Aug. 19, 2019—At the beginning of the month, Ratchet+Wrench ran a story that reported $24.9 billion in delayed maintenance, according to the Auto Care Factbook 2020 and IMR Inc.
Bill Thompson, CEO, IMR and Behzad Rassulim, senior vice president, strategic development, Auto Care Association (ASA) discussed how the survey was put together, the implications and what shop owners can do to discourage customers from delaying necessary maintenance.
How was the survey put together?
Thompson: This is information pulled out of a tracking study that IMR does every quarter. For the past four years, we’ve run the study, which is rather large. 100,000 households were polled on how they maintain vehicles and we asked if they were knowingly delaying repairs. This is a nationally representative sample of customers and of chalices on the road. We had to get that information right because, if you have too many older vehicles, for example, that will skew the data.
Why is delayed maintenance important to track?
Rassulim: When we think of growth and opportunities for the auto care industry, one of the opportunities is maintenance not being done. For a long time, there’s been a number that’s been reported called “unperformed maintenance” and it’s been reported between $50 billion and $70 billion. What we kept hearing from industry members is, “what do we do with that number?” In other words, how can we tap into that opportunity. We set out to find an answer. We wanted to know what maintenance items weren’t being performed and why. We also wanted to know in what time period they planned on getting that work done. IMR could get that sample and tell us what a car owners knows about what they have to get done and in what time frame. The study revealed a [roughly] $25 billion opportunity for the industry.
What are the biggest obstacles standing in the way of getting maintenance done?
Thompson: When you look at why people are not doing it, it’s time. They may be short on time—or money. That’s an obvious one as well. The one I find interesting is the crux, they feel like they don’t need it yet. A lot of the parts that fall into things that are being delayed are items they believe they can delay. Oil change, brakes, tires, we feel like we can wait a few weeks. That’s where shops have their biggest opportunity.
How can you get customers to perform that work right away or get them to come back?
Rassulim: Speak that language with the consumer. Time, money and urgency. It helps to have a conversation with the consumer, to rank the volume of opportunity and have the conversation of the importance of it. If it’s a time factor, explain that it won’t take that long. If it’s too expensive, offer a discount. If they don’t believe it’s urgent, let them know why it is.
How can you encourage customers to not delay?
Rassulim: There are a lot of unknowns from a car owners perspective. They don’t know what’s urgent versus what’s routine maintenance. The light on the dash comes and they think they can delay. You need to express the cascading effects of maintenance to a consumer. Let them know that delays could impact another part of the vehicle.
If a customer leaves and says they’ll come back, how do you make sure they do?
Thompson: You don’t want to scare them, but you do need to stress the importance of having stuff done in a timely manner and getting it on the calendar right away or following up in a particular amount of time. The customer won’t mind the shop following up. Take a proactive approach. There’s a monetary opportunity to get them back in the door.