Sadly, in this economy, lower-income car owners have also migrated to cheaper paint and body providers. Shops like “One Day Paint and Body” are getting much of the business that quality shops used to get to keep their technicians busy and keep paint purchase volume up.
It may be time for shop owners to take a hint from theater owners and more thoroughly focus on higher income prospective customers. Many shops already do aim their marketing at higher end European vehicles like BMWs and Mercedes, but the range of vehicle choices has also increased greatly. The Korean automakers have begun to claim a larger share of the market. Like theater owners, a shop owner has to ask, “What special amenities will get all better quality car-buyers to choose my shop over any other?”
Many shops have already focused on pampering their customers. They go beyond proving a rental car to taking the rental car to the customer and having a lock box for keys so the customer can drop off the rental car at the shop after hours. A shop may also choose to cover the difference in cost for a luxury rental vehicle. A luxury lounge with big TV, WIFI, computer games for kids and up-scale refreshments are already commonplace. Many shops offer a car wash and interior clean. For higher end customers, shops may even include exterior and interior detail. But who pays for all of these amenities when insurance companies are working to reduce what they will pay for?
Like theater owners who raise the price of tickets, astute shop owners are realizing the need to offer more self-pay options even for insurance pay jobs. Unlike theater owners, they can’t ask for $5.00 for a box of popcorn or a cold drink. More ingenuity is called for. Time is a major concern for many vehicle owners, so one new specialty called “Cosmetic Car Repair” includes an in-house bumper repair kit that can sometimes enable the shop to turn out a bumper repair in just a few hours. This eliminates outsourcing costs and also delivers the rapid repair the customer wants.
Another aspect of the same system is a more sophisticated version of paintless dent repair. Once again, speed of repair is the special value. Although cosmetic car repair is a specific system, other cosmetic improvements may be desired. Many shops have a contract with a vehicle graphics provider who will do pin striping, clear car bras and more.
Another dimension of the luxury theater game is a focus on providing select films specifically chosen for an audience with those preferences. Invitation-only showings have already begun. If a shop has managed to capture sufficient information about customers, it may be in a position to do invitation-only showings. For example, as baby-boomers age, there are more handicapped drivers. A showing of power lifts, power running boards and special driver’s seat modifications could bring in previous customers who were, or have become, handicapped. Prior customers whose children are reaching driving age may respond to an invitation to see black-box driving controls and speed governor systems.
Parents of younger children are more concerned with child car seats. These must be placed properly to provide maximum protection. Manufacturers of products like these may be willing to send a representative to the shop to do an invitation-only demonstration for customers with small children. More than a million pets are killed every year in vehicle accidents. Pet restraints and other controls are not only another add-on a shop can offer pet owner customers, but if a shop has collected customer information about pets, an invitation-only presentation of pet control products is possible.
As a shop gets more involved in providing a few luxury accessories, significant opportunities open up to go beyond repairs and become an information provider. Like the child car manufacturers or distributors, these accessory providers have a wealth of representatives eager to go out to generate business for their companies. All you, as the shop owner, have to do is send out the invitations and provide the space and perhaps a few refreshments. In a sense, you become the new theater owner in a business once limited to collision repair.