We like to offer our members support and guidance in every aspect of their business.

Labour rates
Another area where the IGA will be providing support to the sector is through the UK Independent Garage Labour Rate Study 2020, which was about to be published as the November issue of Aftermarket went to press.
    
Giving us a sneak-peek on the soon-to-be-unveiled findings of the study, Stuart observed: “When you look at the results of the labour rate study, in many cases garages are working for less than the net recovery rate. There are other things that have come into the equation over the years, such as work providers, increased costs and things like utilities, salaries etc. When you look at it year-on-year, the net recovery rate a garage brings in has gone down.”
    
Yes folks, the IGA are suggesting that if you want to stay in business, you need to be making money. It sounds obvious, but if it is, why are so many garages still undervaluing what
they do?  
    
“The one thing that this report absolutely defines,” observed Stuart, “is the outstanding value for money the consumer gets from an independent garage. It is unquestionable that the rates they pay are unbeatable in comparison to other repair outlets, and the abilities of an independent garage are always at a very high level.
    
“However, our survey shows that while the costs of running a business have increased, at different varying levels, the rates of fee increase have not followed.”
  
It has to be said, that very often a garage may have worked out their labour rate by picking a number that sounded about right, but was never realistic to begin with. If you don’t go up, you will keep falling behind. We suggested to Stuart that the level of investment needed going forward, if you take into account the government’s all-EV road to zero, and the growth of systems like ADAS, is enormous.
    
“The level of investment needed has always been enormous,” he accurately countered. “It is very expensive to buy equipment, to dispose of chemical waste, take constant training, implement workplace legislations surrounding things like MOTs and Health & Safety, and everything else that comes with running a garage.  If you look at it in the cold light of day and the cost of that, there has to be a margin of profit and a margin of cash left to stay modern. What this shows you is that garages are earning a living, but they are not making the money that they deserve to make.”

Looking ahead
Also as we went to press, the furlough had ended, with the slack in the system being taken up by the Job Support Scheme. Looking towards the end of the year and beyond, with the threat of rising Coronavirus levels and the impact on businesses, Stuart said: “There is pressure on every business, even our own. Children have gone back to school and the winter colds are starting; I don’t think there is a business in the country that has not been affected.
    
“It is a challenge for any business, but I think the government are doing everything they can. There is lots of work out there at the moment and businesses can open their doors, but we don’t know if the government will ultimately be forced to put in another lockdown.”
    
There are some positives though as far as Stuart is concerned: “Just look at it this way; The government introduced a six-month exemption of MOTs, and dropped it after four months. We are absolutely delighted that they saw this, realised it was the right thing to do, and revoked it early. We pushed very, very hard for that.
    
“The feedback we are receiving is that most independents are absolutely flat-out. The MOT exemption has ended now, and a great number of garages are chock-a-block with MOTs and the work that surrounds them. One in three cars fail their MOT anyway, but any person that took advantage of the exemption cannot drive their car if it fails its MOT, which has generated a large amount of additional work.”
    
Stuart concluded: “From the independent garage perspective, we are coming back together in the best way possible now. The garages have plenty of work coming in, and the people are there. In the state of affairs that we are in, that’s as good as it gets.”




Is your garage too full?

Published:  30 November, 2020


Culture in the garage

Tina Drayson from CCM examines whether a positive culture within a garage is possible, and how to create one for your own business
Published:  23 November, 2020

What is culture in the workplace? Is that not something that you would normally associate with big corporate companies? Can we have a good culture in the independent garage sector? The answer is yes.

Culture is about having a place of work where every member of staff feels valued and respected. How do we achieve this? It is not just about giving them Christmas parties, Christmas bonuses, breakfast on a Friday. These things are important, but it is not the whole story. You need to tap into their emotional side.

Vision
Have a vision, this will define you, your passion and your values and every member of the team needs to match your work ethic and your commitment to your customers. It is vital that you have a good company culture if you want your staff to perform their best and having a vision sets the standard.

Our industry is evolving daily, who can ever say that they are fully qualified, whatever role you do, there are always things to learn. Do your best to enable your staff to keep learning, give them every opportunity you can to train and learn new skills, allow them to do this in your time, why not, it is to your benefit. Quality family time is short enough without getting your staff to do training outside of work.

Do not micromanage. If you cannot trust someone to do the job that they have been employed to do, then you have the wrong person. Set parameters, processes and measures, I do not mean the financial kind. Create conditions that give them autonomy, ask them to set their own goals, this will be empowering and staff are more likely to strive to achieve if they are reaching for goals that they themselves have set rather than being told to.

Listen
Your staff carry out their roles daily, they are the ones at the forefront with the best knowledge of the processes and what is working and what is not. Listen to their views, you the manager do not always know what is best. Embrace their ideas and viewpoints, allow them to reach their full potential, it will not only make them feel valued but could save you time and money in the process.
Communicate, the more the better. You cannot overdo this. Tell your staff what is going on in the business, how well things are going or not, else they will only speculate.

Mistakes. They happen, we are all human. How we deal with them is crucial. Embrace the concept of ‘Assume Positive Intent’. Do you want your staff to be afraid to own up and cover up mistakes they make? Alternatively, you could generate a positive place for your staff to be open and honest about their mistakes and use those instances as opportunities to learn and not to criticise or blame. This will encourage your team to engage more. Be aware that everyone has their own areas of expertise, strength and weakness and encourage your team to ask for help.

True colours
Do you allow your staff to come in late or leave early so that they can go and watch their child take part in sports day or other activity? Why not? Life is precious and you do not get a second chance to make these memories.
Say thank you! They are only words but often go an exceptionally long way. ‘Be kind, loan someone your strength instead of reminding them of their weakness’. Be empathetic and approachable you will be pleasantly surprised. Be that manager that you always wanted.

Some of you will be thinking, that you have staff that would take advantage, maybe you do. By having a good culture, these people will soon show their true colours. The question you need to ask yourself, do you want a member of staff that on paper ticks all the boxes for the right skill set but has a negative approach or do you want a member of staff who fits with your culture? New skills can be learnt, but you cannot change a person’s mindset, only they can. You can change the culture that they work in and that in turn will have a positive impact on those individuals.

At CCM, we are not perfect, but with the help and guidance from others, we are continuously striving to give our staff a better culture. We have discovered, during this recent pandemic, that it is paying off. Our team were great. They stepped up, went above and beyond what we asked of them because they wanted to give something back.  


Electric Dreams

Following September’s inaugural World EV Day, the future of electric battery use in British motoring is considered as is how the industry might prepare for the end of the ICE age
Published:  18 November, 2020

The inaugural World EV (Electric Vehicle) Day, held in September, was the first of its kind. Designed to take place as an annual event, the day aimed to encourage the acceleration towards pure-electric motoring. World EV Day was a great opportunity to celebrate how EVs are the cornerstone of the world’s transition to a sustainable energy circular economy – and the movement towards battery power in cars is certainly gathering momentum.
    
At the heart of the EV industry is the battery. Lithium ion batteries have finally given us a power source which can be used thousands of times in their first lives, then thousands more in their second lives, before being recycled to do it over and over again. Although there are still emissions from mineral extraction and manufacturing, there are no operational emissions. This means that EVs are helping us to breathe cleaner air in our cities and are helping us to live longer and healthier lives.
    
It’s estimated there are around 1.2 billion vehicles on the road in the world, and in the UK alone there are 38.4 million licensed vehicles on the road. The sooner we switch to electric vehicles and take traditional diesel or petrol cars out of use the better for the health of people and the planet.

Environmental implications
While celebrating the merits of the EV we must also continue to think about how we enable the rest of the new circular economy to ensure we get the most out of both the environmental and economic opportunities created by these new technologies.
    
The key ingredients in an EV battery, including lithium and cobalt, are hard to mine, and come via a challenging supply chain. Happily, they are not consumed when either storing or releasing energy unlike fossil fuels. However, their performance is slowly degraded, so we must seek to understand this process and maximise performance and utility in their first and second lives, before recycling them for a further generation of uses at peak performance. This creates a circular economy which is about to get dramatically larger and more exciting.

Built on data
Data is fundamental to achieving this. Altelium is working with diverse stakeholders to ensure that data flows to where it is needed to unlock the potential of this new economy, while respecting and protecting the commercial interests of each link in the supply chain. While each stage in the lifecycle helps the planet, it also creates value. Data is the glue that holds it together.     
    
Altelium collects this data and uses its expertise to turn it into the useful information. This underpins Altelium’s warranty and insurance products which facilitate the finance, confidence and value of all the products and businesses in each part of this circular economy.
    
In order to use the batteries from EVs in second life application, it is essential to know its state of health (SOH) and the performance history of the individual battery cell. Armed with accurate data from the cells we are able to identify the healthiest ones and use them in new products such as stationary storage.  
    
