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Personalizing auto service

Auto repair house calls are convenient for customers and an opportunity for service providers
Tuesday, March 15, 2016 - 07:00
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Are you sick and don’t feel like dragging yourself to the doctor? In many cities you can call one of the increasing number of doctors who make house calls. If you’re a resident of San Francisco or Los Angeles, all you have to do is download the app, Heal, communicate your medical need, and a doctor will be at your door in 60 minutes or less. Yes, the health care system has been “Uberized.”

Now let’s apply this concept to auto care. Do consumers want to be bothered taking their vehicles to repair shops? And more to the point of this blog: do you think your customers would like you to make house calls?

Before you answer that question, consider the mindset of the typical consumer. GfK MRI, a leading consumer research firm, reported that more than a third of the Americans feel stressed in their daily lives and that they are losing control. Moreover, 71 percent of that group say they can’t finish everything they need to in a day, which often leads to working weekends. Although this study was limited to American consumers, there are stressed-out consumers around the world who find it difficult to keep up with daily responsibilities.

That said, it’s logical to think that any kind of personalized home service — from house calls by doctors to house calls for car maintenance and repair — can help relieve some consumer stress, whether it’s in busy metro areas where the traffic itself can be overbearing or in hard to reach rural areas.

There’s always been a need for house call auto repair but no one had thought of responding to this need seriously until Uber took the taxi industry to task. One such company — Your Mechanic — uses the web to pair users, who want the luxury of staying at home or the office, with certified service providers. After all, who wants to spend their time in a shop or dealership watching a pre-selected TV channel? Plus, the cost for service should be significantly lower because the overhead isn’t associated with a physical shop. According to Your Mechanic, less overhead also means more money for the technicians doing the work. (Although most of Your Mechanic’s technicians moonlight from their full-time jobs, they may be enticed to work full-time for Your Mechanic if they can earn higher wages, No worries unless they are your technicians!)

To take advantage of this service, consumers simply need to go online via app or computer, explain what they need, get a fixed price and book an appointment. In the case of simple maintenance or repair work, this booking process works well. Understandably, any maintenance or repair work out of the ordinary probably involves a technician going to the home or office to inspect the vehicle and to write an estimate. The inspection is free as long as the customer books the work with Your Mechanic. In essence, Your Mechanic can do a large portion of what a shop can do with the added convenience of doing it on location.

So if you’re running a repair shop, there are a few ways to respond to this phenomenon. You can ignore it…or you can start a standalone business dedicated to house calls…or you can offer it as service provided by your existing business. If you choose the latter and the repair requires more than what can be done on the spot, you can take the vehicle to the shop, much like a doctor would do if a patient needed to be admitted to the hospital. Administered correctly, making house calls with the option of shop follow-up (and the return of the vehicle to the home or office) could mean getting business you wouldn’t otherwise get.

Although Your Mechanic has yet to experience the success of Uber, there’s no doubt that a growing number of customers will use the service. How much and how fast are to be determined. But, surely, we haven’t heard the last of this subject. Suppliers, distributors and brick-and-mortar shops will have to respond. Now who is feeling stressed?

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