Image is a common topic in auto care these days. We’ve covered it numerous times in Ratchet+Wrench and touch on it again in this issue (“Invested in Experience”). It comes up in conversations with shop operators again and again, even when it is not the main topic of a story.
We don’t continue to mention it because we’ve run out of material to write about. No, it’s just that the auto care industry’s image—at least the general public’s perception of it—is still in need of major improvement. I read a newspaper story recently that seemed to unintentionally drive this point home.
The story looked at a shop’s business fluctuations to gauge the state of the economy. It was an interesting read and based on the story, the shop seems to have made a name for itself and performed well during four decades of family-run business. But I couldn’t help but leave the story with the same image of auto care that so many in the industry have tried to shake: It’s filthy, the employees are crass, jobs are haggled over with no price structure, safety takes a backseat to just getting a car on the road—regardless of how dangerous it may be.
Though the story held the shop in high regard, it reinforced all of these negative stereotypes as just the norm. It painted a negative image that unfortunately is widely accepted.
When I say “image,” I’m of course referring to the way shops present their facilities, but there’s more to it than that. A clean facade, comfortable lobby, sparkling bathrooms and tidy shop floor are all musts if you want to win today’s increasingly demanding and selective customers. But as noted above, other things contribute to the image of your shop, and of the greater industry.
Ask yourself, how does your shop communicate with customers, or potential customers? Does your staff dedicate the time to make every customer feel as vitally important as they truly are? The image of auto care hangs on your team’s every word.
Ask yourself, are you engaged in a “race to the bottom” on price, are you a master barterer, or are you charging what a job really requires—and are you consistent?
Ask yourself, how seriously does your shop take the safety of customer vehicles? Would you put your family in the cars you’ve repaired?
There are far more questions like this that shops should consider. Every shop has an opportunity to maintain the public’s perception of auto care, or take it to a new level of professionalism for the good of the industry and consumers alike.