Data will also ensure that any cells not fit for second life uses can be processed as part of an efficient recycling system. These systems are being developed by many interested parties worldwide, targeting at least a 95% recovery and reuse of materials. Sharing data will help the motor industry prosper as we develop the energy circular economy.  

Service and repair industry
The garage industry is centred around service and repairs, and the main challenge here is based on the availability of technicians who have the necessary skills and qualifications to work on high voltage systems. The systems found in EVs are very high voltage; as such, it’s a very specialised area of work and there is a shortage of engineers and technicians already.
    
At the moment, most owners of high value EVs – and most of them are high value at the moment – will return to dealerships for servicing and repairs rather than independent garage or repair shops. Generally speaking, these are likely the only locations in which drivers will find the correctly qualified technicians to handle EV work, certainly in the first ownership of the car and battery; around five years.
    
The downside to running EV cars with limited service and repair options is the time  drivers can spend waiting for appointments with their original dealership – currently this can  be 3-5 weeks in many cases.
    
Another crucial point for garages to understand is that the drivetrain in a diesel or petrol vehicle uses thousands of moving parts, whereas the drivetrain in an EV has dramatically fewer, wiping out most of the common reasons drivers visit service and repair centres.
    
If we look at something that all cars need regardless of power source, such as tyre changes, you might be forgiven for thinking that this is an area in which smaller local garages will keep pace, despite the major EV shifts predicted. But again, even the amount of tyres from EVs will be less. EV drivetrains tend to be so smooth that despite high torque – which usually shreds tyres - EV tyres remain in good condition for longer. EVs are all automatic, but tyre usage is even less than ICE automatic vehicles. It’s not uncommon for an EV with a good set of tyres to last 30% longer than normally expected which will – across all the cars in the UK – further reducing garage bookings. In addition, EVs will also have self-diagnostic systems running which communicate problems as or before they arise. This will further reduce breakdowns and recoveries.

Other developments
Another development currently only running in China is battery exchange systems for EVs, as an alternative to charging. Cars would drive to an automated battery swap centre, knowing from an app that it’s time to change the battery and there’s one available, and a whole new one would be installed in just a few minutes. It will be the ‘EV pit stop’ – but one that requires no human input.
    
Overall the mechanical systems within EVs are dramatically reduced so what can service and repair centres do now, to survive in five or ten years’ time?
    
It seems to me that if you’re an owner of a garage and really wanted to see some return on investment for the future, you would start training your staff in high voltage. Already some of the older EV cars are coming to the end of their warranties, with second or third owners buying at lower prices and wanting the extra value of independent garage servicing, and the numbers will only increase. This is especially true of hybrid cars which need both combustion engines and electrical systems servicing.
    
It might also be worth looking at specialisms, such as battery reconditioning. Another option might be recycling processes for damaged batteries from collisions and crashes that can’t be used but can be recycled – will your garage be a first point for EV battery recycling?
    
Fundamentally, high voltage training and investment
will almost certainly be needed in garage settings, and a long-term plan put in place – there’s no doubt about it. Now is the time to stop and consider the future of traditional vehicle service centres – and look to future-proof service and repair businesses as we move into the age of the EV.  


Clubbing together

Find out how trade clubs are innovating and going that one step further to help their customers provide the best possible service for motorists
Published:  11 November, 2020

Trade clubs provide garages with a guaranteed supply of the best parts, but there’s more to it than bits in a box.
    
Let’s look at TPS for example. TPS is the first trade operation to be owned and run by an automotive manufacturer, Volkswagen Group UK, having begun as a business back in 2006.
    
Since then, TPS has evolved into a UK-wide network of 81 centres delivering Volkswagen Group Genuine Parts daily to its customers.

Extensive
Michelle Masterton-Smith, TPS Marketing & Communications Manager, said: “Every TPS Centre’s extensive parts stock is maintained by the Volkswagen Group and is dedicated to the needs of independent local garages, which forms the core part of TPS’ customer base.
    
“With Genuine Parts identical in quality to parts used in new vehicle production, they provide assurance and peace of mind to customers. They are designed to fit first time, saving both time and money, and help provide reassurance to garages’ customers about the safety and quality of the parts fitted.
    
“Volkswagen Group Genuine Parts are also manufactured in accordance with Formula Q, Volkswagen Group's strict quality assurance system, providing a significant contribution to the vehicle’s overall safety and performance and come complete with a two-year warranty.”

Reassurance
During the lockdown period, fitting genuine parts to a customer’s vehicles helped provide reassurance to those key and essential workers reliant on keeping their cars on the road. Michelle observed: “The supply of genuine parts was an element of the overall support on offer from TPS to its customers during the most challenging of the lockdown months.
    
“During the lockdown period, we implemented a number of new, innovative ways of working to ensure we were able to maintain service levels to our customers.
    
“In recognition of the important frontline service they provided, Blue Light, AA Patrols, Government Agency and their key worker support vehicles were given precedence when resources became limited.
    
“The existing customer base was also given priority and took the decision not to set up any new accounts until the lockdown was eased.
    
“We also took the decision to protect customers and staff at all times by preventing the handling of cash and cheques and customers were asked to pay by card in advance if they did not already hold a credit account.
    
“The final change we made, was on customer calls, which were redirected to a single, national, queue-based system, but with orders still delivered to the closest operational TPS Centre. This meant calls could be answered quickly without any risk of calls being dropped or long waiting times due to less staff being available. All of this was done within a matter of days which shows how dedicated the TPS team are to customer service.
    
“These are just some of the innovative ways in which TPS has worked recently to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic and demonstrate our flexibility as a business.”

Knowledge
A further strength for TPS comes from the expertise and knowledge on offer from the staff at its Centres and generally within the business. “No other parts supplier has the knowledge of VW Group vehicles that TPS has and that ability to advise on the best parts for individual vehicle models is hugely valuable to customers,” said Michelle
    
“It is the key component of TPS’ pledge to deliver the best customer service possible, which is at the heart of its ‘Genuine Heroes’ initiative.”
    
The TPS Genuine Heroes is designed to encourage TPS Centres to be heroes to their customers by delivering excellent customer service.
    
Michelle added: “TPS’ network of independent motor traders and garages are asked in turn to adopt this ethos with their own customers. It’s something which has never been more evident during the recent pandemic, with TPS Centres and garages alike going above and beyond to deliver excellent customer service.”
 
Access
Meanwhile, garages that belong to the Eurorepar Car Service network, the all-brands garage initiative run by PSA Group, were recently able to access faster parts ordering at no extra cost for a month.
    
Distrigo Parts Distribution’s Service Box Multi-Brand is an online portal, with phone and tablet compatibility, allowing parts to be ordered remotely and in real time during a repair. Through it, garages can access OEM, leading supplier and Eurorepar all-makes parts, in addition to a broad range of tyres and consumables,
    
Distrigo recently launched Fix Plus, which provided an additional level of subscription to its parts ordering and technical data tool.
    
Garages that belong to the Eurorepar network are able to use Service Box Multi-Brand for parts ordering. They normally are able to access to the tool at Fix level as part of their Eurorepar Car Service membership, but, in recognition of the launch of Fix Plus, Distrigo Parts Distribution provided free access to the top-level during September.
 
Resource
Launched last year across the UK and Europe, Service Box Multi-Brand also provides technical data to help repairers select the most appropriate parts. Subscription packages offering varying levels of access and functionality. Now, with Fix Plus, technicians can gain access to even more technical data, as well as a dedicated technical helpline.
     
Adrian Mossop, Head of Network and Business Development at Eurorepar Car Service, said: “Service Box Multi-Brand is already a hugely popular tool among our independent service centres, and now many of them have enjoyed an even greater level of access to this valuable digital resource throughout September.
     
He added: “Members of the Eurorepar Car Service network gain Fix level access as standard, helping to boost their productivity, efficiency and service offering. With new service centres discovering the benefits of Service Box Multi-Brand every day, it’s clear that the platform can help sites of all sizes take their service to the next level.”  


Communicating essentials

Communication is the key to keeping customers happy says Andy, but how does a business make sure that the lines are open at all times?
Published:  30 October, 2020

We all know customers are one of the key elements of any thriving garage business and if you do not keep them satisfied, they will simply go elsewhere for the services you provide. It is a simple fact, but one that is so often overlooked by businesses up and down the country and the people who work within them.
    
Everyone within your garage has a critical role to play in delivering excellent customer service. There are many distractions that get in the way of us providing a positive experience to customers, as I like to call it; ‘An Experience’.
    
I regularly witness employees not understanding customer perceptions, and people who are placed into reception roles who do not possess the necessary skills and ability to qualify and deal with a customer from start to finish. Worse than that the processes within the business are inadequate which does nothing to assist these poor folks.
    
We should all realise the importance of building long-term relationships with customers, understanding what many business commentators call the lifetime value of a customer, after all without them the business does not exist.

