Create Consistent Work
Every time a bay in your shop sits empty, you’re losing money. It’s that simple, says entrepreneur Ethan Anderson.
“You don’t want to have assets sitting around unused. You’re missing the chance to get revenue and a return on that idle asset every single minute it’s not in use,” Anderson says. “We want to make sure appointments don’t go unfilled because once that time is gone, you can’t get it back. You’ve wasted your best asset. And that’s the worst thing that can happen.”
That “we” Anderson refers to is MyTime, the company he founded in 2012. The national website, mytime.com, allows customers to search, book and pay for appointments at any participating service business in their area. It lists businesses by category and displays options of services with visible prices—similar to a daily deals website.
This has caught on with some new startup shops, but has the possibility of becoming a disruptive technology for the auto repair industry because of its use of dynamic pricing—a concept that offers different pricing options based on when customers choose to purchase products or services.
MyTime is linked to a business’s scheduling system and monitors appointment windows. Using an advanced algorithm, the site alters the price of services, such as oil changes, routine maintenance, wheel alignments or vehicle inspections. The idea is to help businesses fill appointments that would otherwise go unbooked by enticing customers to buy with a better deal.
“We start with the ‘full price’ that a shop sets for a service. If it looks like a certain time slot is getting close to passing unfilled, we start to lower the price,” Anderson says.
So far, the pricing strategy is helping fill nearly 1 million appointments monthly at more than 2,500 service businesses, including more than 100 auto repair shops.
It’s been a helpful strategy for some young repair locations, including Atlas Automotive in Los Angeles—a shop that’s been in operation for less than one year.
“Some days we get a lot of customers, some days we don’t,” says manager Kevin Pogosya. “Work volume can be very sporadic.”
He says to grow the business, the shop needed to take advantage of every avenue possible to expand its customer base. Atlas Automotive registered with MyTime just months after opening, and has landed a handful of customers every month as a result.
Of course, those sales are the result of the discounted pricing options. But Pogosya says offering lower than usual prices has been worthwhile to get the business off the ground. He still profits on jobs, and any additional revenue generated for a startup business is better than none.
“It’s worth it to drop our prices in order to appeal to a broader base of customers. I’d rather sell work for a slightly lower price than not sell it at all,” Pogosya says. “We’re hoping that we can consistently get new people through our door so they can get to know our service. The goal is to expose them to our shop so they keep coming back for future work.”
Paul Meeker, owner of Lextech in Los Angeles—who has been a MyTime user for more than one year—agrees. He says it’s been beneficial to build name recognition for his two-year-old shop.
“We’re still new, so I’m just focused on low-cost options to get the brand name out there and build a client base,” Meeker says, noting he’s been bringing in all-new customers through MyTime with repair orders ranging from $40 to $350.
MyTime’s basic offerings are free. At no cost, shops get a customized profile with its own URL that includes a booking and scheduling section using the dynamic pricing features. Shop owners only have to approve their profiles, integrate their scheduling system, and input price parameters.
Meeker says the scheduling strategy might not work for every shop, however. Shops need to operate on an appointment basis in order to use it effectively. You must be able to efficiently monitor the amount of work you have coming in each day so you know whether work volume is already at capacity, or if there is room to fit additional customers into that day’s workload. That’s difficult for shops based on walk-in business.
“I know what my car count should be for each day. By having appointments, I know at any given time how much more work we’re able to handle, and how much more we need to bring in to hit those goals,” Meeker says, noting that 80 percent of his business is appointment-based. “I know exactly what technicians and equipment will be in use throughout the day. That’s why MyTime works for us.”
Not every industry professional agrees with these services, though. Selling work at lower rates just for the sake of filling your bays could have negative repercussions, says Becky Witt, instructor for the Automotive Management Institute (AMI).
“Far too many owners suffer from the illusion that doing something is better than doing nothing,” Witt says. “No, it’s not.”
For example, you could take on a discounted job that ends up requiring an expensive, hard-to-find part, and consumes space in your facility longer than expected.
“This can lead to tying a bay up with a car that costs you money,” Witt says.
“Now you’re worse off than if you had just said no and left the bay empty.”
Witt says businesses in other industries, like hotel operators, already use dynamic pricing strategies. But many have reported that acquiring business from discount-conscious customers hasn’t been entirely helpful. Clients who take advantage of discounts often don’t care about quality and are not good prospects to become regular customers.
“The auto repair business is nearly impossible to commoditize, and those who try find that there’s always some hack who will do it cheaper,” Witt says. “The average seeker of automotive discounts often doesn’t seem to believe that quality merits much attention.”