Have You Considered?

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Can you believe another year has gone by? According to most end-of-year reports I have seen, 2015 was a year to recover. That means 2016 must be a year to grow, right?

During the 2015 APPEX/SEMA show, it became obvious by a number of transactions at the show, shop owners are expecting to grow. Although most shops have invested in more manpower, shops are investing more resources in new technology. This trend in new technology is a new way to perform the same services as always but more efficiently.

The new technology in today’s shops is fascinating. Not only is it user friendly, but it also does more of the work for you. Interestingly, the most important element of these products is to increase speed of service. If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times, “In the quick lube industry, the most important thing you are selling is people’s time.” Give someone their time back, and you have made a customer for life.

2015 was also the year of the remodel. At a minimum, shops were painted, floors resurfaced and doors replaced. Many shops adopted new colors, changed uniform styles and embraced some new techniques and new services. So what is new for 2016? Equipment, POS systems and procedures are all new.

Alphonse Karr, a noted journalist and author from France, was quoted saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Karr used this line in his writings in the mid-1800s, but how true his words are today. I remember as a young man, more than 40 years ago, growing up on the plains of Texas, my family, like most families in our area, farmed. Back in those days, it took my uncle, several grown men, plus a handful of nephews and sons to keep the farm operating. Now, my cousin farms the same place by himself and has a full-time position as a professor at our local university. How is this possible? Technology makes it work. Improved farming technology has increased productivity while reducing the amount of manpower needed to farm the same field. The same is true in most industries where manpower used to be the only way to produce a product, but not anymore.

Have you considered new equipment?

Have you seen the new tire equipment available? According to the annual National Oil & Lube News Oil Change-Plus Survey, close to 50 percent of oil change-plus locations are selling tires. If you are selling tires, you are also servicing tires. But even if you’re not selling tires, the survey states, most shops in our industry are rotating and/or repairing them. New tire machines have eliminated manual labor that used to be involved in servicing tires.

Last year, I was working with a shop that was trying to improve its speed of tire services. What was interesting in discussing the problem, was the technicians could easily mount and balance a set of tires in less than 30 minutes. On paper it looked like they could sell 80 tires per 10-hour day, but the reality was they could only do about 20 tires per day.

My first question was, “If you could mount 80 tires a day, could you sell that many?” They were not sure, but the idea of hiring more people so they could find out was not an option they wanted to explore. The answer was to buy new equipment to facilitate the anticipated increase in volume. As it turned out, the right equipment did make it possible. I am sure your reaction was just like that owner’s reaction. New equipment is expensive, but in most cases a piece of equipment costs considerably less than hiring a new employee.

Have you considered updating your POS system?

Several times during 2015 I came across shops that had decided it was time to update their POS system. As with new equipment, a POS system should be making you money. I have discovered over and over again, the inventory module of a POS system should pay for itself by giving you the correct information of what to order and how much.

If for no other reason than to get control of inventory, a POS system is worth it. However, there is more to a new system. How many times have you wondered how many XYZ vehicles you have serviced in the past month? Is it time to renegotiate your contract with your warehouse? You need to know how much you are spending now and how many and what products you have installed on your customers’ vehicles. A new POS will give you the information you need to make good decisions.

Several of the systems in place today have a built-in salesperson in the system. With the new systems that incorporate a tablet greeter function, the greeter has a unique sales tool in hand. The POS systems I have seen work while presenting the recommended services needed include a video of what the services included are. In today’s media-driven world, these videos are huge both to young and older drivers. The videos answer questions and educate your customers. We all know an educated customer is a better customer and normally will accept the recommendations because they know how important the service is.

If inventory control and an enhanced service presentation do not get your attention, the ability to track and monitor staff should. Employee files are instantly updated each time an employee clocks in or out, sells a service or performs any of the other requirements of technicians. Best of all with the POS system, technicians, in essence, update their own file every time they stroke the keyboard. Inventory control, employee productivity and a sales tool will ensure a better service to your customers. What’s not to like?

Have you considered multiple, simultaneous services?

This may be one of the finest features of today’s new shops. Several manufacturers are now offering equipment that will perform a multi-point vehicle inspection in the time and distance it takes a vehicle to roll into the bay. The systems check the tire depth, alignment and braking ability. With a little extra effort of putting clamps on the battery, a printout of the condition of the battery will deliver the news to the customer. If all this wasn’t good enough, the multiple-check systems will also print out a report card that is easy to read and assures your customer of the condition of their vehicle.

Many of today’s flush machines are designed to run while other services are being performed. Many shops include a tire rotation with a transmission or radiator flush. In the time it takes to flush a vehicle, a technician can rotate the tires. Of course, most of us know if we can get the tires off, it gives us an opportunity to check the brake pads and various other parts behind the wheels.

2016 looks like it will be a good year. This month is a good time to evaluate the shop, set some goals and make the changes needed to achieve them. Let me know what you are considering changing this year. 

RAGAN HOLT is the quick lube advisor for National Oil & Lube News. He is available for consulting and training in the quick oil and lube industry. He can be contacted at: ragan.holt@noln.net

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