If you have attended a trade show in the last 12 months the chances are you’ve come across Darren Darling. He’s usually found on stage, delivering his DPF know-how to a packed and attentive audience. In this exclusive interview with Autotechnician, Darren (with a little help from fellow DPF Doctor Steve Scott) lifts the lid on The DPF Doctor network, his thoughts on customer service and knowledge sharing and why he doesn’t identify as a new breed of technician.
What made you decide to launch The DPF Doctor Network?
It was my wife Lindsey’s idea. It’s actually her business. We were seeing a big increase in the demand for DPF repairs in my workshop and receiving many calls from workshops all over the UK looking for DPF advice. Lindsey suggested that between us we could build our own network of specialists, trained by me, with the aim of giving workshops the support and help they required to succeed at DPF repairs; ultimately delivering the same high service standards as in my workshop. Lindsey would run the network, bringing us in for the training and support side of things.
How did you start?
Starting the network was straightforward. We already had the demand. A few months before launching we began promoting our workshop as ‘The DPF Doctor @Energy Tuning Ltd’. This gave us an opportunity to focus on DPF repairs and build awareness. Sure enough, we had people asking if we had plans to take on any agents or franchisees, so we launched the network a few months later.
Why Focus on DPFs?
We saw a gap in the market for a genuine and professional DPF repair and cleaning service focussing on the diagnostic side of things rather than a product or machine that simply cleans a DPF. A blocked DPF is always a symptom of something else so diagnosing the root cause of the problem is the key to success.
What is your member selection criterion?
It’s all about the people we work with. As a family business that takes immense pride in our work and customer service it’s crucial that we work with decent and honest people. They must be forward thinking and investing in their business. This is a fast-paced industry so a commitment to ongoing training is vital. The bells and whistles workshop is secondary to having the drive and passion to be the best through ongoing improvement.
How many members do you have now and what is the end goal?
We are 90 members strong with an end goal of 200 UK members. We have reached our target in Ireland of 14 members. We have recently taken on our first members in the Netherlands and Australia but have no set timescale or targets. We must grow at a steady pace with the right members. It’s not always the case that people don’t meet our criteria. It may be that what we offer doesn’t suit their business; they have no capacity for extra work or, they’re a brand specific specialist that doesn’t require training or support. We never hard sell. A new member must benefit the network and their business. At the moment, I have 750 applications to work through!
What do you offer members they can’t get anywhere else?
The energy we invest in training, support and research, plus the volume of DPF repairs in our own workshop, puts us in a great position to offer members everything they need to succeed. We encourage anyone interested in The DPF Doctor Network to contact a few of our members for their honest feedback.
Where are members based?
Every member has their own exclusive area based on population, not distance. We consult each member to agree on the extent of their territory. We still have areas on the map where we don’t have a member present, or we need more members to meet the demand. For example, you need more than one member in heavily populated areas like Greater London, Manchester and the Midlands.
How do customers benefit from using a member of The DPF Doctor Network?
Our brand ethos is not simply about fixing their car first time. We strive to give great customer service, great value and great aftercare. Every customer should be confident they are dealing with a professional person who will explain what the problem is, what’s required to fix their car and why. We perform several follow up assessments to reassure a customer their vehicle is functioning correctly. We also provide advice on how to take care of a DPF-equipped vehicle. We’re not just here to fix a customer’s car and take their money.
Do you identify as a new breed of technician?
We’re not a new breed of techs! There are many people in the industry that have inspired us such as Frank Massey, James Dillon and Clive Atthowe. People I would describe as the real pioneers of the diagnostics world. What we do is work with people that have the passion and drive to be the best they can be, bringing them together under the closed roof of our network to share their expertise and experience, their technical support and enthusiasm. We do however share snippets of our work to show customers that we offer a high level of service. This in turn helps raise the perception of our industry.
Steve Scott, DPF Doctor Network Member: “It’s no secret that once I heard about the DPF Doctor Network, I wanted in. Unfortunately, my area was taken, and I had to wait over twelve months before it became available. I wanted to be part of the network as it is not a sales-driven franchise; more a brotherhood of DPF specialists, supporting each other on a daily basis. The excellent training provided by Darren ensures a solid understanding of how DPF systems work and the importance of correctly diagnosing the reason why a DPF is blocked rather than selling a cleaning service before rectifying the cause. Darren’s drive to grow a network of only the most invested workshops and technicians is to be applauded. It’s very refreshing to see businesses focused on providing the very best in customer service, instead of selling a product. It chimes perfectly with my ethos and my business as a mobile diagnostician, enabling me to offer services in my local area that other brands cannot compete with.
“Darren, our combined community and I are definitely not a new breed of technician; more accurately, we’re promoting an ethos of #StrongerTogether by attempting to raise the public perception (and within our own trade) that we’re not the stereotypical “Grease Monkeys” of old. Rather we’re skilled, invested technicians willing to put a big arm around any technician, any workshop that wants to raise their game, invest wisely in training, equipment and information systems and, belong to a like minded community.
“The launch of The JLM Lubricants Academy founded by Darren also provides a perfect venue for the grass-roots training that I specialise in, covering the very fundamentals of diagnosis, tool use, electrics, oscilloscopes and vehicle networking.”