Third-party organizations that offer repair shop certification are gaining popularity within the auto service industry.
Most consumers consider quality, fair pricing and great customer service amongst their top priorities when choosing an auto repair shop provider. When a customer visits their chosen repair shop for the first time, they are often uncertain and untrustworthy of the repair experience they will be receiving. Joe Jacobs, owner of DW Campbell Tire & Auto Service in Atlanta was looking for a strategy to build trust and put customers at ease even before they entered the building. In September 2012, Jacobs found that strategy by earning Top Shop certification through RepairPal, an organization that certifies repair shops for their ability to adhere to business standards such as work quality, equipment and training.
“Certifications help shops stand out from the rest of the group. If you’re able to differentiate yourself with a third-party certification, that lends much more credence to your story,” says Jacobs. “Customers walk through your doors with much more confidence if they’re about to find that you’ve been verified for things like warranty, price, quality and service. ”
Due to the recent economic recession consumers are careful to spend their money; they are increasingly concerned with the service and quality of work they are given by their repair shop.
“Consumers are hearing more about these independent certification programs,” says Michael Calkins, manager of technical services for AAA National. “They’re starting to learn that there are some third-party groups beyond auto manufacturers that have aggregated repair shops – and they’re starting to see more value in those businesses.”
With the average length of vehicle ownership being 11 years, Art Shaw, CEO of RepairPal, expresses the growing need for automotive repairs and maintenance for out-of-warranty vehicles that continue to stay on the road.
Consumers have now taken it upon themselves to research auto shops before they commit to visiting or booking. In the last 5 years, online searches for auto service and repair have dramatically increased; consumers search the Internet for any information they can find. For example, traffic on RepairPal.com has increased 44 percent every year since the organization was launched.
“What people want is high quality at fair prices,” Shaw says. “And they want help understanding whether those needs will be met.”
A Value in Certification
Chris Bjorklund, consumer advocate for Diamond Certified, says shops certified through independent organizations see increased and constant sales benefits. In addition, many certification programs have marketing opportunities built-in making it more efficient and convenient to promote participating shops.
After DW Campbell received certification through RepairPal, Jacobs has seen his primary market quadruple and has increased incoming phone calls by 40 a month.
Jacobs admits that lots of his customers are finding him through the RepairPal website, and even had a customer who drove 30 miles to get to his shop specifically. He’s had a monthly revenue increase of $3000 – $5000.
Get Your Shop Started
Companies and organizations such as RepairPal, Bosch, NAPA, Motorist Assurance Program and AskPatty offer certifications that can help to strengthen credibility to your shop.
Each program has various operational and inspection requirements in order for shops to participate and gain certification. For example, AAA’s Approved Auto Repair program requires a four-week approval process and it is mandatory for the shop to undergo the recertification process every year. Annual costs for certification vary but can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
“The affiliation leverages a brand that compliments and adds value to your own brand,” Calkins says. “It’s just a good business decision and a good customer relations decision.”