Tag Archives: garage services

Female friendly garages appeal to women drivers

Kwik Fit research has been used to suggest that economic worries have led to an additional 1.6 million motorists servicing their own cars over the past year (this was a sample of 2000 remember).

Over a third (35%) of car owners, including a few women drivers perhaps, now say they carry out a service themselves. The lion share ie 69% of motorists, including a lot of foxy lady drivers we are sure, confessed that don’t feel confident in servicing their own car. This is probably a good thing I’d have thought.

But, according to Kwik Fit, as many as 2.5 million cars on our roads today have not been serviced last year (this was a research sample of 2000 motorists remember; not sure if it helps to extrapolate into millions here…) which is to do with the recession and motorists wanting to save money.

Spelling out the blindingly obvious here, we are told that as cars have become increasingly sophisticated, needing computerised engine management systems, the confidence of (mostly male I presume) motorists to ‘self-service’ their cars has fallen dramatically. Gosh.

And their research tells them that motorists driving cars that are over 11 years old are considerably more likely to [think they can] DIY a service (because they can get at the engine no doubt) than those driving cars under two years old. Needless to say, many women drivers still think, incorrectly as it happens, that they need to take their car to a main dealership to maintain its warranty.

If nothing more, this research confirms what FOXY knows already about many women drivers based on anecdotal evidence inside the Club; it also acts as an important reminder for all of us that

  • cars that aren’t maintained regularly or serviced properly aren’t as safe as those that are
  • unsafe cars are less reliable and more accident prone
  • cars that cause accidents and are then be seen to be poorly maintained ie unsafe can invalidate insurance claims
  • much worse, anyone who runs a poorly maintained/badly serviced car could kill a passenger, other driver or pedestrian – what price economy then?
  • few motorists are good enough at DIY car maintenance
  • many dodgy garages don’t service cars well enough (which is the REAL elephant in the room here, hence the resistance of so many women to dread going to garages)
  • the industry needs to work harder to communicate servicing prices – this needn’t be expensive, in fact surely it’s better to charge less and see more motorists that might need genuine work done afterwards?
  • that the MOT is but a safety snapshot on the day – it is never an alternative to regular maintenance and servicing
  • that members of FOXY Lady Drivers Club can claim free quarterly car fitness checks from a network of female friendly garages across the UK.

FOXY

PS: Thank you for reminding me that the garage industry needs to get its marketing act together for women drivers in particular.

Find out about free car fitness checks for women drivers who are members of FOXY Lady Drivers Club.



What is a fair price for garage services?

With average garage labour rates varying between £90 an hour for a dealership and £56 for an independent garage in the UK it’s hard to know if you are paying more than you need to when there are so many other factors to consider.

Of course we all judge value for money based on our needs, expectations and satisfaction levels which is why FOXY Choice publishes a Good Garage Guide to help women with their MOT and car servicing shopping – this website identifies measurable quality standards as well as good female friendly car dealerships and independent garages.

From my experience I know that many female motorists choose where to have their car serviced on the basis of convenience factors like the location of the garage and whether it offers a car collection service. Increasingly women drivers are sharing female feedback online within FOXY Lady Drivers Club so I know that the following motoring myths continue for many, despite trade efforts to put the record straight…

Some women will happily pay more to have their car serviced by a dealership thinking they need to, to maintain a warranty or that a dealership stamp in the car’s handbook will guarantee a higher resale value.

Other women are more cost conscious and tend to shop around for the lowest price for MOTs, tyres and car servicing deals, thinking that all garages are much the same as each other.

The truth is that whilst dealership rates are undoubtedly dropping and represent much better value for money nowadays, many motorists can have their nearly new car serviced at a good independent garage for less money and within the terms of their warranty.  But it isn’t true to say that a dealership stamp will guarantee a better price when it’s time to sell – what matters most is that the car has been serviced regularly and to the manufacturer’s standards.

More worrying from a female point of view is that if you shop around for the lowest price going or choose a garage you don’t know anything about you could be risking your personal safety and that of your family and other motorists. This is an industry where garages aren’t licensed, where mechanics don’t have to be qualified and where complaint levels are high.

And very often we hear stories about the lowest price escalating because the garage doesn’t have the latest equipment to diagnose the fault correctly; you then end up paying more for the mechanic’s labour to see if he can find the fault instead.

To illustrate the differences in perceived ‘value for money’ a good example is the price that a BMW driver would pay in a dealership versus a good independent garage, for a simple job like an oil change or a typical car safety check.