Motivation
If we are going to provide an exceptional service to our customers, we first need to understand what their motivation is in dealing with us in the first place. Some buy because they find your price to be the lowest, some because they find your services to be outstanding, while some purchase from you because of your reputation in the garage industry. By understanding our customers, we are better placed to deal with their needs in an effective manner that meets with their core requirements.
    
But most of all, customers buy your services because of the perception of value that it gives them. However, it’s much more difficult in our garage sector as most if not all purchases are distressed sales, they are needs rather than wants and that’s why I focused so much on giving my customers a positive unmatched experience they’ve never had before.

Journey
Aside from understanding the wants and needs of our customers, it is also useful to understand the journey they take. My skill-set allowed me to value stream the processes of the customer journey from phone call to handing back the keys examining the non-value time and processes which helped us identify the danger points and start to plan how best to serve the customer for their needs not ours.
    
Now to keep it simple, I focused on six parts of the customer journey:


A bicycle made for who?

With COVID-19 upending old assumptions, is the popularity of subscriptions-based transport set to accelerate?
Published:  16 October, 2020

Coronavirus, or to be more precise, the reaction to measures designed to mitigate it, is having a major impact on vast areas of life and business. Ideas that seemed far-fetched or at best niche this time last year are now just another fact of life.     
    Garages have seen the way they deal with customers transformed over the last few months as a result of COVID-19, and the pandemic is affecting the way people shop, work, travel and live. Lockdown led to changes in commuting habits, and a pull away from public transport which has so far benefitted garages. However, with high-end folding bicycle manufacturer Brompton launching a new subscription service in September, are we seeing yet another sign of an oft-discussed idea? Will increasingly tech-savvy consumers begin to veer away from car ownership?
    Brompton’s subscription service enables customers to hire bikes from the company on a monthly or annual basis. Cycling has seen a surge in popularity in the UK in 2020, with riding levels up by 300% on some days according to the Department for Transport.
    Users will be able to take on an annual subscription, when the scheme begins, at the cost of £30 a month, or a rolling month-on-month contract for £42 a month. A new Brompton can cost £1,000 to buy outright. The new subscription service is an extension to its existing bike hire programme, through which people rent a Brompton for £6.50 a day, or £3.50 if they pay a £25 annual fee.
    Julian Scriven, Managing Director of Brompton Bike Hire, told the Daily Express: “This new subscription service will revolutionise the way people own a bike, giving them a premium product without the upfront price tag. It’s an option to make everyone’s life easier, whether you’re a commuter, student, family or just want to cycle on the weekends but don’t want to commit or have the space to own a bike forever."
Mobility
Revolutions have a habit of continuing to spin and spin far longer than anyone expects, with often surprising results. Before you rush off to find your old Che Guevara t-shirt though, ask yourself  this – Will the current shift in buying and business patterns lead to a major drop in car ownership?
    Vehicle subscription services already exist, and are often referred to as ‘mobility services’.  
    Providers, who can be a VM or a third-party, are paid a monthly fee for on-demand access to vehicles. The fee includes insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance. In the same vein as music or on-demand TV, the subscription can be turned off at any  time. VMs already employing these models worldwide include BMW, Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.
    Where does this leave independent garages, for whom the business model depends largely on owner-drivers who are responsible for sourcing their own servicing and repairs?
    John Phillips, General Manager at subscriptions-focused software company Zuora commented: “Mobility-as-a Service (MaaS) has been hailed as a trend which could integrate and revolutionise the way city dwellers navigate their passenger journeys from one form of transport to another. Deloitte has claimed that, in dense urban environments, MaaS would offer such an improved journey and passenger experience that it could replace the need for many consumers to own private forms of transportation.  
    “In recent years, consumer appetite has demonstrated a shift from ‘ownership to usership.’ A recent mobility study published by Cox Automotive highlights that the desire to own vehicles is dropping steeply among younger consumers. Enticed by the relatively small fee needed up-front and the convenience offered, many consumers in cities do not now see the need to own a mode of transport.
    “Many consumers are already used to a subscription-based consumption model. Zuora’s most recent bi-annual Subscription Economy Index (SEI) found that the subscription economy   has grown more than 350% in the past seven and a half year, an era marked by a broad consumer shift towards on-demand services.”
    John said VMs may look to make cars specifically for the subscriptions market: “To prepare for this shift in how people access transport, manufacturers should consider whether the vehicles of the future may need to be built with a subscription based payment model in mind. By developing unique, customised subscription offerings, they will enable customers to select the service which best suits them.
    “It’s time for the mobility industry to take action,” concluded John. “Many notable technology companies including Spotify, Uber, Apple and even Google have changed their business models to adapt to evolving customer demand – moving from a static and linear product offering to a subscription-based model to encourage recurring, predictable and stable revenue. The mobility industry should follow suit.”

Questions
That’s the theory. What about on the ground with the garages?  The IMI’s Head of Business Development Steve Scofield observed: “There is no question that the last five months have thrown a completely different light on life as we know it – from the transition to home working for many, to the reduced use of vehicles during lockdown. However, the latest data suggests that road usage has returned to almost normal levels; in fact the RAC reported that the August Bank Holiday weekend will have seen even higher numbers on the roads – 1.8 million – than for the break in 2019, no doubt prompted by restrictions on foreign travel and the preference for many to stay in the UK. And I think that highlights the changing dynamics of vehicle usage which is going to present our sector with challenges and opportunities in equal measure.
    “The ‘working from home’ culture is here to stay for those that can – but there is also a recognition that people work best when they can interact with others – and not just on Zoom. Work colleagues are therefore likely to look for ways to meet which will still rely on transport – whether public or private. A reaction to the halt on family meetings during lockdown has also, I believe, prompted more visits since lockdown was lifted.  And again, the reliance on private transport is key here.
    “So what’s the role of the garage in all of this?  Well I think first of all garages need to find ways to stay more engaged with their customers than they might have done in the past. For some, reduced vehicle usage could prompt ditching the car altogether, but I think for many with latent concerns about public transport, the car will still be a vital tool for work and family life – maybe just used slightly less often. A good garage should think about how to stay connected with its customers for all the basics – not just the annual service and MOT – and embrace digital solutions where possible. Young talent entering the garage network are well positioned and can add value in helping garages transition to online solutions.
    “Garage owners could also benefit and future-proof their business by horizon scanning. For instance, one area which has the potential to grow as some of society moves to an on demand mobility model instead of ownership is the rental and fleet sector. Their maintenance and repair needs will likely grow; therefore engaging in these contracts could offset any personal vehicle ownership losses garages may face.”
Transition
There’s more to think about though according to Steve: “The other factor that I think presents a real opportunity for motor retailers and garages is the increased prevalence of ADAS technology in vehicles, as well as the transition to the road to zero. The latest advances in motoring technology will require experts. The garages that will be the winners in this new world will therefore be those that place the right investment in training for their people. Organisations like the IMI and its approved training centre network will be crucial in providing the essential expertise and support for that training.
    “There are some really big challenges facing the automotive sector in the next 10-15 years, not least of which is the proposed ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and, potentially, hybrid vehicles. The continuing development of autonomous motoring, in all its guises, is another big challenge for the sector.”
    Steve concluded: “While these challenges can appear daunting, the IMI is excited to be working with individuals, employers and Training Centres to ensure that motorists are given the confidence that their safety and wellbeing will always be paramount.“

Alternatives
Frank Harvey, Head of Membership Services at the IGA commented:  “COVID-19, lockdown and the lifestyle changes this has brought about are something we are all having to get used to. The ways by which we choose travel is also changing for many; with the government asking people to avoid using public transport, we are seeing people seek alternative means for their daily commute.
    “Public transport has long been the most popular mode of transport for many city dwellers, meaning they avoided the outlay of owning a private vehicle. As the country edges its way out of lockdown and central government is encouraging people back to work, commuters are considering their mobility options.
    “While car sharing between separate households is not currently an option, it is likely we will see a growth in services such as Hiyacar, Zipcar and Enterprisecarclub, all of whom offer a ‘Hire By App’ kerbside pickup/drop off, hourly hire, vehicle mobility solution.”

Downsides
Is there a downside? Frank said there are several: “Experience shows us that due to the nature of the drivers who make use of this type of mobility solution, vehicle care and consideration is not always a priority. Couple this with potentially ‘rusty’ driving skills. Contrary to initial thought, these companies could offer business opportunities for good, local independent garages to keep their vehicles safe, roadworthy and available for hire.
    
“A government survey published in 2019 showed that, other than cost savings, there was more of a negative attitude towards vehicle and ride sharing than there was a positive one, however recent events may have made this a more attractive option than using public transport.”

