Towards the end of last year, PMM talked to XL Motors, a multi-site repair and service centre that has gone from one success to another as part of the Eurorepar Car Service (ERCS) network. In an effort to discover more about the network and its relationship with the independent garage sector, PMM sat down with Nick Taylor, Head of Business Development for ERCS…
PMM: Welcome Nick. Thank you for taking the time to speak with PMM. Perhaps the perfect way to start is by explaining what your role is within the network.
Nick Taylor (NT): Of course. I head up a team of four business development managers who are tasked with the role of supporting our partners. These partners tend to be independent garages that are looking to take the next step on the way to improving and growing their businesses but require additional support to do so.
For me, this support means ensuring that our partners are retaining their customers. In fact, I recently read an industry report that stated only 28% of customers return to the service centre they had previously used. Clearly, the marketplace that these independent businesses operate in is incredibly competitive, and many don’t know where to find the guidance they need to come out on top.
The question then becomes how can ERCS help improve our partnered garage businesses, and strengthen this customer retention statistic in the process?
PMM: Well, you’ve asked it. How can you improve this figure, and where does ERCS fit in on the way to accomplishing this goal?
NT: One of the main benefits of the network is that every one of our partners has a business development manager as an attentive and reliable source of information and guidance. These experts understand that different businesses grow at different rates, so we want to work with our partners at the rate they are comfortable with. Whilst the garage owners and technicians focus on the day-to-day tasks of the workshop, the dedicated ERCS manager can operate in the background.
For example, one area that we tend to focus on is marketing. With the backing of one of the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers, the ERCS network has the resources and experience to help independents successfully market their business. These days, it’s all about managing data and understanding how to interpret it, particularly when it comes to social media. Garages are not always up to date with the correct methods of dealing with this relatively new technology. We, however, are best placed to set them on the right path.
But, before we start with the support, we spend a great deal of time and effort trying to understand what a business wants to achieve from its partnership with ERCS.
PMM: So, what do you look for in a potential network partner?
NT: The first thing to point out is that we are looking for partners, and that is very important. We do not operate in a management capacity. Instead, we want to champion their independence and act as a support mechanism that can be relied on when it is needed.
In terms of what we are looking for from an independent garage business, it must be a professional outlet with a proactive attitude towards development, and the workshop should be well-presented and have at least two ramps. And, that’s more or less it! We are happy to talk to any business that is looking to secure its longevity, especially during these uncertain times.
PMM: In which case, what’s the application process like to become a partner?
NT: Once a garage has expressed an interest in joining the network, the application process is actually very simple. A business development team member will visit the workshop and have a conversation with the owners to make sure that the operation is right for the independent and that the operation is right for the network. The ERCS team member who conducts that first part of the process will be the same individual who supports that particular garage going forward.
Once the initial partnership is in place, the business development manager will look at how the garage runs the workshop, its customer intake, and its marketing, so that they can then provide a bespoke level of consultancy to each of those individual businesses. We also take into account any relationships with industry organisations that the partner has already established, as well as any arrangements with third-party work providers, like WhoCanFixMyCar.com. We do our best to work around those already-existing relationships.
PMM: Which is a great point to mention parts distribution. When a business signs up to the network, is it free to choose where it can source its parts?
NT: You could be forgiven for thinking that our partners are restricted on the vehicle models they can work on because we are backed by the Stellantis Group (formed from the merger between Groupe PSA and FCA Group). However, this is simply not the case. As an ERCS partner, you can work on whatever vehicle you want. We are not going to turn around and say, “this is the business model, take it or leave it”. The strength of the network comes from the individuals who are running the businesses.
That being said, we do have our Eurorepar-branded all-makes product range and, in addition to that, we have links that tie into a number of other major parts suppliers, such as Bosch, Valeo, LUK, etc. The list is quite extensive.
From a practical perspective, ERCS has an agreement with the Distrigo network for the ordering and supplying of components. Although we are incredibly lenient towards the long-standing relationships that the independents have already established with parts suppliers and distributors, we do have a minimum expectation when it comes to garages ordering their parts through Distrigo. We generally find that our members benefit from the great range, discounts and reward schemes on offer at our Distrigo hubs, and we see this as another strength of the network.
PMM: If an independent garage owner is reading this and would like to find out more, what should their next step be?
NT: They should absolutely get in touch. We are always happy to hear from proactive businesses that are considering becoming a partner within the ERCS network. Interested parties can find plenty of information on the Eurorepar website, and there is a contact form on there that will move them along to the next stage.