The Delayed Maintenance Dilemma

Sept. 6, 2019

Why consumers are holding off on maintaining their vehicles, and how auto repair shops can push them in the right direction.

After conducting a survey of more than 100,000 American households (driving more than 170,000 vehicles), the Auto Care Factbook 2020 and IMR Inc. found there’s $24.9 billion in delayed auto maintenance.

“Ultimately, servicing your vehicle at the recommended service intervals can keep money in your pocket by avoiding more unintentional wear, a catastrophic failure or worse case, an accident,” Bill Thompson, CEO of IMR Inc, says.

“We’re all guilty of not repairing our vehicles on a routine schedule, or even when the check engine light comes on. But, not all repairs are made equal, and not all of them set off a check engine light,” Behzad Rassuli, senior vice president of strategic development for the Auto Care Association, says. “That’s why even if you’re not checking your owner’s manual, it’s important to get your car serviced on a regular basis.”

However important it may be, customers still delay maintenance due to a number of factors, be it time, money, or not understanding the importance of the repair.

So, how can independent shop owners communicate the importance of getting work done without having customers feel like they’re being sold a bill of goods?

Understand the findings.

So, what types of maintenance are consumers delaying on, exactly?

Brake pads, tire changes, and oil changes rank at the top of the list. With 278 million cars on America’s highways and byways, that means there are over 5 million delayed brake jobs, nearly 7 million unchanged tires and 11 million cars in need of an oil change, according to the report. Those numbers alone add up to 23 million underperforming cars on American roads.

Thompson says everything boils down to time and convenience; consumers feel like they don’t need to get a certain part fixed quite yet, and these are the jobs that seem to be delayed most often. With this information in hand, shop owners can get visuals that show the importance of regular maintenance handy to help educate customers on the importance. This information shows that the problem is common, and it’s not unique to a shop that customers turn down work on these jobs, Rassuli says.

“We found that a surprising amount of households are knowingly delaying vehicle maintenance and that the primary reasons are economic, convenience and a perception that delaying the maintenance isn’t quite affecting vehicle performance,” says Thompson, which, he goes on to say, is not the case.

Getting in front of this information can help a service advisor better sell to a customer and prevent delayed maintenance. 

Sell the Service.

In order to change customers delaying maintenance, Thompson and Rassuli say stressing the why is key. And, from a marketing perspective, Rassuli says to speak the language to the consumer: time, money, and urgency.

“Let consumers know that delaying maintenance could lead to impacting another part of the vehicle,” Rassuli says. “If it’s a time factor, it won’t take that long. If it’s an expense factor, you can offer a discount. It may not seem urgent, but let them know why it’s urgent.”

Most customers do not know what’s urgent versus what’s routine, so when the light comes on the dash, they choose to delay it, Rassuli says. It’s up to an auto repair professional to educate customers.

“Let consumers know that delaying this item could impact another part of the vehicle,” Rassuli says.

It helps to provide proof that the work needs to be done. Utilizing a guide can give consumers information on how to take better care of their vehicle and gives them a service schedule on how often they need to maintain their vehicle. It also provides validation on the importance of the work. 

If they say they can’t get the work done right away, get something scheduled on the calendar right away, Thompson says. 

“You don’t want to scare them, but you do need to stress the importance of having stuff done in a timely matter,” Thompson says. 

Follow up. 

And if you run into a customer still turning down the repairs, Thompson says there’s no reason an auto repair shop shouldn’t follow up with that customer later on.

“Take a proactive stance,” says Thompson. “That’s a monetary opportunity to get them back in the door.”

Thompson says that customers won’t mind a shop following up, especially if the importance of the repair was properly communicated.

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