Tag Archive | "Independent sector"

COULD YOU BE GARAGE OF THE YEAR 2018?

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COULD YOU BE GARAGE OF THE YEAR 2018?


PROMOTION ARTICLE ON BEHALF OF AUTOMECHANIKA

Automechanika Birmingham is calling on independent garages across the UK to enter its  ‘Garage of the Year’ award, returning for its second year and will be bigger than ever before.

The competition is open to all garages across the United Kingdom, with entrants explaining the reasons why they should win the coveted award and walk away with £1000. This year, there are six categories for garages to enter, recognising the diversity of UK garage businesses.

The winner of each category will be announced at an evening dinner to be held at The Director’s Club, Aston Villa FC on 5 June, which all category finalists will be invited to attend free of charge. The overall Garage of the Year winner will then be announced at the show on 6 June from these six category winners.

Last year’s first-ever ‘Garage of the Year’ award was won by local garage MotorServ-UK Solihull, which gained the most votes in the battle for top spot, with Philips Garage Ltd from Glasgow narrowly missing out and finishing second overall, and Shropshire-based garage EAC Telford coming third.

This year’s categories are:

• Best Small Garage
• Best Large Garage
• Best Community Initiative award
• ‘Auto-mechanik’ of the Year
• Technology Innovation Award
• Business Innovation Award

Simon Albert, Managing Director of Automechanika Birmingham, said: “The awards this year take on an exciting new development with an evening dinner to name the category winners and celebrate their achievement.

“Last year 75 garages entered – we anticipate that number to significantly increase this year. The finalists will all benefit from a raised business profile, these awards are a great way to reward the hard work and contribution that garages give to the automotive industry.”

The award is being run in partnership with Garage Wire. Interested garages are advised to ‘save the dates’ of 5-6 June and look out for more details in the near future. Anyone interested in entering can get the entry form here

The competition is part of a larger offering for garages at the 2018 exhibition. The organisers have introduced a dedicated Garage Quarter offering over 130 suppliers of tools and workshop equipment, services and innovative products as well as a Garage Social area. End users will benefit from a new specialist demo hub which will showcase live action across body repair and vehicle customisation as well as a Business Services Village giving garages free advice on how to run a business more efficiently. The ever popular Workshop Training Hub will return for 2018, bigger and better than before including expert speakers and free training. The Garage Quarter will stay open on Wednesday 6 June until 7pm to allow business owners and technicians to make the most out of their day out of the workshop.

Garage visitors will also benefit from free parking at the NEC and free breakfast upon arrival. Visitors looking to sign up can register for their free ticket here: https://www.automechanika-birmingham.com/welcome/get-your-free-ticket

Posted in Featured Sidebar, Greg Whitaker's diaryComments (0)

BIG IDEAS FROM A FAMILY BUSINESS

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BIG IDEAS FROM A FAMILY BUSINESS


Operations Manager Lorraine Fullers takes CAT around family-run and CAT nominated garage: D&D Autos in Ashford.

Workshop space serves all marques

If you’re on the Eurostar, the chances are that you’ve seen the looming D&D Autos building as you pull out of Ashford International. It is physically the largest independent garage in the town, if not the whole of Kent, and it needs to be. Numerous awards, including CAT’s Large Garage of the Year in 2017 and a strong local reputation have allowed the business to expand to accommodate the volume of work.

However, big ideas start small, and the credit for starting the business goes to Derek Pestridge, who founded it in 1983 after acquiring his first workshop unit in Ashford. The decision for Derek to do this was simple, it was time to ‘better himself’ by taking the next step in his automotive career, having worked for various automotive companies including a VW dealership Euro Charing. “He founded the business with his friend Dave Woollett, hence where the name ‘D&D Autos’
comes from” explained Derek’s daughter and Operations Manager Lorraine Fuller. “He went on to acquire the units adjacent to the main workshop, which saw the start of MOT testing. The business continued to grow”.

As part of major expansion plans, in 2009, the independent relocated from its old site in the town to a purpose-built 10,000 sq ft. facility, situated on the Orbital Park Industrial Estate. Of course, moving to a bigger site didn’t come without its complications as Fuller pointed out: “We were aware that we may lose customers moving away from our Victoria site that was five minutes away from Ashford town centre and the railway station. However, we introduced a courtesy shuttle service and new courtesy vehicles to help customers get to and from the site, so as to help make our customer’s collection and delivery of vehicles as simple as possible”.