Vital
Perhaps we are worrying about nothing though: “Due to the ways in which most of the country has had to adapt to new working and living routines during lockdown, such as working from home and purchasing goods online, we have without doubt seen the number of miles being driven in private cars reduce over recent months, with a low in early April of 22% of pre-lockdown vehicle usage. However, from the beginning of August we have seen this recover to around 91% of the pre-lockdown figure, which would indicate that the private car is still a vital social utility.
    
“As a nation we have a culture of ‘ownership’ especially when it comes to a private vehicles; with over 38 million licenced vehicles on our roads, of which 27.5 million were registered between 2000 and 2017, it is reasonable to assume that the majority of those vehicles over three years old are privately owned.
    
“Recent press articles would indicate that the aforementioned city dwellers are beginning to purchase cars at the lower end of the value range, to avoid using public transport. All will need MOTs and undoubtedly repairs and maintenance of some description, which is all good news for independent garages and the aftersales market as a whole.”
    
Frank added: “There is one key indicator from our recent global experiences, and that is the need for all businesses to have a good online identity and the ability to be able to connect to their customers in a way that reduces face to face contact, but also give the customer confidence in the organisation they are doing business with.”

Final thoughts
Whether or not motorists will embrace subscriptions in large numbers remains to be seen. However, looking at how you run your business from a different perspective will help you  to innovate and take advantage of new opportunities.
    
Remember, often garage owners take some time to realise that they are not in the business of just fixing cars, and that they are instead in the business of running a business. In the same vein, you thought you were in the vehicle repair industry didn’t you? You’re not, you are in the mobility sector. If it is changing, you will need to change too. That might mean completely re-thinking how your businesses is structured. Issues around the price of battery replacement has already helped to accelerate the leasing model in electric vehicles, which was already popular.
    
One thing COVID-19 has shown us though is that when change comes, you can’t always predict where it will come from, or what the result will be. You just have to roll with it sometimes. Whether or not you own the vehicle that carries you, that’s up to you.


Pod life...

Garage owners could benefit from the popularity of podcasts to communicate with potential customers
Published:  14 October, 2020

Driven by the change in the way people consume television programmes, which has seen a significant shift to on-demand services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer, the country’s listening habits are being transformed.
    
Until the recent stay-at-home warnings, the number of people listening to live radio had been dropping and is expected to do so again once the Coronavirus crisis has passed. Conversely, those choosing to listen to podcasts has increased significantly, with the latest RAJAR data reporting almost a quarter of 15 to 34-year-olds now listen regularly to podcasts.
    
A podcast is a set of digital audio files that are made available on the internet for people to listen to immediately or download for later use. Users can subscribe to specific podcasts to ensure they receive it as soon as a new one is uploaded.
    
The biggest brands in the world, like Jaguar Land Rover, Nike and Microsoft understand the power of branded podcasts, but regardless of the size of a business, podcasts are a great way to communicate your value proposition to an engaged and captive audience.
    
This on-demand format reflects the growing trend amongst the public and lets brands tell their story anywhere, anytime.
    
For a small garage owner with local clients, there may not be an urgent need for a high-quality global podcast in normal circumstances, however, the current coronavirus crisis has caused uncertainty for businesses of all sizes.
    
This uncertainty has led to a slowdown in business, with many workplaces temporarily closing their doors to adhere to the government’s social distancing measures.
    
During this period, it’s crucial that garage owners maintain their existing relationships and communicate frequently with customers, offering advice or guidance to those who need it most. For this reason, podcasts could be an effective way of keeping in touch with clients, allowing them to take information from podcast episodes and feedback on posts with further mechanical questions.
    
Once you get started, you may find that the podcasts are offering value as a separate forum to promote your business and it could be an idea you want to maintain when business eventually returns to normal.
    
Businesses now use podcasts for a variety of purposes, including sharing information about new products, company news or general information related to the sector in which they operate and even information aimed only for the ears of their employees.
    
Incorporating podcasts into your marketing strategy offers numerous benefits for your business and there’s never been a better time to get started.
    
Your podcast is the opportunity for you to demonstrate, then share your experience and expertise to listeners. Traditionally, you may have relied on the written word, but podcasts are a better way to show your true personality and enthusiasm for what you do.
    
Regular podcasts offering information, opinion and new ideas for discussion help establish you and your business as a leading authority, to be trusted by customers and new prospects alike. Inviting similar respected individuals from within your business or from across your sector to help create the podcasts, will only add to your credibility and generate further trust from the audience, whilst expanding the number of likely listeners.   

Building a stronger connection
Hearing people present sector news or discussing topics creates a stronger connection with the audience than them simply reading the information on a web page. When your podcasts are regular, listeners recognise your voice and presentation style, hopefully finding it a pleasant experience.
    
Listening to you explain in person helps the audience better understand your values and the way you run the business. You become a companion voice, a source for interesting news to be listened to whilst they undertake other tasks; unlike video or reading, which requires their undivided attention. If you’re good, there is the added benefit of your podcast being recommend to others who may be interested in what you have to say and sell.
    
In a survey conducted with 300,000 podcast listeners in the US, around 63% of respondents indicated they had bought what the host had been promoting, which demonstrates the power of podcasts to positively influence the buying decisions of the audience.
    
A podcast may be relatively easy to produce, but the content is critical to the success and longevity of your activity. The mechanics are easy enough, requiring just a good microphone connected to your computer to make the recording and a way of editing the finished sound files. However, while it is often lauded as a DIY project, it is easy to make a podcast that only you want to listen to and professional producers will enhance the quality of the output considerably.
    
The producer is also helpful for handling the transition between speakers, asking the questions, requesting clarification of unclear points or jargon and ultimately editing the hours of chat into a professional and efficient 25-minute sector-specific podcast that thousands will enjoy. The content can cover current events, changes in the sector, news specific to your business, a discussion around sector-specific topics, trends, legislation etc., but it must be interesting to the target audience and delivered in short sections.
    
Thirty minutes on a single topic might bore the average listener, it’s easy to break the topic up into pieces and deliver several podcasts that revisit the subject. It’s also good to point listeners to your website if you have more detail on a topic, like a guide or catalogue they can download.
    
You don’t have to be funny or try hard to entertain. You just need to use your experience and imagination to deliver short bursts of interesting chat or discussion, in a professional manner, with the content tailored to your audience. The more you do, the easier it will become. Once finished, you can start promoting your podcast to increase its exposure to a larger audience. You would need to make the podcasts available on a variety of distribution channels, or enlist the help of a podcast producer, who will know the best channels to choose.
    
If you want to talk in detail about sensitive information only for your employees, perhaps explaining strategic decisions, or current lockdown policy, a private podcast can be created and a link emailed to specific recipients - it can be password protected if necessary.

And finally
Podcasts can be a uniquely spontaneous, informal and intimate medium, perfect for delivering important insight with emotion, warmth and passion for a topic.
    
It’s not all about well-edited scripts or carefully crafted questions, but about researching the topics carefully, agreeing what’s to be covered and then talking with friends as you would in the pub, not the boardroom – it’s where the authenticity comes from.
    
Everyone involved can be in a separate location, which at the time of writing makes podcasts the perfect tool for bringing people together to create memorable content that an engaged audience will find truly valuable.

 


Coaching essentials

Andy Savva goes over top techniques to support your team’s development
Published:  29 September, 2020

There are four main types of support and development that can be provided to employees.  Each has a different purpose, different benefits, and should be used for different situations and objectives. These are counselling, mentoring, coaching, and training.  
    
Counselling is a form of consulting and often is part of a measurement outcome or employee evaluation. Counselling suggests therapeutic outcomes and focuses on the past.  Coaching does not do this. Coaching may occur before counselling, instead of counselling, or in addition to counselling.
    
People with an expertise conduct mentoring. This expertise enables them to advise new or inexperienced employees. Mentoring is a process that helps people with their career development. Mentors provide guidance to help people attain the kind of professional achievement they seek. Mentoring differs from coaching in that it is a long-term process and mentors have no responsibility to their mentees for personal and professional development. Mentors provide motivation, connections, and advice, but they do not directly enable mentees to improve their performance. Coaching is a conversation focused on helping other people (the clients) move forward relative to their goals, hopes, and curiosities. Goals are accomplishments yet to be achieved; hopes and curiosities are the rough material of future goals. For coaching to be helpful, it needs to tie to something the client wants to accomplish. Many people confuse coaching with advice. When people give advice, it may not be welcome. Coaches focus on clients and the goals they want to achieve.

The aim of training is to develop the knowledge and skills of the learner. This is the only time it should be used. Training may also raise the levels of motivation, attitude, or commitment.

I want to use this article to focus on the understanding of coaching. The International Coach Federation defines the practice as:
“A professional partnership between a qualified coach and an individual or team that supports the achievement of extraordinary results, based on goals set by the individual or team. Through the process of coaching, individuals focus on the skills and actions needed to successfully produce their personally relevant results."
    
