Location Affects Repair Shops, Survey Reveals

April 10, 2019
According to a survey by RepairPal Inc., locations with a high cost of living such as Hawaii and California were slotted as the worst areas for auto repair.

RepairPal Inc. recently released a survey regarding the best and worst metro areas in the United States for car repair. According to the survey, factors for determining the best and worst areas included average repair bills, labor rates, road conditions, and mechanics per car used.

The survey revealed that Honolulu holds the spot for the worst area for car repair, listing factors that include its high cost of living as well as the state with the second-fewest repair workers per car, according to RepairPal. Additionally, the survey revealed that the state had the fourth-worst roads among other cities.

Eric Twiggs, performance coach at Automotive Training Institute says location is a common complaint shops have, but he doesn’t believe it’s one that’s truly an excuse for poor service. Prior to working as an automotive coach for the last 10 years, Twiggs previously worked as a shop manager and a district manager where he oversaw 500 employees.

“Most of the areas that were rated as the worst were the ones that had the really high cost of living,” Twiggs says. “My big takeaway from a shop perspective is I think now it puts the burden on the shop owner to make sure you’re really improving your game [and getting customers into your business].”

Twiggs sat down with Ratchet+Wrench to discuss how location can be a small factor in a shop’s success, and how a shop can overcome a location flaw by providing excellent service to customers.


How can location alone affect your business as a shop owner?

I think that location can affect you, but the perspective I have is that I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen two shops in a location that somebody would consider to be a tough area—high cost of living, high unemployment rate—and one shop is struggling to keep the doors open, whereas the second shop is having its best year ever in the history of their business.

I think location becomes a mindset a lot of times; the shop owner that’s focused on putting the right processes in place can thrive regardless of where they are. What’s interesting is location is one of the big things we hear; it’s kind of a running joke among my coaching colleagues: “My shop is different, my area is different.” We get people that say, “You know what, it’s just how you need to do things. It’s how you need to set up pricing.” Then we hear, “Well, you just don’t understand. I’m in Honolulu, I’m in Panama Bay—my area is different.”

How can a shop owner change their negative outlook on their location and better cater to the customers they have?

I would focus on value and ask yourself this question: “What makes your shop different?” You almost have to look at your shop from the lens of the customer; the customer has a lot of options and choices. Why would that customer want to do business with you instead of your competition, and what makes you different? You should have a clear answer to that question.

If you’re in the market with a low labor rate and you’re looking to raise it, how do you explain to your customers or make your business seem worth the extra cost?

I’ve seen this time and time again, when the customer feels the value, they will find the money. A lot of times when the customer is saying, “Oh, you’re too expensive,” what they’re really saying is, “This experience is not worth the money.” I would focus on communicating what the customer is getting for the experience and you’ll get less of those customer complaints about your expenses.

How can a shop show the value of their business to customers?

I think it starts with the image and having a high presentation. You want to have clean standards and really exceeding what the customer would expect as far as cleanliness, image, and how the employees are dressed. When I used to run shops, my technicians would always have their shirt tails tucked in, and they looked very presentable.

Even something as simple as having digital inspections where you’re sending the customer an edited picture of exactly what’s going on with their vehicle; it’s one thing for me to tell you that you have an issue, but it’s another thing for me to send you a picture where I circle it and you can see exactly what I’m talking about. It helps build that trust.

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