Face time vital to service providers, jobbers

Jan. 1, 2020
As our industry radically changes, the most successful service providers have been forced to change the way they view their businesses in order to maximize profitability.

As our industry radically changes, the most successful service providers have been forced to change the way they view their businesses in order to maximize profitability.

Even though the shop owner's primary interest is in his or her technical ability and understanding of the vehicle, thus they became a competent certified technician, they have taken the time required and learned the math of their business. They now understand the importance of being up front in the shop to meet and counsel their clients, coupled with the process of measuring and managing the productivity in the back shop.

They realize that face-to-face interaction, with a focused discussion, is an incredible way to secure all the business of their chosen client base. They understand that the face-to-face relationship forces the service provider to listen to and understand a client's needs. They understand they must stay on top of industry technology to counsel a client on the best return on their investment in that vehicle, based on how their client uses that vehicle.

This probably is a much different role than what the owner had in mind when he or she first bought the business as a certified technician.

The process of change was dramatic for the service provider to go through. To be honest, many of them fought it until the financial results convinced them it was the way to go, and their business and profits have grown since.

Now, consider the financial status of the average shop that does not embrace that kind of thinking.

In those businesses, the owner is a certified technician, trapped under the hoist, trying to do everything in the business himself and getting burned out. His attitude reflects that. He also is very poorly equipped, his facility is less than stellar and he is always seeking low parts pricing from many suppliers. Is there a parallel for the jobber?

Consider that the jobber business has changed dramatically as well, such as the number of SKUs required to be stocked, the internal and delivery processes needed to maximize efficiencies, technology changing from green screens to "real" screens and business software — all of this coupled with the reality that there are too many jobbers for the number of good service provider shops. Successful jobbers have embraced these changes within their businesses as they have reinvented themselves. Many, though, have not, and that is coming through loud and clear.

The small jobber usually started out as a darn good salesperson; he loved to sell parts. The problem occurred when too much change was coming into the industry and he either refused to keep up or didn't have the resources to.

This owner is now behind the counter taking orders from his customers; he can't attract good employees. There is no time to manage the business properly. There is no time to meet with customers and turn them into clients to secure first-call-always business. These owners are caught in the same lifetime negative business rut as their customers, and their attitude reflects that.

The jobber owner has forgotten his primary interest before he got into business: face-to-face interaction, building people and business relationships, listening to and working with clients and securing all their business, being self-motivated and just being excited about this great industry.

These jobbers see things from only their perspective. They don't want to change, but the comments from the better service shops don't lie:

  • "I rarely/never see that owner; he actually takes orders over the telephone."
  • "If I'm lucky, I may see him once a year; it's almost as if he is doing me a favor showing up to see me. He doesn't get it."
  • "That jobber's salespeople don't even have any authority to do proper business with me."

Listen to the best shops in the marketplace, because they will be here in five to seven years. Get involved in the industry associations and listen intently to what they say is changing and how these changes must be addressed.

It is time you reinvented yourself and your business, for business' sake. Look around and consider that the successful jobbers in our industry are those who lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at them.

Bob Greenwood is president and CEO of the Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. ( www.aaec.ca), a technology company based in Ottawa, Ontario. He has over 30 years of business management experience in the aftermarket. Bob can be reached at [email protected].