Over the years, coaching has become an increasingly popular tool for supporting employee development. Research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development shows that the technique is very popular and an important skill for managers to have. Although coaching is now widespread among employers, there are continuing issues about how best to manage and deliver coaching arrangements in an organisational setting.  
    
One key action in coaching is establishing trust and openness with employees. This may involve creating a comfortable environment to have conversations in; making agreements about how to handle sensitive or confidential topics and sticking to those agreements; clearly stating the purpose of coaching discussions; and enabling the client to take ownership of changes that he or she needs to make to improve performance. Another key action is asking powerful questions. A good coach listens more than he or she talks and uses questions well to make the coaching relationship more productive.

When to Coach
Developing key workplace skills - Coaching is a quick and direct method of growing key skills of individuals in the workplace, our garage environments. When carried out effectively, coaching helps ensure that employees receive development as and when it is required, and this ‘on-the-job’ development helps ensure they have the skills to do the job.
    
Preparing for a key task or project - Where there is a key task or project that a person needs to undertake, it is useful to provide them with coaching to ensure they have a clear understanding of not only how to perform the task, but also the goals and actions required to get there. Coaching also provides an opportunity to review and monitor progress.
    
Having a difficult conversation with a colleague – Using a coaching approach can help avoid confrontation and will ensure your conversation is target driven rather than just a series of complaints.
    
Receiving unhelpful feedback - Where we receive negative feedback, it can be made to be much more constructive if we take a coaching approach. This means that the unhelpful feedback can be turned into something that is constructive and useful.
    
Preparing for an important meeting - Coaching will help ensure the important meeting is structured and has useful outcomes, giving the participants a clear understanding of the objectives and goals.
    
When there is a personality clash or conflict - Much like when you receive unhelpful feedback, it is useful to turn unstructured, negative discussions into more constructive and goal-oriented conversations.

Why Coach?
Aside from the question of when to coach, we should also consider why it is important that we do so. There are many good reasons and here are just a few.


The new role of social media: How to... GET IT RIGHT

Find out why social media is playing an important role for the garage industry, and get some top tips on making sure your messaging works
Published:  22 September, 2020

We have seen lockdown restrictions being lifted, but, the next few months will come with its own set of challenges for the aftermarket.
    
A backlog of jobs, social distancing rules, and safety restrictions means providing new and old customers with a quality service can be challenging. However, an effective social media strategy can help.

The right message
The pandemic has changed the way customers, suppliers and the entire supply chain functions. With face-to-face interactions limited, digital touch points for customers are increasing and social media now plays an important role in how businesses keep in touch. Getting your social strategy right can mean the difference between making a future sale or seeing a customer go to a competitor.
    
It’s important to make sure your messaging is clear, concise and reassuring for the customer. With many seeing reduced income due to the pandemic, motor-related issues are likely to be far more stressful than usual. Alleviating this, for example by making sure information is easy to find, will go a long way in improving the experience, and help to secure new customers.
    
Creating content that appeals to users who are in the research phase will also help businesses. Market shifts resulting from the pandemic means people will be open to new alternatives. Ensuring your social media feeds have engaging and informative top funnel content, will put you in a better position for becoming the preferred alternative supplier.

Key considerations
Your social media strategy should add value to the lives of your audience and customers –by providing helpful information, offering respite from everyday stresses through engaging and entertaining content, or educating your community.
    
Focus during the next few months should be on stress reduction for your customers. This might look like clear communication of essential information such as whether your business has reopened, what your opening hours are and if these have changed, and how you are adhering to social distancing rules, or it could be through sharing promotional offers and payment plans which relieve final stress. In addition to sharing information about your establishment, use your social channels to keep customers up to date on important industry announcements; this will help to position your business as a trusted industry leader.
    
To stand out from your competitors, consider using your social channels to add value to prospects and customers – for example, through the use of educational content such as how to guides for easy car maintenance.  

Messaging to avoid
The world is still recovering from the impact of Coronavirus, and many of your audience may be finding their feet again. Taking an over-promotional approach, particularly when it comes to messaging around Coronavirus, can negatively impact on the favorability of your businesses and serve as a deterrent to potential customers.
    
Too many sales messages can have a similar effect too; your customers don’t want to be inundated with deals and products during a time where purchasing power may still be diminished. It’s also worth bearing in mind the mental impact the whole situation will have had on your community; it’s been a difficult and confusing time.
    
The steps you’ve taken during lockdown are ones which you should continue to bear in mind for the coming months, and beyond. It’s likely the aftermarket will take some time to fully recover, but by paying attention to digital strategy – and in particular your social media presence – you stand your business in very good stead for being a favoured brand on the other side.


Wow or WOAH factor?

Andy examines quantity versus quality, and asks why your garage might make customers say “WOAH when you want them to say “WOW!”
Published:  22 September, 2020

Do you work in a quality business? Or a quantity business? Is it possible to have a garage business that has both? How do we define quality for that matter? You see everyone’s perception of quality is different, which makes it difficult to work towards a particular grade of quality.
    
If you examine the excellence and quality movements in detail as I have in the last 15 years or so, you will see that what the really offer is to turn back the clock, applying the standards of bygone days to today’s profit-based material age. The premise is that if you get back to product or service supremacy through quality you cannot fail. Sadly, it is an entirely false premise.
    
Customer satisfaction is no longer enough. Satisfied customers are not loyal customers. They shop around – they may like you, but not enough to resist the temptations of your competitors. Truly loyal customers can’t imagine doing business with anyone else. They become advocates for your garage.
    
Companies who have such customers have managed to create a customer experience that is consistent, intentional, differentiated, and valuable. To do this they use all aspects of the business, marketing, operations, and the most important factor the human element.

Superior service
You could have a quality product or service but if not matched with a superior WOW factor service experience you have no hope in succeeding. Let me give you an example, Curry’s sell quality products, yet the service in most cases and what I have experienced is really lacking. These stores are huge, selling hundreds of lines yet hardly anyone works in them, and if you do find someone to assist you they have very little product knowledge.
    
Now, take off your business hat and ask yourself, as a consumer, how many genuine quality businesses do you know? If you can think of one, perhaps even two or three, where you are constantly and consistently super-impressed, not just with what they do but how they do it, you are doing well. You have seen the WOW factor at work. You may even have glimpsed a miracle. My guess is that you will be thinking of a business that puts its relationship-building substantially in front of making the next sale.
    
These are the kind of businesses that share one of my philosophies about customers: that it’s far better to concentrate on what you do for customers than what you do to customers. Despite all the new technology, and the mind-blowing rise of call centres which in my view do very little in increasing the customer experience and other magic customer service-enhancing devices, companies still frequently fail their customers.
    
The reason is not so often that the computer system has gone down, although that happens frequently enough!) it is mostly because the culture, philosophy and ideals do not exist. When this happens, it’s a people issue.

People power
For those involved in selling, and that’s what we do in our garage businesses, this is a mammoth task. Selling has, it seems, been quantity-driven since time began; but, in the last 20 years, it has become quantity-obsessed. This obsession has, in my view, led to practices and standards in our garage sector that can barely be justified. There is no mitigation. We are all to blame. We have all seen the £99 service, MOT, three-course meal and the kitchen sink deal. Someone please explain to me how anyone can charge so little and offer a quality WOW Factor experience?
    
Given the choice – and they will be – no customer in their right mind would want to deal with a person driven by quantity objectives. Customers already know that, so often, quantity objectives work against quality objectives. Look at the classic high-commission businesses and the reputation they have: double-glazing or perhaps even office equipment. There are many more, including, sadly in our garage sector.

What next?
Find where you and your business are, and remember it well. If you do nothing to give your customers the WOW Factor, the future has some difficult and frightening times ahead, times of uncertainty and high risk.
    
Far be it for me to put the fear of God into you about the future, but that’s exactly what I think might need to happen. I, and many others before me, have pointed to change being the cause of this fear. Not just change itself, but its rate and frequency and scope. In such circumstances you must look to make yourself and your business stronger, more resilient. I have two suggestions for this.
    
The first lies in your business process, I witness so many garages lack of processes that do not consider the customer journey and the impact it has on them.
    
The second lies in the quality objectives you need to create that are understood and breathed by everyone in your business.  For one aspect of the quantity/quality discussion we have not considered is this; quantity only builds immediate sales; quality builds friends. Friends, in the long term, build greater quantity, which yields the miracles that create the WOW factor.
    
Lastly, just before I end this article, Id like to point something out. It may seem obvious, but don’t look for a switch. There isn’t one. You can’t turn a miracle on. There is nothing anyone can flick to change your environment from quantity driven to customer driven. It is truly a pendulum. The only thing you need to know about this pendulum is that its relentless: It was for me running my last garage business it was actually unstoppable.   


