The debate about ‘online work providers’ in the automotive aftermarket has gathered pace in recent months. Are these new-fangled services good or bad for the industry?
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.
To me, a good independent garage gets the majority of its work from its reputation and word of mouth. Potential new customers select the garage they wish to use based on the things that are important to them – like cost, quality, convenience, and customer service, so I really don’t see how looking through a list online is beneficial to the consumer. The most important part of building a relationship with a new customer is when you meet them for the first time. This is the time when information that will help the garage fix the customer’s car correctly is extracted by the well trained front of house service adviser. How is this achieved using online work providers?
“…successful and forward-thinking garages invest heavily to be the very best we can, and competing with these online providers is quite simply a race to the bottom…”
The type of company in question seems to prey on the small garages and mobile mechanics that aren’t very busy (and there seem to be many out there). Some will charge the garage per job, while some take a percentage of the job, but for me the worst by far are the ‘upsell ones’. It seems some consumers think that all garages rip people off and for some reason garages shouldn’t be allowed to make profit. In reality, however, successful and forward-thinking garages invest heavily to be the very best we can, and competing with these online providers is quite simply a race to the bottom, where nobody can win.
Dave Hill – London Road Garage
Dave has 33 years’ experience in the trade, and has owned and run London Road Garage in Coalville, Leicestershire since 2001, along with his wife Paula.
It was only a matter of time before someone had the bright idea of creating a service for busy people who need a quick and convenient solution when it comes to arranging a service or repair for their car. Let’s face it, most of us take advantage of services like these in other areas of our lives. We need to consider our own business interests when we weigh up the pros and cons of subscribing to one of these web-based brokers. The first and most obvious question is: is there enough meat on the bone of what you are selling, in order for a third party to take a bite out of it?
If you run your operation in a relatively wealthy area, and you target your customers effectively, then you are likely to have a healthy margin. However, if you are setting out as a repairer in an ex mining town, your margins may be very tight. Would either of these two hypothetical garages actually gain anything from an online provider? The highend repairer will surely be doing nicely enough and won’t want anyone getting a slice of the action, whereas the struggling newcomer probably can’t afford to split his hard-earned cash anyway.
Finally, you have to ask yourself: who am I working for? For me, it is unthinkable to even consider allowing another company to have a say in how I work and how I charge – and, ultimately, having an influence on my bottom line.
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.
Are these ‘online work providers’ good for our industry? My guess is that there are some who would argue they have been great for business and others who regard them as parasites, but one thing that is for certain is that they are offering their services for THEM to make money. If a garage also makes some money then great, but these providers HAVE to make money to survive.
“My guess is that there are some who would argue they have been great for business and others who regard them as parasites…”
One thing I have noticed from speaking with fellow techs who have used/still use these companies is that the more popular these sites get, the less income that actually filters down to individual garages. Where they once were bidding against one or two competitors, they now find themselves competing against 20 or 30, and these kind of bidding wars generally head in one direction, which is
lower prices. Great for the customer (maybe), great for the work provider (definitely), great for the garage? Not really.
These automotive work provider sites are already under investigation by the IGA/RMI – as are similar sites operating in other industries – which suggests that this type of service is not all it’s cracked up to be. The image of these sites looks very clean and professional on the outside, but I doubt the public would feel the same if they knew there was a chance that the guy working on their car had no insurance and is not trained…but hey, at least they can leave a review!