In its recent advertising campaign the manufacturer states ‘Think we’re expensive? Think again.’ listing the following BMW Value Service prices for participating franchised dealerships to change the engine oil, front brake pads and carry out safety checks for BMW 3 series (E46) 4 cylinder models.

£115 Oil Service (includes microfilter)

£99 Front brake pads (includes sensor replacement)

£189 Inspection 1 (includes oil service and safety checks)

Clearly these prices have been reduced so they represent better value for money than they did but £115 still sounds a lot to pay for a simple oil change, no matter the use of the word ‘service’. And if BMW’s Inspection 1 costs £189 for an oil change and safety checks then their safety checks must cost £74…

But are these prices fair enough for an up-market dealership experience, with all that entails for the executive BMW driver?  That’s up to you, your car and your budget, dear reader ;-).

The alternative solution to a franchised dealership is a measurably good independent garage who uses genuine BMW parts, BMW specified lubricants, accredited technicians and who carries out work in accordance with BMW’s specifications.

Starting with a female friendly Bosch Car Service garage in Scotland who operates to a fully approved OFT Code of Practice, Falkland Performance Centre in Glenrothes would charge the following prices:

£80.15 Oil Service saving £34.85

£147.70 Inspection 1 saving £41.30

But when it comes to the front brake pads, Falkland’s business owner Allan Adam calculates £111.35 which is £12.35 more than a BMW dealership because they always strip and clean the brake calipers prior to fitting brake pads which BMW does not specify.

Another leading and similarly female friendly independent garage, Woodley Autos near Reading in Berkshire (where labour rates are higher than in Scotland) who is ISO 9001 approved would also save local BMW motorists money for the equivalent oil change and safety checks as follows…

£86.26 Oil Service saving £28.74

£93.08 Front Brake Pads saving £5.92

£139.43 Inspection 1 saving £49.57

So in a nutshell it is possible to save money by shopping around and if these savings can be made for low cost garage services then there is much more to be saved by shopping around for the likes of full and major car services, comparing car collection and courtesy cars, other services & amenities and whether the business is near shops, a leisure centre or other entertainment to occupy the driver who chooses to wait.

But the most important factor on all occasions is surely to identify the best value for money, seen through the eye of the beholder, taking into account minimum quality standards, the latest diagnostic equipment, service levels and amenities to suit. This matters because, at best, motorists might be overcharged, patronised or sold services they do not need. At worst, the job might not have been done properly and they could be risking their personal safety and that of other motorists.

To find out more about this big subject, female and male motorists alike, please read FOXY Choice’s Good Garage Guide and search for measurably good and female friendly UK garages and dealerships.

FOXY

PS: A cheap garage isn’t worth the risk if they cut corners to save them money…

Should sheds and garages be feminised?

According to James Vaughan in yesterday’s Weekend Telegraph men love their garden sheds because they don’t have the same need for social networks as women but they do need somewhere of their own to let off steam and express themselves.

I’d say that this could explain why men like male environments like garages too and, by and large, more than women. And why men are loathe to alter the characteristics of sheds and garages to please women because these are ‘their’ environments.

It might be stretching this thought process a tad too far to suggest that herein lies yet another difference between men and women drivers but I believe that women want female friendly garage services and there is something about all this that encourages women to feminise their environment (generalising here of course) whereas men want their own place to order as they see fit but not necessarily how women might like it to be.

And whilst a shed or garage at home may escape the feminine touch (by mutual agreement)  it isn’t the same logic when the garage is a business concern and needs to wear a female friendly hat to appeal to women driver customers.

So a compromise is needed here – after many years of the men having garage and workshop environments all to themselves.

Now it’s time to feminise the UK garage and aftersales industry; fortunately an increasing number of female business owners are doing exactly that.

Vive la difference (funny how the gender of difference is female in French…).

FOXY

Foxy Deborah beats the men in the Dragons Den

I have just caught up with some TV programmes including a recent episode of Dragons’ Den with a new garage network called Servicing Stop run by two brothers who asked for £100k in exchange for 12.5% equity.

Peter Jones wanted in but just missed out by trying to close a deal too fast. One of the other male dragons offered the same terms (35% equity) but in the end they said yes to Deborah Meaden who came in at the end and offered the deal they wanted for 30% equity. Very foxy.

How interesting that the brothers would choose instantly (without having to speak to each other even…) on the basis of the cheapest money to service, rather than the one who might have the most relevant experience or opportunities to offer.

However I have a lot of time for Deborah and know she will bring commonsense marketing expertise to the garage debate. She has considerable business, tourism and leisure experience but has she been involved in the UK motor industry before? If not she might be surprised by what she finds; I certainly hope she finds it a more female friendly experience than a lot of women drivers do!