BUSINESS PLANNING

Part two
Published:  09 September, 2020

In part two of his look at business planning , Andy looks at what the objectives should be for your garage in the short, medium and long-term


Brakes off! It’s time to accelerate…

Six top marketing tips for garages from Kalimex’ retained marketeer and the international #1 bestselling marketing-on-a-shoestring business author, Dee Blick
Published:  07 September, 2020

With the country gradually emerging from lockdown, now is the time to forge ahead with your marketing. What should the message be though, and how should you deliver it?

1: Let customers know you are open for business
Your commercial customers and motorists alike should be aware of your opening hours, the PPE you are using and the new measures you are adopting in line with government social distancing guidelines. Have you enhanced your customer service to offer safe contactless pick up and drop off? If you have, explain how it works. This will instil confidence in those customers in self isolation, and commercial customers looking for a smooth, safe, and streamlined service – to contact you.
    
What steps have you taken to ensure your unit is a safe, clean, disinfected, and welcoming space? Manage the expectations of all customers with regards to how long it will take to complete a repair, service, MOT etc. Is it likely to be longer than usual because of the new guidelines or you have (as is more likely) been swamped with work? Have you had to change any aspects of your service? For example, all customers must now contact you by telephone or email rather than calling in which is currently on hold. Inform customers, answer their most common questions and make it clear you are looking forward to welcoming them back and making their experience with you as good, reliable, and friendly as ever.

2: Say what new services are you now offering
Vehicles have been stuck on driveways for weeks only taken out for short runs. DPFs are likely to need cleaning and attention. Services are overdue. MOTs delayed. The list goes on. Make a list of your new services/additional vehicle checks with any corresponding offers. You will naturally distinguish between commercial customers for whom vehicle downtime means lost business and motorists keen to keep their vehicle in good working condition for longer than anticipated as they return to work. What are the specific vehicle problems each group may be facing? When you have your list of services and special offers plan the dates for releasing them, so you have a steady stream of enticing campaigns running over a 12- week period. Be sure to pull out all the stops for commercial customers. Can you offer them guaranteed early booking dates?
    
Stuck for what to say to commercial customers by way of an introduction?  Try this: “As one of our VIP commercial customers we are welcoming you back with an exclusive VIP offer this month… plus an important update on the new services we have launched to keep your fleet safe and, on the road.”

3: Use the phone
You should contact commercial customers by telephone to let them know you are open. Be organised though. Rather than just asking a team member to make the odd call here and there, treat this as a campaign – the goal being you want to ensure that every one of these customers has been contacted personally within the first five days of you opening. Make the call as much about listening as well as informing, letting them know of your services, your welcome back offers and the changes you have made in line with the new guidelines. Use the call to update details and make corrections. What is the email address of the person you should be sending information to?  Is the trading address on your system still accurate? (Do not assume anything given the pandemic and the effect it may have had on a customer’s business).

4: Get flyering
Create an A5 flyer, or flyers,  combining the details of a new service, or services, and any corresponding special offers together with the information I shared in the first tip. Printing costs are at an all-time low so take advantage of this. Put the leaflets through the doors of homes in the postcode areas where most of your non-commercial business comes from now. Do likewise for your commercial customers with a different wording to reflect their needs and the services you have launched specifically for them.

5: Get vocal on social media
Promote your activities and offers on social media. Take some nice photos of your workshop with the message ‘Open for business.’ A picture of your team will go down well too. Add some human interest to your posts to encourage sharing and support.  Send the picture to your local paper. They are looking for good news stories so an accompanying message along the lines of the following will go down well: “The team at John Smith’s Motors are open for business with a freshly decorated workshop, full PPE and offering new services including contactless drop off and collection of vehicles plus a range of pre-service vehicle checks.”

6: Use your calendar well
Ensure campaigns are scheduled in your calendar so at a glance you can see: who the audience is (i.e. our VIP commercial customers), what you are offering (i.e. special offers on Kalimex six workshop products), what your message is (book your vehicles in for pre-service checks including a DPF check) how you are going to promote this campaign ( telephone call and two emails; one email to launch the campaign and one as a follow up) When it starts and ends (1 July – 31 July), and finally who is responsible for ensuring this happens (i.e. Colin our apprentice). If you can plan in this simple but effective way, workshop bookings will increase. Not only are you leaving nothing to chance, you are ensuring that shoestring marketing is driving those enquiries and bookings on a consistent basis – week in and week out.

Good luck!

Please do not hesitate to contact us at Kalimex if you want to know more about our Accelerate campaign for professional motor mechanics and the details of your nearest stockist. We are here to help and support you. Email colin@kalimex.co.uk or call free on 0800 783 3717.


Shifting demands, shifting gears

Garages have been adapting as circumstances change, and have even bucked some trends along the way according to marketing agency Digital Incubator
Published:  02 September, 2020

Garages that thought they would be veering away from MOTs in favour of essential repairs during the Coronavirus lockdown are still doing MOT tests at roughly the same rate, it has been suggested.

While DVSA figures showed a 78% drop in MOT performed between 30 March and 24 April, marketing agency Digital Incubator says the independent garages it works with that remained open during the lockdown have not seen such a steep drop.
“We have a lot of garage clients that have switched from MOT campaigns to clutch and gearbox work,” explained Jamie Stoulger, Sales Director and Operations Manager at Digital Incubator. “However, our clients are still generating a steady flow of MOT enquires.”

Campaigns
The marketing agency works with garages across the UK, and currently has over 1,200 motor trade campaigns ongoing. 80% of customers are in the independent sphere.

Jamie continued: “Regardless of the MOT not being relevant, people are still getting their cars picked up. A lot of our clients run a collect and delivery service. We are running that via the ad campaigns and on the website.”
There has been an impact, Jamie confirmed, but a mild one at best, and work overall continues: “MOTs have slowed down slightly, that just what it is, but regardless of us being in the middle of this pandemic, if someone still has to go into work and their car breaks down, they still need to get it repaired. They are not going to just leave it on the side of the road and deal with it six months later. You need it done. As a result, our clients are still generating leads.”

Performance
We asked Jamie he thought this has taken many of their garage clients by surprise. “I wouldn’t say so,” he replied. “There are a lot of franchised dealerships and service centres that have just closed their doors without even thinking about it. They just went ‘we can get funding, let’s just put everyone on furlough’. The garage businesses that decided to pummel through this, they are still performing. There might be a small dip in some cases, but across the board, our averages have not really dropped. I don’t want to make a bold statement and say it isn’t affecting anyone – it is – but they are on average not far behind where they usually are. It has hit them, but we are not talking about 50%. The drops in business are probably around 10% to 15%.”

Situation
On what has been in many cases blanket closure by across much of the franchised network, Jamie observed: “I worry about the outlets that are closing their doors without making the slightest attempt at generating business. It’s still out there. People forget that. Across the board, if you think about it logically, there might only be 50% of the business available, but if 80% of the outlets are closing down, the garages staying open will benefit. I think a lot of businesses are going to come back to a very big decline in their own customer base. Their customers have had chance to test another garage out. If they had a better service, I know where they will go the second time around.

 “I think some businesses have taken things a little too far. There are things you can put in place, like contactless pick-up and delivery. Dealerships could have put in place what the independents have done to keep their workers safe and the customers safe. If you can, do everything contactless. A lot of companies are going to go bust because of this. The best bet is to do things safely, ensure it is all contactless, but keep the doors open. The business is out there, they just need to be a bit more open about how to get it.”



BUSINESS PLANNING

Part one
Published:  25 August, 2020

In a two-part article, Andy considers how business planning is the source of success for any garage. First, he considers the role of a solid process


Buyer beware: Fake car parts

The role of search engines in directing buyers towards counterfeit automotive parts is examined
Published:  11 August, 2020

The automotive sector faces huge volumes of counterfeit vehicle parts. The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) estimates that more than €2 billion is lost each year due to counterfeit tires and batteries being sold and offered for sale inside the EU. Particularly alarming is the recurrence of counterfeit airbags within the top search results. Research by Incopro revealed that one website selling counterfeit Honda airbags received 61.24% of its traffic from organic search and placed on the first page of results.

Risks posed by fake parts
Fake automotive parts do not adhere to stringent safety regulations and put people at great risk. Counterfeit airbags, brake pads, seatbelts and tires all increase the risk of serious injury or death if the vehicle outfitted with them is involved in an accident.
    
Counterfeit airbags have been linked to fatal car accidents. In 2017, a female driver crashed a Kia vehicle into a tree in Highland Park, Dallas Texas, and lost their life after their airbag failed to deploy. It was only two years later that investigators discovered that the airbag module was counterfeit – it was poorly constructed, did not contain a firing mechanism and the main inflatable airbag that should have been present was, instead, replaced by rags.
    
Fake brake pads have also been found to be made of all manner of unsuitable materials, including dried grass dyed to look like rubber.
    
