So what kind of shops are slow? As I've attempted to help a variety of shops with their marketing, I've seen a pattern that prevents many shops from realizing their full potential. Generally the shop has the space, equipment, body men and painters to accomodate more work, but the work coming in is sporadic - up and down. They need a more consistent flow of work to survive well. What are they doing wrong?
The problem is in the office and in their marketing in the broadest sense. First, the shop usually has no DRP relationships - not even State Farm which almost anyone can get if they fulfill the criteria list. I'm not suggesting a shop must have a DRP relationship to do well, but being a Service First shop indicates that the shop has all of the basics. It also provides a ready-made marketing program in calling on State Farm agents who have been instructed to only refer work to Service First facilities. It says at-a-glance, "this is a qualified shop where you can be certain to get professional treatment."
The shops that are slow seldom have a professional office structure in place, with a friendly, well-spoken person always there to answer the phone and receive customers and prospective customers. The owner hasn't accepted the fact that in today's competitive business environment, it's necessary to operate and look like a real business.
One objection I've heard to hiring a full-time office person is there isn 't enough work to keep him or her busy. Once again, this is a fallacy. The shop owner hasn't considered the value of having someone in the office to send out follow-up and thank-you cards or letters (or e-mails today). The office person could also be able to make collection calls and notify customers, rental car companies and insurance personnel of scheduling delays. With a little training, most competent office workers should be able to do much of the invoice compilation work necessary for doing supplements. And with a little more training, that same person should be able to master Quickbooks or a management system and really make a difference.
Any shop owner who thinks he or she can't afford a good office person has simply not considered the many ways this person can generate income and inc rease profits to cover his or her salary. But more importantly, having a consistent, pleasant, competent person to answer the phone and greet customers who come in is one of the best marketing investments a shop owner can make.
The "everyone's slow" generality
The "everyone's slow" disease isn't limited to small shops with a poor office structure. I've also heard this comment from owners of well-structured, substantial shops. In these cases, I believe the owner has fallen victim to the "unsupported generality" fallacy.
Compared to much of the rest of the world, life in the United States is remarkably consistent. We find McDonald's and mini-malls and gas stations that look much the same in just about every corner of the country. Our laws are fairly uniform. We have the same kind of stop lights at intersections all over. After more than 200 years, we've created a country and an immediate world that most of us seem to agree is a desirable reality.
Our view of what constitutes "reality" can be shattered when we read and see what life consists of in places like Afghanistan. I recently read that the currency there is called "Afghans" and there are four different versions of the "Afghan," all having different values. We take for granted the wonderful convenience of our dollar being worth pretty much the same all over the country.
It all comes down to agreement. Whatever we agree on, whether through laws or through social customs, becomes the reality we live with. If a shop owner agrees that "everyone's slow," to some degree he helps to create that reality. He would be better off talking to someone who reminded him that there are hundreds of accidents every day, and if he gets out and markets his shop effectively, he'll get his fair share.