In recent months, the topic of garages and mobile repairmen using online work providers has become more controversial. Are these providers the future of customer/mechanic relationships, or are they doing the industry more harm than good?
It is no secret that many consumers now prefer to use online and mobile services in their day-to-day lives. With the likes of Uber and Airbnb becoming so popular, it was only a matter of time before this trend carried over into the automotive servicing and repair industry.
“There is a huge opportunity for digitally savvy technicians because there is so much work waiting to be claimed online. All you have to do is reach out and grab it.”
Online work providers appeared over five years ago and this type of platform has become widely used by consumers and garages alike.
As most people within the industry will be aware, these businesses act as the middleman between the vehicle owner and a partnered independent garage or mobile repairman. Whilst different providers operate in slightly different ways, the general process is similar across the board:
- When a vehicle needs work, the owner signs up online; giving details of what they believe is required. The system will return an estimated quote – often instantly
- The vehicle is then collected and delivered to a garage (or visited by a mobile mechanic)
- The mechanic will value the work and notify the work provider of the job specifics
- The work provider will communicate a final quote to the customer and seek approval to begin work
- The work is completed – most providers suggesting that the whole process should take one day
- The customer is charged and their repaired or serviced vehicle is returned to them
Joe Stevenson, technician and business owner, said: “There is a huge opportunity for digitally savvy technicians because there is so much work waiting to be claimed online. All you have to do is reach out and grab it.”
“The IGA believes the garage must always retain its true identity in order to protect the unique benefits independents provide. An open and transparent report will be created highlighting the working practices of these work providers.”
Work providing services might be of most benefit to smaller independent garages and mobile mechanics, as it can create a stable flow of work and remove much of the admin responsibility that a larger garage might bear. To larger independent garages, the providers can also offer a source of filler jobs during periods of downtime. To the consumer, the advertised promise is an affordable, no hassle solution to their repair and service needs – which in some cases appears to have been a fair representation of the service provided.
However, following a Rogue Traders feature earlier on this year, scepticism has risen. In the programme, one of the most popular of the providers was revealed to have been pressuring technicians to carry out unnecessary extra work – on top of routine servicing – at an extortionate rate. This could be occurring due to the fact that the system minimises any direct communication between the mechanic and consumer.
On Facebook, one mechanic recalls a scenario in which this breakdown of communication nearly developed into an unethical situation: “[The work provider] said the brake fluid, discs and pads needed changing. Luckily [the customer] refused the brake fluid after talking to me”
Now, the Independent Garage Association (IGA) has plans to further investigate the impact these providers are having. Stuart James, IGA Director comments: “For some time we have been receiving feedback from the industry that these companies create a barrier between the customer and the garage, and generate profits by skimming a fee from a garage’s bottom line.
“The IGA believes the garage must always retain its true identity in order to protect the unique benefits independents provide. An open and transparent report will be created highlighting the working practices of these work providers.” These findings will be presented in the New Year.
As a garage owner or technician: what experiences have you had with these businesses, and more importantly, how do you think they are impacting the industry? Email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org