A test conducted by Mercedes-Benz that compared real and fake brake pads showed that cars driving at 100km/h on a dry surface travelled a further 25 metres to come to a complete halt, potentially changing a minor accident into a major collision where human life is put at risk. BMW conducted another test in 2017 where fake brake pads started to smoke and disintegrate almost immediately, indicating that they would completely fail to bring a vehicle to a halt.

Identifying dangerous websites within search results
Fakes may be easy to identify in person, but it can be harder to do so when purchasing online. Buyers are lulled into a false sense of security when seeing automotive parts displayed on the first page of Google (Fig.1) or other large search engines, reducing the level of scrutiny these products receive.
    
In the research, which was conducted using keyword searches for airbags with and without the names of popular car brand names, showed the first 10 results of a keyword search on Yandex, the Russian search engine, using the term “купить airbag дешево” (English translation: “buy airbag cheap”).
    
The website in seventh position was identified as a harmful website. This website generates 61.24% of its traffic from organic search.
    
A product page for a Honda branded airbag on the airbag-master.ru website is shown (Fig.2). The website is advertising a Honda passenger airbag for 7,000 Russian Rubles, equivalent to approximately £89. The retail price of official Honda airbags is closer to £800. The site also offers a discount of 10% for those customers who buy two or more.
    
Furthermore, the product is described in Russian as “Характеристики: неоригинал” which translates to indicate it is not an original manufactured product, despite their claims that they are working directly with the manufacturers. Add to that, the site claims to sell high-quality products, but on closer inspection, the airbag in the photo is, in fact, ripped.
    
Another recent investigation undertaken by Incopro on behalf of a leading car manufacturer revealed that a website offering over 64,871 ‘branded’ parts, the majority priced below 50% RRP, was easily accessible through search engines. The low price and the fact that the items were stated to be shipped without the original packaging indicates this site was likely selling fakes and was therefore harmful to end users.

Counterfeits infiltrating the supply chain
In another upcoming piece of Incopro research that asked US and UK consumers to indicate the fake products that pose the biggest threat to society, alarmingly, only 6% of US and UK consumers said fake car parts. This is despite the danger to life from fakes such as tires and brake pads. This figure likely reflects the fact that consumers are rarely part of the purchasing process for car parts; mechanics and garages determine the replacement parts needed and will place the order.
    
It is most likely that consumers will take their vehicle to a mechanic to source and fit an airbag. In the ever-competitive motor trade, some garages are known to source parts from various suppliers, including online sites such as the example highlighted above, ‘Airbag-Master.ru’.
    
While the mechanic sourcing the airbag will have greater knowledge than the average user, there is still a risk that they may buy sub-standard or counterfeit parts, especially from wholesale sites offering parts at a discount. If counterfeits are bought in large quantities from these sites, there are widespread implications for drivers.

What must search engines do to rectify the issue?
It is brand owners and their representatives who are best placed to verify the authenticity of their branded car parts. However, there are currently no scalable solutions available to them to notify search engines and have infringing pages removed from results.
    
By providing a scalable solution for the removal of illicit results, search engines would have a lasting impact on this problem, especially where sites rely on organic traffic to survive. Every stakeholder should welcome the ability for rights holders and their representatives to be able to take action against indexed pages or websites which directly lead to trademark infringing content.
    
By taking the lead, search engines can together set the standard for protecting everyone online.


GDPR: Taking the cake or the cookie

Got some time on your hands? In her second article for Aftermarket, Rebecca asks whether you should use it thinking about your GDPR policy
Published:  28 July, 2020

By Rebecca Pullan, Carmaster


You don’t know what YOU don’t know

ADAS may be helping drivers become safer on the roads, but it is creating a whole series of new and complex questions for workshops to ponder over
Published:  10 July, 2020

The well known expression of ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ may in some cases be the reverse – that what looks like a good opportunity, actually has a hidden problem. The fitment of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) by vehicle manufacturers to provide ‘added value’ to their vehicles is mushrooming, as well as a significant number of these systems now becoming obligatory under vehicle Type Approval legislation. These twin trends offer a welcome increase in the work that will be needed to diagnose, repair and re-calibrate these systems in the workshop. However, the word ‘mushrooming’ may also have other connotations in this context with another well known expression of ‘being kept in the dark and covered in muck’  from the perspective of the independent workshop.
    
There are a number of problems when the implementation of ADAS is considered, not the least of which is just exactly what is defined as an ‘ADAS’. There are scant details when you start looking and there are ‘interpretations’ of the systems that fall into this category. From the legislative perspective, the transport section of the United Nations (which is increasingly the reference for vehicle Type Approval in the EU) simply shows the following:
 


Who’s going to fix your car tomorrow?

In her first article for Aftermarket, Rebecca Pullan from Carmaster in Harrogate she gives her perspective on the impact of tech companies on our sector
Published:  29 June, 2020

Disruptors. These exist because technological advances often create a new, more direct route towards an end goal. They are often so innovative that they appear, almost as if by magic, like a Doctor Who-style door to an alternative universe. Unbelievable things that appear in your everyday workplace. Just ask any estate agent or travel agent. They are not fiction.
    
Naturally, for the end user they also offer ease, convenience or financial benefit. The best of these so-called ‘disruptors’ offer all three. Hello Uber...But beware. No business is immune while we have entrepreneurs from outside the sector who think they understand what we need to be doing.

Disruption
In my opinion, Who Can Fix My Car.com cannot be defined as a disruptor. The definition is too good for it. There is no doubt that the motor trade is Dickensian in a lot of ways but is this the revolution that it needs? I don’t think so. Let’s look at a few parts of the jigsaw.
    
In order to bid for work on Who Can Fix My Car, you must pay an initial membership fee (cost one). This is the first cost that you will encounter in the process.  And who is the most likely to win? You guessed it. The cheapest. A good quality, value for money, modern thinking workshop will never win. The word win is a verb, showing success. You won’t find any here, at either end.
    
This competition does not benefit the customer. Instead, while they may initially feel the financial benefit, work is often of poorer quality and can lead to further problems down the line. There is no profit left for the investment in the specialist equipment required to maintain modern cars or the staff needed to operate it. When margins are eroded like this, it’s really no surprise that so many talented colleagues are leaving our industry. The overall result of this is a skills shortage and an inability to provide a decent service to the customer. By ‘winning’ the work you must also pay the fee (cost two).

Confusion
Servicing fees are often in excess of £12+VAT. Despite this, many workshops are offering to complete a service for under £100. And yes, that does include VAT. Which begs the question, what is the customer actually getting for their money?  Excuse my little diversion.    
    
What does the customer get for this money? What does a service mean? Anyone? Even the main dealers are confused by this. Our local dealership will call during your ‘service’ to ask if you want the ‘brake service’ at additional cost! Hmm. This confusion leaves plenty of space for even more derogation of the classic service. Perhaps we could just wash it and top up the oil?

Wrong?
A final note from me: Say you do win the job and you’re a great garage; you’re taking a view. Say I’m wrong (this is most extraordinary, as my husband will agree). Now what happens?
    
You have a new happy customer whom you have wooed with your very best and probably at rock bottom prices. You might have even made a loss. Later, they need those pads and discs, you remember, the ones you advised? Do they call you? Nah. They start the whole process again.





 


Brakes off! It’s time to accelerate…

Published:  25 June, 2020

 Six top marketing tips for garages from Kalimex’ retained marketeer and the international #1 bestselling marketing-on-a-shoestring business author, Dee Blick


“Wiper” away your worries: TRICO highlights upselling opportunities

Published:  08 June, 2020

TRICO is reminding garages that upselling wipers can be a handy additional income stream at a time when other work at an all-time due to COVID-19 and the MOT extension.


Coronavirus: furloughed workers and what it means for business

Published:  05 June, 2020

Getting the details right is vital for businesses looking to furlough staff under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme


GSPR – Is it a four-letter word?

The General Safety Protection Regulation is a mouthful, and it’s going to be here to stay from 2022. What will it mean for independent garages in practice?
Published:  04 June, 2020

The Americans love acronyms. They even have an acronym for acronyms – ‘TLA’ is a ‘three letter acronym’. Well, there is now a new acronym to remember, but this one is from the EU and has four letters (should that then be a ‘FLA’?) – ‘GSPR’, or more correctly known as the ‘General Safety Protection Regulation’. The official title is the ‘REGULATION (EU) 2019/2144 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 27 November 2019 on type-approval requirements for motor vehicles and their trailers, and systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles, as regards their general safety and the protection of vehicle occupants and vulnerable road users’, a snappy little title that does not roll off your lips as easily as ‘GSPR’. This new Regulation has now passed into EU vehicle type approval law and will impose changes to vehicle design for all new vehicle models that are entering the market (i.e. new vehicle type approvals) from 6 July 2022.

Motivation
Let’s look at what this new Regulation is all about, and what relevance does it have to independent workshops.
    
