Reggie here, back writing my monthly edition of the blog. The format between Stephanie and I seems to be shaping up. For now, I am focusing on one of my passions, which is some of the more business-related content. That's not to say I won't end up writing about cars, because I surely will! Stephanie will continue to dazzle us all with beautiful images and share her accounts of what we do here at RMW. In fact, make sure to check back on Friday, June 8th for her recap of The Vintage 2018!
Also before I get into it, I want to remind you that our open house is coming up on Saturday, June 16th. More info here.
My goal with this post is to share a bit of the "why" behind the fairly wide range of pricing in the auto repair industry. Price is always an important factor when making a purchasing decision. In auto repair, it seems that can be a focal point when deciding where to take a car for service. Unfortunately, the lowest price does not always lead to the best value, but even this is subjective to your wants and needs.
If you pick any industry in the world, you will find low, middle, and high priced options. What’s the old saying? “You get what you pay for”? Is this always true? If we exclude con-artists and the top-tier status or collectible products, I believe it is.
Ultimately, a business has two choices when setting their price. They can set the price first, then build the product or service around that price, or they can design a product to their specifications, which then determines what they must sell it for to make a profit.
For an auto repair shop, it is no different. If we want to be the cheapest shop in town, we must do things cheaply. Creating a low price point could mean paying low wages and hiring lesser educated technicians. It could also suggest buying the cheapest parts and supplies we can find. These are the obvious ways an auto repair shop can have low prices. You can usually spot these shops a mile away. I do not want to disparage these operations. The first technician I ever hired summed it up perfectly: "There is a shop for every customer and a customer for every shop." These places fit a need. What are the less obvious ways a shop can offer lower prices? A less desirable location can save money on rent. Training can be expensive, so once the technicians reach a certain level, we could stop spending money here. Special tools can be incredibly costly, so maybe a shop decides not to do specific jobs. Or, in a worst-case scenario, they attempt to do the job without the right tools. What about insurance? In our state, there is no regulation stating that we must carry insurance…scary thought, huh? What about the business that attracts you with a "loss leader", then charges more for everything else? The list goes on and on, but at the end of the day, a shop can’t have the best service and the lowest prices.
On the opposite end of the price spectrum, you have the service center at the new car dealerships. Are they really “stealerships"? As an independent shop, we hear people complaining about their experience at dealerships all the time. We love hearing this because we love meeting new clients, BUT let’s be fair. The dealership has an incredible cost of doing business. Most any new car center is sitting on some of the most expensive land in the city, plus the manufacturer holds that dealer to an extraordinarily high standard of upkeep. Beyond that, they must have a huge inventory of parts and special tools for every single job on every single car in their line-up. On top of the additional overhead, they have to complete warranty work, which pays the service department considerably less than "customer pay." It's no wonder they have higher prices! In most cases, a service center at one of these facilities is also HUGE, so it is not uncommon to have a less-than-personal experience. It's not that they are ripping people off, they just have a different set of circumstances to work within.
So, how does Reggie's Motorworks compare to other options? To answer this question, we're going to dip a little behind the scenes. Number one, we strive to be the best, and by "the best" we mean that we want each client to have a remarkable experience from beginning to end. Let's face it; we're not selling vacation packages or a glorious dining experience. Car maintenance and repair is not on most peoples' "can't wait to do that" list.
To create the best experience, we have some primary boxes that we must check off. These seem basic but doing each one right takes the right people and a surprising amount of choreography: We listen to your concern, confirm what the car needs, inspect for additional pending issues, provide you with an accurate estimate, then complete the job when we say we will. Easy, right? Beyond this, we make alternate transportation arrangements, so you don’t miss out on life while we work on your car. Sometimes this is a simple shuttle to your work or home, other times we provide one of our courtesy cars or even a rental car. To work on the modern cars, we have various diagnostic computers, most of which have pricey subscription fees so we can have the latest software and information. We also employ numerous bits of additional technology to communicate with you, such as a mobile application to capture images and condition of the various systems in your car, and a system that sends you reminders when services are coming close to being due.
Most importantly, we must hire the best people for each role in the business. In the auto repair industry, there is a significant shortage of qualified technicians. The lack of available talent puts these folks in high demand, so we not only want to pay them a generous wage, but we also have to create a benefits package and a culture where they can prosper. You don't find too many people that have the computer skills to diagnose a network communication issue one minute, then turn around and get greasy repairing an oil leak an hour later. It takes a particular person…and we love these people!
We cannot forget the guys/gals up front! They are like jugglers! They have to answer the phone whenever it rings while mixing in questions via text and email, technical conversations with mechanics, estimating what jobs will cost, ordering parts, and making sure we stay on time and within budget. What kind of salary would you expect to earn for this hectic position?
A major frustration in our industry is when a potential new client calls for the first time and asks "How much for a _________?" It's not that we don't want to answer the question. In fairness, most times we can't answer the question accurately until we see the car and see what it actually needs. It's also not a fair way to compare our value to that of the shop down the road. I can tell you anything to get you in the door, but what kind of experience will you end up with when the price triples after we look at the car? Or worse yet, what if we save you $50 on a set of brakes, but they squeak and squeal every time you stop? What if the guy or gal changing your oil doesn’t know how to properly inspect the car for other issues? Wouldn't it be nice to have a master technician advise you that a belt is about to break, so we can save you another visit? Don’t get me wrong, we love our clients and would be fine seeing most of you every day…but I’d guess you probably want to visit us as infrequently as possible????.
To sum it up, your car is one of your most essential resources. In many cases it allows you to get to and from work, and it transports your family wherever you need to go. It should be safe, reliable, and hopefully pleasant to drive. For many of us, it's much more than that. We choose to drive German cars because of a more premium driving experience. At Reggie's Motorworks, we engineer our service experience to match the performance of the automobiles we work on. As such, we can't always afford to be the least expensive option in town, but we always aim to provide the highest value. Are we perfect? No, but we are striving for continual improvement.
As a teaser for the next blog, here is a quick camera phone shot of our 1968 2002, who officially became named "Ralph" after this photo: