You might have noticed how independent garages have changed over the years. Gone are the days when your local garage was an oily institution with overalls strewn all over the place and trashy pictures on the walls. Independent garages of the 21st century are efficient businesses constantly striving to give their customers the very best experience and value.
Milton Keynes’ Quality Car Service is a Trust My Garage member that has been operating as a family-run business for five years. The advances that Quality Car Service has made in that time are truly impressive, with a real strategic approach to the day-to-day running of the garage, ensuring they’re capable of dealing with any job, no matter how difficult it may be, and leaving their customers satisfied.
Owner Chris Gurney runs through the top five things that Quality Car Service, and many other independent garages, are doing and how they benefit you, the consumer.
1. Web design
This enables us to be very reactive with online web offers etc. We also run our own online advertising campaign via Google AdWords and we measure the results, meaning we can be instantly reactive to online pricing and offers as we can tweak them and see immediate results. We record how each customer found out about us, whether it’s from a recommendation, repeat business, Google or Facebook and we can also see the return on investment for each of these areas of marketing. Our web designer also keeps Facebook and Twitter up to date, and we send out emails requesting feedback on the service they have received. We really do listen and take on board the feedback we receive, using it to improve our own services and quality of work. We employed our own full time web designer 14 months ago, however this role has evolved into an Online Marketer, a must for every independent garage.
2. Staff harmony
We have a morning meeting with all our staff where we address issues, share information on technical jobs from the day before, keep everyone updated on industry news and measure each person’s performance. We talk to our staff on a daily basis and ensure they are happy at work and take interest in their lives away from work. Each year we set the technicians standards and they have to attend a minimum of three training courses a year and all free training seminars that are available. If our staff are happy then that is definitely passed onto the customers – if you come in for a servicing and everyone looks fed up and miserable then the likelihood is you’re not going to come back!
3. Staff training and incentives
Industry qualifications take priority and every technician has a minimum of NVQ2. We also give them the option of achieving NVQ3 which is paid for by the company and we align the pay accordingly to help drive them to achieve the qualification. We also let our staff choose which training courses interest them, whether it be electrical, diesel or manufacturer training. If you bring your car in then of course you want our mechanics to be as knowledgeable and qualified as possible. We understand that these days people simply don’t have time to know their cars inside out, that’s our job.
4. The focus on customer service
There’s a lot to be said for a family run business and we are very hands on. We treat our customers how we would want to be treated in a garage and this attitude is infectious. Our staff have a real desire to look after our customers and they take complete ownership of this from the moment a customer enters the garage, throughout the day with regular contact and at the end of the day when it’s time to run through the work carried out and hand the vehicle back to the customer. Our full-time valetor takes real pride in his job – he knows how many service washes he has in a day and when he can he will upgrade the service wash to include a body wax. It’s a nice touch to show customers we really care. We review the percentage of repeat customers we see on a monthly basis and we strive constantly to grow this. If the figure goes backwards then we find out exactly why and react.
5. Constantly updating hardware and diagnostics
We’ve all heard the story of the garage owner that had to close down due to not investing in equipment and it’s very true that you must invest constantly into the latest tooling and diagnostic equipment. If you cannot diagnose a car because you do not have the correct on-board diagnostics reader then you lose the customer. If you’re not prepared to invest in a tyre pressure monitoring system then don’t bother selling and fitting tyres. Ultimately if you cannot diagnose a fault you will lose the customer. Our staff and customers recognise the investment we make and this keeps them loyal to us.
It’s not only the workshop that needs investment and we are currently looking at working with a company to develop a fully automated electronic point of sale system (EPOS) that is being developed for the garage industry. The EPOS is the digital system used in retail establishments. This is cutting edge and it’s what we, and other garage owners, have been looking for for a number of years. Watch this space, it’s going to transform the front end service and customers’ perception of the industry.
As part of the Trust My Garage customer charter we make sure all our garages are trusted to work to high standards, use up to date technical information, techniques and tooling in every service, and achieve key industry standards set by the RMI. We want to make sure that whenever you visit one of our member garages, you receive a service so honest, professional and friendly that you go back again and again for your services, general maintenance and repairs.
The experience that you have at our garages is of the utmost importance to us and the reason we are working to raise standards in the independent garage industry is for your benefit. That’s why we recently applied to make Trust My Garage a government backed code, and that’s why we have just introduced consumer feedback to our website.
The next time you enter your postcode in our garage finder, you will be given the opportunity to review your local Trust My Garage member. Your feedback will be moderated by us for security purposes and be displayed on the website, in that garage’s particular profile. This means that other motorists looking to use one of our members will get a good understanding of the quality of service they can expect to receive. In the rare occasion that a genuine complaint is made against one of our members, we will take action to investigate the issue and ensure that it’s resolved quickly and to everyone’s satisfaction.
It’s our way of giving you a voice and letting you have your say on our member garages. It’s also important to us that members receive good support from Trust My Garage, which not only benefits the garage industry as a whole, it also means members have a voice when it comes to raising standards .
When you have a great service from one of our members we want you to tell everyone just how well you have been looked after and if your experience isn’t so good, we want to do something about it.
If you have had a really good experience from one of our member garages there are other ways you can say thank you. Nominations are now open for the Top Technician Awards 2014 and you can vote for your favourite Trust My Garage member here. Every year garage technicians from across the country battle it out in a bid to be crowned the UK’s Top Technician. The competition was born back in 2002 to champion the best technical repairers off the back of national press querying the level of technical knowledge and practical skills needed at garage to ensure you are kept safe in your vehicles.
We have often had member garages in the running for the competition, nominated by members of the public. Most recently we told you about our member Cleevely Motors, which had its manager Matt Cleevely named as one of the top 24 technicians in the UK, from over 650 nominees.
Matt was nominated by his customers and had to complete a demanding test of his technical abilities. It included questions about repairing electrics in cars, using new technologies in the workshop and how he goes about making repairs on old and modern vehicles. His 16 years of garage experience carried him through and helped him to become named one of the technicians in the UK.
This year the competition is looking for more top technicians and wants you to nominate your local garage. If you use a Trust My Garage member for your servicing and repairs, and are delighted with the service you receive, consider nominating them for this national award. And don’t forget to submit your own feedback on them on the Trust My Garage website. After all, we want to work with you to improve standards in the independent garage industry.
We are always doing our best to showcase the quality and expertise offered by independent garages throughout the country. In fact, Trust My Garage was set up for this very reason – to show motorists that they don’t have to pay main dealer fees for a professional and honest service – but that an even greater service is available at their nearest independent garage.
There is no better proof of this than our Cornish member Powell’s Garage, which has picked up a prestigious national award after being named the Independent Garage of the Year.
Powell’s Garage beat off fierce competition to be recognised as the leading independent garage in the country by Motor Trader magazine, in its annual industry awards.
A panel of judges recognised the professional and honest service provided every day by Powell’s Garage, rounding off an exciting year for the business after it recently celebrated its 60th anniversary.
But what sets Powell’s Garage apart from other independent garages?
Heather Powell, Joint Managing Director of Powell’s Garage, told us her aim is to always provide the highest level of customer service.
“The whole ethos within the business is all about giving the customer the best possible experience when they have any dealings with us,” she said.
“We are totally honest with our customers and they respect and appreciate that.
“We have a relationship with so many of our customers that is relaxed and pleasant, like old friends.”
Heather added: “We genuinely think about the customer experience first and profitability second.
“We look at things on a long term basis – if we look after the customer then we hope that they will stay loyal to us and recommend us to their friends and family.”
This is the second time Powell’s Garage has won this award, and highlights its commitment in providing the best possible service to vehicle owners.
Its client base runs into its thousands, including ordinary car owners to different fleet companies, including Tesco and Sainsbury’s delivery vehicles.
And not only does the garage have two MOT test bays, it also has a ‘Fast Fit’ department, with huge stocks of competitively priced tyres and facilities for testing cars, vans and motorhomes.
“Our aim is to stay ahead of the game,” said Heather. “We always look to have the best possible premises and therefore customer service.
“We want the most up to date equipment throughout the whole business, not just in the workshop.
She added: “We focus on the little things. Not just the big things. Attention to detail is important.”
Powell’s Garage prides itself on the outstanding customer service it provides. So, we asked Heather for her three top tips for customer service which demonstrate the quality of attention you can receive when you take your car to a Trust My Garage member.,
1) Listen carefully to your customer and act on their wishes, not your own
2) Make things as easy and stress free for your customer as possible
3) Put yourself in their shoes, what would you think?
With a philosophy like this and such attention on the customer, it is no wonder that Powell’s Garage has once again been named the best independent garage in the country.
Do you want to know where your nearest trusted independent garage is? Simply type your postcode in our garage finder and benefit from the same kind of service offered by Powell’s Garage – near you!