The motivation behind this Regulation is to address the problem of 25,300 people dying on Europe’s roads in 2017; a figure that has remained constant in the previous four years. Moreover, 135,000 people are seriously injured. In addition to the safety measures to protect vehicle occupants, there are also specific measures to prevent fatalities and injuries of vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians to protect road users outside of the vehicle.
    
By mandating these new safety systems, there should be a reduction in these figures, but equally, these vehicle systems will need diagnostics, repair and re-calibration, so there is a welcome potential for independent workshops.
    
In simple terms, the legislator has imposed new safety related systems for new vehicles, but these systems are mainly Advanced Driver Assist Systems, or ‘ADAS’ as a better-known acronym. The list of these new systems is:


The good, the bad and the ugly: Third party work providers

Andy asks whether online aggregators are good news for garages, or whether they are storing up trouble
Published:  26 May, 2020

A hot topic within the industry, and one that I cover in my business courses, is online service providers;  third-party booking sites or aggregators – or whatever you happen to call them. Let’s recognise what they are, and examine why these aggregators exist in the first place.  
    
Think from a consumer’s perspective. Chances are that when you go on holiday, you reserve a hotel through a third-party booking site, for example, Expedia or Hotels.com. My guess is that this is exactly what you do because in today’s fast-paced, tech-savvy world, third-party booking sites have become the norm. Consumers are driven by price point and ease, both of which are met through a wide variety of online service providers.
    
While this seems like a win-win situation, there is the obvious downside of enabling consumers to be disloyal. In the age of e-shots and social media, deals fall into consumers’ laps, and it’s only natural to take the better deal over brand loyalty.
    
Most garages don’t have the necessary skills to create such platforms, and thus create the resulting footfall. Fortunately for us, these online service providers have identified our repair sector as another service industry that could become part of the digital revolution.

Digitally minded
The digital world is here to stay and we have to accept that. It’s a good idea to take a step back and examine who our future customers will be in this world.
    
When I look at my children, 18, 21 and 23 years old, I see the next generation of customers, not the 45 to 55-plus who have been visiting our garages over the last couple of decades. My daughters purchase at least 90% of their clothes online, which is astonishing to me. We in the garage sector have to engage with these digitally-minded youngsters.
    
Like all other service businesses, there is the good, the bad and the ugly. I was extremely critical of these aggregators when they first appeared in our sector. To be honest, I still am. I don’t agree with many of the practices currently used by these sites. That being said, there are advantages to partnering up with one. The main one being access to new customers.
    
For a consumer, the first and most obvious advantage is price, and this is where a major problem exists for me. Prices found on third-party sites are often less expensive than the listed prices a garage may advertise. For those who have attended my courses, you would have heard me say on many occasions, these ‘come and get me’ prices do very little to aid our bottom line in an already highly competitive market. However, us garage owners aren’t always squeaky clean when it comes to pricing, are we?

Pricing
For example, I often see adverts for a ‘Service & MOT - £99.00’ or something very similar. How many of you have seen a MOT price go up? I certainly haven’t. Most prices advertised are anything from £19.99 to £24.99. This comes down to what we include within a service. If I asked 10 garages owners what they would include, they would give me at least five different versions. So, if we can’t decide what a service consists of, how do we expect the public to do so? Can we really blame online service providers for taking advantage of this inconsistency?
    
These websites are here to stay. Let’s stop criticising them all and try to work with the better ones to make them understand our businesses a little better. That way everyone can benefit.
    
If I were to open up a garage again, there would be a couple of areas which would have to be certainties in order for me to consider signing up to a third-party booking provider. Firstly, I would need control of the customer from start to finish. Secondly, I would have to be in control of the parts buying. As a compromise, I would accept a small fee to get access to a new customer.
    
At the end of the day, however, I would prefer to focus on the overall service levels provided at my garage, providing a customer experience that is unmatched in the local area. I would put more resource and energy into a social media presence and website offering, as this is an area that garages regularly struggle with. There are many decent, better qualified companies around that can provide specific digital services, so make use of them.

Direct route
It has become more important than ever that your website is responsive, has simple and intuitive navigation, and enables customers to book quickly and securely. A good website will increase enquires and bookings. It will direct users to the information they want to find and guide them through a simple conversion process. Social media should also be taken into consideration, as it is one of the easiest and most direct routes to engage with customers. You must ensure your brand is active within the channels your customers are using.
    
In the end, what I am trying to get across is that before we look to attack these online service providers, we need to realise that these platforms exist because we have not kept up with the digital revolution. These aggregators have simply taken advantage of our industry, and given that they are unlikely to be going anywhere, should we really shun them before truly understanding why they are here in the first place?


The good, the bad and the ugly: Third party work providers

Andy asks whether online aggregators are good news for garages, or whether they are storing up trouble
Published:  30 April, 2020

A hot topic within the industry, and one that I cover in my business courses, is online service providers;  third-party booking sites or aggregators – or whatever you happen to call them. Let’s recognise what they are, and examine why these aggregators exist in the first place.  
    
Think from a consumer’s perspective. Chances are that when you go on holiday, you reserve a hotel through a third-party booking site, for example, Expedia or Hotels.com. My guess is that this is exactly what you do because in today’s fast-paced, tech-savvy world, third-party booking sites have become the norm. Consumers are driven by price point and ease, both of which are met through a wide variety of online service providers.
    
While this seems like a win-win situation, there is the obvious downside of enabling consumers to be disloyal. In the age of e-shots and social media, deals fall into consumers’ laps, and it’s only natural to take the better deal over brand loyalty.
    
Most garages don’t have the necessary skills to create such platforms, and thus create the resulting footfall. Fortunately for us, these online service providers have identified our repair sector as another service industry that could become part of the digital revolution.

Digitally minded
The digital world is here to stay and we have to accept that. It’s a good idea to take a step back and examine who our future customers will be in this world.
    
When I look at my children, 18, 21 and 23 years old, I see the next generation of customers, not the 45 to 55-plus who have been visiting our garages over the last couple of decades. My daughters purchase at least 90% of their clothes online, which is astonishing to me. We in the garage sector have to engage with these digitally-minded youngsters.
    
Like all other service businesses, there is the good, the bad and the ugly. I was extremely critical of these aggregators when they first appeared in our sector. To be honest, I still am. I don’t agree with many of the practices currently used by these sites. That being said, there are advantages to partnering up with one. The main one being access to new customers.
    
For a consumer, the first and most obvious advantage is price, and this is where a major problem exists for me. Prices found on third-party sites are often less expensive than the listed prices a garage may advertise. For those who have attended my courses, you would have heard me say on many occasions, these ‘come and get me’ prices do very little to aid our bottom line in an already highly competitive market. However, us garage owners aren’t always squeaky clean when it comes to pricing, are we?

Pricing
For example, I often see adverts for a ‘Service & MOT - £99.00’ or something very similar. How many of you have seen a MOT price go up? I certainly haven’t. Most prices advertised are anything from £19.99 to £24.99. This comes down to what we include within a service. If I asked 10 garages owners what they would include, they would give me at least five different versions. So, if we can’t decide what a service consists of, how do we expect the public to do so? Can we really blame online service providers for taking advantage of this inconsistency?
    
These websites are here to stay. Let’s stop criticising them all and try to work with the better ones to make them understand our businesses a little better. That way everyone can benefit.
    
If I were to open up a garage again, there would be a couple of areas which would have to be certainties in order for me to consider signing up to a third-party booking provider. Firstly, I would need control of the customer from start to finish. Secondly, I would have to be in control of the parts buying. As a compromise, I would accept a small fee to get access to a new customer.
    
At the end of the day, however, I would prefer to focus on the overall service levels provided at my garage, providing a customer experience that is unmatched in the local area. I would put more resource and energy into a social media presence and website offering, as this is an area that garages regularly struggle with. There are many decent, better qualified companies around that can provide specific digital services, so make use of them.

Direct route
It has become more important than ever that your website is responsive, has simple and intuitive navigation, and enables customers to book quickly and securely. A good website will increase enquires and bookings. It will direct users to the information they want to find and guide them through a simple conversion process. Social media should also be taken into consideration, as it is one of the easiest and most direct routes to engage with customers. You must ensure your brand is active within the channels your customers are using.
    
In the end, what I am trying to get across is that before we look to attack these online service providers, we need to realise that these platforms exist because we have not kept up with the digital revolution. These aggregators have simply taken advantage of our industry, and given that they are unlikely to be going anywhere, should we really shun them before truly understanding why they are here in the first place?


Lockdown battery opportunity highlighted by HELLA

Published:  28 April, 2020

COVID-19 could be the ultimate cause of battery failure for thousands of vehicles currently sitting idle under lockdown, and HELLA is highlighting this as a likely opportunity for garages in the months ahead.



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