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New service contract is added customer benefit Rad Air has been seeking
The best automotive repair shops have been established and operate on one premise: to offer the best service and repair work possible to their customers. The thought of how profitable the business will be is secondary at most because, great shop owners who put their customers first know that profitability will be achieved as satisfied customers will keep coming back.
Andy Fiffick is certainly one of those shop owners. As the owner of 12 northeast Ohio shops, Fiffick lives by the adage, “Take care of the customers and they will take care of you.”
Fiffick expresses his customer commitment in what he calls three golden rules: 1) fix the car right the first time; 2) charge a fair price; and 3) make sure the customer is happy. With that kind of philosophy, it’s no surprise that his business — Rad Air — holds a minimum “A” rating with the BBB and all are BBB Accredited Shops. (Note: Most Rad Air shops have earned an A+ rating; however, newer shops cannot earn the “+” rating due to their limited time in business.)
Recognized for his customer focus His customer commitment is a primary reason that Motor Age has recognized Fiffick’s business as a Top Shop over the last several years. He goes way beyond what most independents do, including providing loaner cars just like most dealerships.
And like dealerships, Fiffick recognized that he wanted to offer another attractive customer benefit — service contracts. Unfortunately, after trying a few contracts from different service contract companies, he was left with a sour taste in his mouth. “Simply, they didn’t provide what they said they were going to provide,” he says. “Although offering service contracts is beneficial to my customers, I can’t offer them something that is not up to par with the service and maintenance we offer.”
Ready to give up on the thought of ever offering service contracts again, Fiffick heard about a new offering from Motor Age called the Motor Age Vehicle Protection Plan (MAVPP). “I was interested right away because in the back of my mind I had hoped someone would come along with a premium service contract plan that I could count on — and I knew I can count on Motor Age!”
Choice partners boost confidence Moreover, the companies that Motor Age partnered with even boosted his confidence more. “The two companies, Century Warranty Services, Inc. (CWS) and Automotive Product Consultants, Inc. (APC) are two leading service contract providers in the country. CWS underwrites the contracts and facilitates claims while APC handles business development and support, including recruiting, training and servicing shops. CWS and its affiliates are among the largest service contract providers in the industry.
“With this kind of reputation and support behind this new service contract program, I knew this was something that not only we could sell, but should sell for our customers’ sake,” Fiffick emphasizes.
While the other plans that Fiffick once offered were fraught with problems, Fiffick says Motor Age and its partners studied what shops and customers really want and put together a customer-centric plan designed for shops.
For instance, Fiffick says that customers want flexibility in how they pay for a service contract. “Our previous providers wanted upfront payments, which didn’t appeal to budget-minded customers. Instead, the MAVPP features interest-free monthly payments.”
Two major benefits Although Fiffick cites many benefits of MAVPP, two stand out from the rest. First is how easy it is to sell the contracts and, second is, how easy it is to handle claims.
Ease of selling is made possible by the portal software system installed on his shop’s computers. “We can easily start a conversation with every customer and quickly walk them through good-better-best plans,” Fiffick says.
“Frankly, most customers are surprised that they can even buy service contracts from us, but quickly see the benefits of the contracts that are tailored to their specific needs. Plus, they like buying from someone they already trust.”
Once the conversations are started by my service writers, they simply guide customers through the options which ultimately lead to the Motor Age coverage center at APC. “APC does the most time-consuming part of the sales process — their sales professionals close the deals leaving our service writers free to do their other work.”
Talking the same language As for the other major benefit — claims processing — Fiffick says it couldn’t be easier. “It starts with CWS talking the same language shops talk because a good number of their claims analysts are ASE certified and have many years of experience processing claims.”
Just as important, Fiffick says that claims are processed immediately. “Smaller claims don’t require an inspection. Larger ones, such as an engine or transmission rebuild, might require inspectors but they are quickly dispatched.”
To make sure that a shop’s profitability is not compromised, Fiffick says for covered repairs, CWS pays for diagnostic time, MRSP for parts and standard posted labor rates. And once a repair order is faxed to CWS and matched up to the authorized repair, Fiffick says the shop receives payment over the phone with a credit card number just like a customer. “It doesn’t get any easier than that,” Fiffick exclaims.
Finally after years of disappointment, Fiffick has found a service contract program that works for both his customers and his business. Perhaps the MAVPP is worthy of a fourth golden rule: help keep customer vehicles on the road well beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.
Eighty-five percent of motorists who acquire service contracts through a repair facility will typically return to the same shop for claim repairs,” says Rick Bale, managing director for Century Warranty Services, Inc.
That being the case, shouldn’t all shops offer service contracts to their customers?
“Absolutely,” says Bale. “Connecting the customers with high quality coverage is good for the shop and for the customer.”
