Fighting the Fast-fits
Battling the fast-fits is much easier if you’re focused on customer retention, believes Birchall.
But there are certain elements of a traditional franchised dealer that can really hold them back from winning customers that have migrated away.
Weekend opening times are a major problem and fast-fits can use their national marketing power to go much further than most dealer groups.
Birchall believes customers are choosing fast-fits for convenience on Saturday afternoons and Sundays.
Rybrook Warwick is looking at Saturday and Sunday opening for the service departments and although nothing has been confirmed, Birchall said: “All dealerships will have to be open on Saturdays and Sundays. Whether it’s BMW or not, all brands need to catch up with this.
“The industry is scared of change, but it will happen.”
Birchall wants to pioneer opening on the weekends and his idea is to turn the business into a fast-fit-style centre on those days.
“We will compete with the fast-fits head on,” he said. “We’re not going to be spending five hours trying to diagnose a problem, that will be saved for during the week, when we have the resources available.
“We can compete with Halfords and ATS on a Saturday and Sunday. They’re taking our business and it’s time for us to take it back. The people going in to those places aren’t having major repairs.
“It’s like walking into a John Lewis on a Sunday, asking to buy a washing machine and them saying no because they don’t sell washing machines on Sundays. You’d just walk out and buy that washing machine from somewhere else and that’s what people are doing for servicing.”
Rybrook Warwick isn’t far off operating 7am-7pm during the week, another area Birchall thinks the industry should move towards.
“It might not earn us more revenue, but the one thing we’ve got to get our head around in this game, is that it’s not necessarily about revenue, it’s about offering a service.
“Directors will look at extended opening hours on paper and say it doesn’t add up. It will pay because you know that customer will come back again and again for convenience. Over a five-year period it will be profitable, there’s no doubt about it. Unfortunately, as an industry, we’re still doing business on our terms, not the customer’s.”