EXPANSION
Since the move, the firm has enjoyed steady growth over the years, growing its workforce from 11 to 23 staff whilst building up its customer base through a number of marketing initiatives. On our arrival, the sitting area was neat and tidy with the company logo sported across the foyer walls. We were welcomed by front-of-house staff who were busy dealing with the Monday rush of customer calls and parts orders as the local TPS van made its morning delivery.

Although Derek has taken a backseat to the business, he can still be found around the workshop replacing a clutch or conducting an MOT test to assist sons Matthew and Richard who have stepped into their father’s shoes.

The workshop space itself is quite impressive, home to 13 ramps and two MOT bays designed for servicing class one, two, four, five and seven
vehicles. The move from the old site has also allowed the workshop to take on more diagnostic work for fleets as well as picking up some jobs delegated from dealerships in and around the Orbital Business Park.

ALL MAKES
“We fix cars of all makes and models and that’s basically the crux of it”, Matthew remarked when we asked how the business maintained a steady flow of work. “We never outsource any work. Everything is completed in-house”.

Matthew notes that he is keen to get all his technicians qualified on these systems over the year. He explained: “We have started seeing more hybrid and electric vehicles coming through the workshop. Some of the technicians and I have started training on these systems through Bosch, but the company plan for D&D Autos is to get everyone in the workshop into some hybrid training”.

Another project is to sell used cars on site, following a new partnership with the AA. Matthew elaborated: “With the reputation we have, we’re always getting customers asking about buying cars, so we are going to see if we can make it work for the business as another add on for D&D. He concluded, “When we roll this out, we are going to do AA warranties, because we’re already signed up for the recoveries when we went through the process of becoming an AA-approved garage.”

For the future, the family have yet more big ideas, possibly including an extra site. We’ll be interested to see how they get on.

Posted in Garage News, News, Out and About with CATComments (0)

IS YOUR GARAGE BUSINESS SITTING ON A GOLDMINE?

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IS YOUR GARAGE BUSINESS SITTING ON A GOLDMINE?


Existing customers are the key to reaching that pot of gold, writes Andy Vickery

Andy Vickery is a consultant for the aftermarket

Andy Vickery is a consultant for the aftermarket

If you’re worrying about your garage’s declining MOT or servicing count, or the fact that you’re having to take more and more low value work from online referral sites, did you know that you could actually be sat on your own pot of gold that could be a solution to your worries?

This pot of gold is likely to be in your computer and contained within your garage management system – and it’s called ‘customers’. Obvious really, but in reality, existing customers are very often overlooked in terms of marketing or gaining more business in favour of chasing new customers.

Outside of the garage trade, marketing to existing customers seems to be a recognised and well-implemented method of maintaining and indeed increasing business. But for some reason, many garages are yet to take this on-board.

I know this to be true because I have talked to and worked with many garage owners who have databases of many thousands of previous customers and when I’ve asked them how often they contact them, they say ‘never’. They might send the odd MOT or service reminder, but that’s it. One garage owner I met, who’d been in business for 30+ years, who was recently struggling, and was clearly cynical about marketing in general, actually said to me: “why would we want to waste money contacting customers? They’ve used us before and know what we are like”. Not his fault for thinking this, you would kind of like it to be the case, but consumer buying procedures and habits are now changing, along with technology that is potentially disrupting what we once assumed or could rely on.

A strategy of marketing to your existing customers can be extremely beneficial to your business for many reasons, but before I go into those reasons, I’d like to rollback slightly to the importance of making sure you capture customer information in the first place.

ARE YOU CAPTURING YOUR CUSTOMERS’ DETAILS?

Making sure you have your customers’ ‘full’ contact details is extremely important for your business, but it still seems that many are uncomfortable with asking for this. Along with a customer’s physical address, you need to make sure you obtain an email address and mobile phone number.

This should become standard procedure when booking in a customer or at the point of handing back the car. It’s probably better at the outset as you can state that you may need to contact the customer. You can also make it a standard procedure to email receipts/ invoices to customers, a bit like some large retailers do. If the customer is reluctant to give details, tell them that they will be able to have a record they can file on their computer that will be handy when they come to sell the car. This is just an idea, but hopefully you get the picture – there are ways of gently getting this information, but you may have to counter a customer’s natural objection to disclosing personal info’ – tell them they will be entered into your monthly draw if it helps.

comped-pot-and-tree

EXISTING CUSTOMER DATA
So it is a great idea to implement a standard procedure for obtaining all customer information, but what about your existing customer information? Many businesses will have data that is incomplete or lacking email addresses or mobile phone numbers purely because they date back to pre- technology days.