Some shops have dabbled in selling service contracts but most shop owners have overlooked service contracts not realizing that they are a key tool for retaining customers. They give shops the opportunity to build long-term relationships with their customers who prefer to have their service work performed by the very businesses that helped them protect their vehicles from costly repairs.
Having this connection with customers also creates opportunities that make it easier for shops to recommend other necessary services such as regular maintenance during visits when repair claims are made. The opportunity to add parts and service revenue over the life of the contracts from both repair claims and customer pay maintenance is clearly present because the customers’ perspective is that they’ve bought one stop peace of mind from someone they trust for the protection and care of their vehicle.
“From the shop owner’s perspective, offering service contracts aligns with a shop’s core business of maintaining and repairing vehicles versus other prospective profit centers”, says Bale. “It’s wonderful if some shops can afford to start other retention businesses such as a car detailing operation, but the required investment in a new enterprise can be challenging or even crippling to them. Yet it doesn’t cost anything to offer service contracts.”
Protection against mechanical breakdowns are foremost on customers mind during a customer pay service visit. However, many customers are likely unaware that they are still eligible for coverage outside their factory warranty. This creates the perfect opportunity to raise the issue and offer valuable protection to shop customers. Who better to offer these contracts than the people they truly entrust to keep their vehicles running at peak efficiency?” Once they are informed that they are eligible, they are primed to learn about how they can protect their vehicles. “The key to selling service contracts is to assist customers by making the best coverage options available that specifically matches their vehicle, driving habits and needs”, Bale says. “Customers want professional consultation when considering a service contract, not a hard line sales approach. After all, that’s what they want from service advisers when discussing maintenance and repair options for their vehicles.”
“Typically, with service advisers concentrating on the daily tasks of writing up vehicle repairs, they are not prepared to offer advice or to sell service contracts”, says Bale. “Selling service contracts involves training service advisers or having a third party specialty firm standing by to handle it for them.” He adds, “Both options are possible depending on a shop’s particular needs.”
Because service contracts help achieve the ultimate goal of taking care of a vehicle, offering them should be viewed as a customer service that is easily incorporated into an adviser/customer exchange. For example, Bale says that, “a good time to bring up the subject is when a service adviser reviews the results of a multi-point inspection on the customer’s vehicle or when the customer is picking up their vehicle”.
Summing up, Bale says, “Offering service contracts is a practical and effective way to exceed the customer’s expectations, which also happens to be beneficial to shops.”
Motor Age has launched an exclusive extended service contract plan for independent automotive repair shops to offer to their customers. Designed to be a turnkey solution to help shops boost their profits, the plan is called the Motor Age Vehicle Protection Plan (MAVPP).
“The beauty of this plan is that everything to assist a customer with obtaining quality coverage— administration, marketing, sales and claims — is handled by coverage specialists for shop owners so that they can tend to their core businesses,” said Jim Savas, VP/GM of Motor Age and the UBM Advanstar Automotive Group. “Moreover, it is risk-free because it does not require financial or personnel investments. Connecting the customer with high quality coverage is good for customers and good for shops.”
This is made possible by Motor Age partnering with Century Warranty Services, Inc., one of the nation’s premiere service contract providers and Automotive Product Consultants , Inc. (APC), a leading industry marketer who powers the program. “These companies have achieved great success in the service contract business by being customer-focused,” Savas said. “It takes a company of Century’s caliber to handle claims professionally, promptly and fairly which, of course, reflects favorably on the shops offering the contracts.”
Rick Bale, managing director at CWS, said company officials are ecstatic to partner with Motor Age. “Century Warranty Services and its affiliates (CWS) have been providing premium contracts in the automotive arena since 1978 and are excited about doing the same in the independent repair sector by teaming up with its leading resource.”
According to Bale, MAVPP claims will be handled through CWS, which was established specifically to serve non-auto dealer channels. “An accurate and timely claims process will be supported by veteran team members, many of whom are ASE Certified and Master Tech claim adjusters,” Bale said. “To make sure that a shop’s customers get a plan that suits their needs, a variety of coverage levels are offered ranging from covering only catastrophic drive-train failures to covering virtually all mechanical and electronic components.”
“One of the features that makes MAVPP ideal for independent repair shops is the Portal Referral System (PRS) powered by APC,” said Savas. “PRS is an easy-to-use desktop tool installed on the shop’s computer to provide customers immediate information on available Century’s plans and then connect customers to coverage specialists to handle the details.
“Shops can use PRS four different ways depending upon how involved they would like to be with the sales process.” Savas explained. “Shops have the option to simply provide their customers information, quotes, or start the sales process before turning the details over to coverage specialists thus saving shops from performing any processing task.”
For more information about the MAVPP, please contact Bob Olsen at 866/225-7135 or click here.
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