What are the pros and cons associated with joining a garage network? PMM’s go-to garage owners give their view.
Shaun Miller – Millers Garage
Shaun is an IMI diagnostic technician with 15 years’ experience in the automotive industry, and was recently announced as runner up in 2017’s Top Technician competition.
Garage schemes are something I feel should be strongly considered by any forward-thinking repair business, but there are so many different types out there with completely different agendas, so it requires some careful research and thought.
Millers Garage has been a member of The Good Garage Scheme (GGS) in the past and we are currently members of the Bosch Car Service network, so I’m able to speak in more detail about these particular schemes and the impact they had on my business. We joined the GGS originally because of the feedback system. At this point we hadn’t really discovered a way of getting feedback from customers, so this worked well for us and we soon racked up 500 individual pieces of feedback. After a couple of years, we felt that we had got everything we possibly could from the network, and it could no longer help us move forward as a company.
We then decided to get involved with training, and this meant looking at other network schemes. We eventually settled on the Bosch Car Service (BCS) network. Our research revealed that in Germany the BCS network is really well known as an alternative to the main dealer – and that’s exactly what we were looking for.
After passing the qualifying criteria and joining the network, we instantly got on board with the branding and training. Within a few months, we noticed customers were making a lot of comments about coming to Bosch as it’s a household name. That’s the power of the brand.
The training is also excellent – quite expensive but very, very good. As with anything these days, you get what you pay for. You don’t actually have to be a member to access Bosch’s training, but it’s the only way to use the branding. I think there is still more that needs to be done to get the BCS network in the UK on a par with the German version, but at the rate that automotive technology is changing, I would rather be involved with a company at the top of the technical tree than with a scheme wanting to sell treatments.
All in all, I think all schemes that have a code of conduct can only be positive, in the sense that garages join these schemes because they are trying to be a better company. When making your choice, I think it’s very important you consider what you want the scheme to do for your company. If you think a scheme will instantly bring in more work, think again; they can help provide the tools to move your business forward, but you still have to do all the hard work.
Steven Paterson – Krypton Garage & MOT Centre
Steve is the head technician in a small three-generation family-run garage, with 30 years of experience under his belt.
In my opinion, garage networks tend to offer a higher level of service and assurance, as almost all decent networks are now signed up to the Trading Standards Code of Practice (arguably the only standard the general public actually recognise and acknowledge).
However, a note of caution; while it may well offer assurances to the consumer, we have to consider the costs to us as garages. Initial costs to join, ongoing monthly payments, ongoing training fees, allocation of dedicated ramps, and minimum spend volumes all need to be taken into consideration.
That being said, there are a lot of positives to be gained from joining a network (depending on the network chosen, of course). There’s the ability to promote the fact that you have been inspected by the AA/RAC (yes you may laugh but ask any of your customers for a name they recognise in the automotive industry and those two will get 80% of the replies); there’s the ability to promote being Trading Standards Approved; there’s access to an advertising budget most can only dream of; and there’s nationwide guarantees/warranties (depending on the network). But at what point do you
cease to be an independent and instead become an employee of another company? Potentially losing some autonomy is something else that needs to be considered. Every garage has different requirements and customer needs to fulfil, so due diligence needs to be done to make sure that if you choose a network, you choose the right one for your needs.