I was surprised that no Dragon asked about the garage competition or the target audience here as this is an extremely competitive sector. There are at least a couple of dead ringers here already and they are actively courting business women drivers, although more in a Fleet proposition where they drive BMWs and Mercedes not elderly Kia’s or Vauxhall’s.

It’ll be interesting to see how NSN and Prestige Car Servicing react – as well as Nationwide Autocentres when they spot the ubiquitous use of the nationwide keyword when offering the same services.

I also note that when asked how many garages they had on their books, one of the brothers said 600 but their website says 750+. Is that the power of the programme? In which case this and the customer exposure has probably paid for itself regardless of whether or not the deal goes ahead with Deborah.

I do have some reservations however in that whilst it’s a simple broker model, I worry about attempts to tighten the financial screw again and again and again in an industry without regulatory safeguards in terms of minimum safety standards. This industry has a well earned reputation for shoddy garage services and few garages are pro-actively female friendly with women drivers frequently singled out for patronising behaviour and higher bills

This broker model means that male and female motorists alike are being encouraged to choose independent garages over franchised dealerships (when some franchised dealers can compete with these prices by the way, depends on the make of car) and shop by price. The garage is  expected to prune their operating costs to get to the low fixed rates, pay an entry fee to the scheme I’m sure, provide a car collection service (this can be expensive to offer in terms of time and opportunity cost) and pay the garage broker a hefty commission for his marketing.

I hope the garages willing to do all this have been hand-picked through recommendation, are genuinely good enough to maintain safety standards and can make a profit from doing the job properly.

Undoubtedly the network that will do best is the one of the three that markets itself better than the others, hence the high cost of marketing mentioned (and where Deborah can help).

From the female motorist’s point of view (as often discussed here) the garage must deliver genuine value for money in that it must stick to the advertised price (no surprise extras on the bill), provide quality workmanship that is measurable (although many women wrongly assume this to be the case..), superior customer service and a reliable car collection/delivery service that doesn’t let them down.

I look forward to hearing all about this at the business networks I go to by dropping the words ‘car servicing’ and ‘garages’ into the conversation… I’ll also hear about this from FOXY’s female friendly garages, dealers and dealerships who will know more about this service than me I feel sure.

FOXY

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good for the great”
Kenny Rogers

Female friendly websites for women drivers

The word oxymoron dawned on me as I wrote the heading here as so few websites for garages, dealers and dealerships are as female friendly as they might be.  Not moron as in moronic you understand but meaning that the words ‘female friendly’ and ‘dealer’ are not always verbal bedfellows as seen by women drivers (but this may be the case in Swiss Toni’s head haha).

Take colour for example – my experience is that most garage websites favour black, or that their designers like black. I quite like black too but it can be drab and a bit me-too looking after browsing through a lot of similar websites.

An absolute no no for me is loud upbeat music which shocks me and invades my space – I come across this on many motoring accessory websites and find it quicker to leave the site than find the volume control.

And how many motor businesses respond to their website messages promptly and professionally? A significant number of garages don’t have a website yet seem to move from Thomson to Yellow Pages to the next advertising variation year after year, presumably oblivious to the defunct ad listings left behind. This always says more than we realise and is a bad image to give potential customers.

When it comes to answering emails the industry will hopefully get its act together in a recession?  It has some way to go I’d say.  I have recently mentioned the polite garage owner who emailed me an auto reply to say that he would  reply within 5 or was it 7 days…either way he is going to need to reduce that comms gap to hours, not days, in today’s ‘I want it now’ society.

I must admit to finding car dealership websites more female friendly looking than garages or dealers although perhaps this is simply the fact that they are more aesthetically pleasing (which women pick up on) and perhaps aspirational photos of new cars are more attractive to us all than a used car forecourt or the underside of a car on a ramp, or similar mechanical pose!

When we ask FOXY Choice garage subscribers to submit a female friendly photo to complete their entry few have a clue what we mean yet others have got it just right including Wallis & Son of Cambridge. Smiling people, female staff where appropriate, neat and tidy looking interiors, summer flowers if an exterior is used and so on are just right.  Whereas tatty secondhand car lots, men in scruffy oily uniforms and boring lookalike building exteriors do not convey ANY female friendly customer service message to me.

Have a look at your local garage, dealer or dealership’s website and please tell me how female friendly you find it.

Does it look different in any way, is there any female friendly content, photos of females or is it expecting you to like the same as men; in which case plus ca change?

How can it be improved upon for women drivers?

I can then add your thoughts to my ever-growing list!

FOXY

“The important thing is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.”
Queen Victoria