Douglas Rothberg, CEO of Tootcompare.com
"Despite dealer and manufacturer attempts to take aftersales share back from the independent garages and high street fast fit operators, the fact remains that the independent sector has seen servicing retention accelerate dramatically.
Adjusting for inflation, and including estimated income from MoT testing, Trend Tracker calculations suggest that there was a 6.5% fall for franchised workshops between 2007 and 2012, and an increase of 13% for independents.
With a greater number of older cars on the road, independent workshops carried out almost five times as many MOTs in 2012 as the franchised sector (74% of all MOTs versus 15%).
With MOTs comes a significant demand for repairs, and the majority of aftersales work
for older cars is, in any case, conducted by independent workshops.
Independent workshops captured around 54% of servicing work in 2012, but the good news for franchised dealers is that this figure is set to decrease in 2014 onwards, as the proportion of older cars falls in line with growing new car sales.
Historically, independent workshops have enjoyed the lion’s share of aftersales work for a number of years, but as new car sales begin to make a recovery in the UK, dealers need to be
thinking about how they will attract motorists to their workshops as the car parc becomes younger.
So how can dealers compete with the independent sector?
The likes of Halfords and Kwit Fit have become trusted brands through their strong marketing presence.
Fast fits have effectively used MoT discounting to win business from dealers who take just 17% of the MoT market.
Recently Kwik Fit announced that it was going head-to-head with franchised dealers with a new ‘slow-fit’ car repair service, offering consumers extensive mechanical services with its own team of ATA accredited technicians and headed by a master technician.
Kwik Fit and its fast-fit competitors have been quick to expand their offering to grow market share further – with franchised dealer customers clearly in its sight.
Franchised dealers have been quick to recognise the real benefits that service plans can bring them, with both their new and used car sales.
However, the challenge that all dealers face is ensuring that the aftersales departments works in harmony with sales, through a central CRM system.
If dealers are to win ground on aftersales, they have to be willing to look at new solutions outside the comfort levels.
One solution would be for the sales department to give aftersales part of their marketing budget to discount MoTs for non-franchise cars.
This would not only bring in new customers, but it would also give the sales department much more qualified leads than from showroom walk-ins.
Resource in dealerships today is stretched to the limit, so why aren’t service departments looking at an effective online booking system?
If they do it right, dealers can secure work without having someone on the end of a phone, or answering hundreds of emails. Consumers also need to be given a call to action when they are researching pricing and availability and that is where an online booking facility is crucial.
A phone number or an online form simply will not do.
At TootCompare, we have seen a surge in online bookings in the evenings, with the busiest being Sunday evening.
This is a time when service departments are traditionally closed and clearly demonstrates the need for round the clock booking facilities online.
Lead generation is of course an essential part of any aftersales tool kit and there are a plethora of companies offering to help dealers achieve leads or supply them with work.
‘Get me a price’ websites will send dealers jobs for a price, but this normally means the lowest bid wins, so there may be lots of work for very little return.
Broker sites use the fleet model to source dealers servicing and MOT work. Brokers deal directly with the customer and take payment from them.
The dealer passes a discount to the broker, but usually has no customer details and invariably has to wait for payment.
On other websites, dealers have to pay a monthly subscription to be listed on a site and have their location marketed.
In many cases, it is difficult to know if these solutions are actually driving leads or not.
Google is telling the industry that they are the place to be seen.
But this can be very expensive and is fraught with problems.
The adwords that are working for a dealer will be inevitably copied by competitors, so dealers face a future bidding war for aftersales adwords.
In fact, dealers can find themselves in a race to spend more money and only end up standing still.
The best solution for dealers is to work with third parties who supply them with work and where only pay a small fee is payable, only when the work has been completed and the dealer has been paid by the customer.
That way, dealers own the customer relationship."
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.tootcompare.com.