In the first instance, it would be good to go through the data that you do have to try to categorise it somehow for future marketing. Obviously if you don’t have email addresses, you won’t be able to email those customers, but ‘lost’ customer letters and mailings are still a good technique of bringing business back in. You can then update the customer details when they come in.

WHY MARKET TO EXISTING CUSTOMERS?
Let’s try and answer the question raised by the garage owner who didn’t think it was necessary to market to existing customers. Customer long-term value: In the first instance, customers should be viewed in terms of their ‘long term value’ – not just a one-off sale. In terms of marketing, maximising the long- term value of a customer is much more cost-effective than trying to obtain new customers. If you consider the value of a customer over five or ten years, this will help you understand the value of investing in marketing to retain them.

Customer retention: Is there such a thing as brand or customer loyalty anymore? Yes, this is still alive and kicking, but it has to be worked at and earned. People have very short memories and can be easily tempted by other offers, especially if they are not shown that they are appreciated or important. Staying top of mind is extremely important if you want customers to return year-on-year, especially in this highly competitive and technologically disruptive age.

Upselling other services:
Making sure your customers are aware of your complete range of services is very important in terms of maximising their value. This will also make sure you don’t lose out when a customer goes elsewhere for a service that you could have otherwise provided. You may have recently added services; you may offer tyres, you may be air conditioning specialists – but you shouldn’t take for granted that your customers will know this.

Displaying your expertise:
Customers will often have questions in mind when they need help with their motors. They may have come to you for a service or MOT, but do you offer diesel diagnostics? Can you work on the brand or model of new car they’ve just purchased? Can you work on electric hybrids? It’s easy to assume that a customer would know this, but often it’s not the case. This sort of information must be given to existing customers on a regular basis, that way you will stop them going elsewhere for services you provide.

Justifying prices: When we did a survey a while back, although price was important to customers, it wasn’t the most important reason a garage retained their best customers. In terms of your ideal type of customer, you stand a better chance of justifying your particular level of pricing when you regularly communicate what you can do and your levels of expertise, that way, customers will understand the value of what they are getting and won’t question price.

Getting referral business: A key reason for marketing to existing customers is to stay top of mind when they need you, but a by-product of this is you also stand a much better chance of getting recommendations and referrals from your existing customers. You can even use this as a reason to contact existing customers, telling them that they will be rewarded for referrals.

TURNING YOUR EXISTING CUSTOMERS INTO GOLD
So whilst you might be sat on a goldmine, you will have to work at it and ‘mine it’ to convert its value. This can be achieved by regularly staying in contact with your database of existing customers. By doing this you will make sure they keep coming back to you year-on-year, buying more services from you, whilst also recommending you to others – that’s the gold!

Posted in CAT Know-How, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, NewsComments (0)

FOUR YEAR MOT PROPOSAL FROM DfT

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FOUR YEAR MOT PROPOSAL FROM DfT


Junior transport minister Andrew Jones

Junior transport minister Andrew Jones

The government has launched a proposal to increase the time for new cars to have their first MOT from three years to four.

“New vehicles are much safer than they were 50 years ago”, said Junior Transport Minister Andrew Jones, “So it is only right we bring the MOT test up to date to help save motorists money where we can.”

Unsurprisingly, this has not gone down well with aftermarket trade bodies. Stuart James, from RMI,’s Independent Garage Association said: “This proposal would, without doubt, cost consumers more in repair costs, incentivise “clockers” and be detrimental to the UK’s excellent road safety record for no particular gain.” He continued: “At the three year period alone this change will see 400,000 unroadworthy cars on the road for another 12 months and no official mileage recorded until year 4”. James also mentioned that a fine and three penalty points for a ‘blown’ tyre exceeds that of a £54.85 MOT test if the car had been checked by the garage prior.

Wendy Williamson, Chief Executive of the IAAF, concurs with James. She said: “40 percent of all cars fail their MOT currently but even with improvements in vehicle technology, the main causes of MOT failure is still brakes, tyres and lights.”

“That is something clearly down to use of the car and we would oppose the DfT’s proposition on safety grounds”, adding that Britain has the safest roads in Europe on record with the current 3-1-1 MOT reinforcing this.

The IAAF has opened the statement up to its members for comment as both the IAAF and RMI prepare reports to respond to the DfT’s consultation before the proposed deadline on 16th April. If all goes to plan, new rules will apply from 2018.

Interestingly, the government statement was published in error two weeks before it was officially announced, giving trade bodies and road safety groups plenty of time to prepare their ammunition.

Posted in Garage News, Latest News, latest news, NewsComments (0)

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