Many garages report being rushed off their feet, but this does not always mean that they are achieving optimum customer service and profitability. Rob Marshall looks at how promoting a wheel alignment specialism can help achieve those vital goals.
As an increasing number of garages are aware of the revenue opportunities that alignment services bring, perhaps we should be unsurprised that the major suppliers reveal that their products are in strong demand. Absolute Alignment reports, despite the pandemic, 2020 was a record year for sales and it has taken on extra staff to guarantee that both deliveries and installations are met on time throughout England, Scotland and Wales. Naturally, wheel alignment is likely to attract demand amongst garages conducting MOT Tests, an area in which Tecalemit cites particular popularity.
Pro-Align has noticed that, despite the reduction in car numbers entering garages during the earlier lockdowns of 2020, alignment work increased as a percentage, indicating that garages are being more proactive with promoting the service. Supertracker recalls a case, where a garage saw only three customers during one day but all of them took-up an alignment check offer. Even so, not everybody is getting it right. Supertracker finds that many garages refer to wheel alignment as just ‘tracking’ and do not carry-out camber, castor, or even rear alignment checks.
Communicate the benefits…
If you feel that your equipment is underused, Pro-Align elaborates that customer interaction is key to extol the benefits of wheel alignment. As it is a service, where no parts are installed directly, training front-of-house staff on the topic is crucial, so they can emphasise the importance of correct wheel geometry to the customer as part of a complete and safe repair. Aside from having videos and posters in your reception area, many alignment systems provide colour print-outs that highlight if any adjustments on an inspected vehicle are required. Naturally, the reception desk staff must have suitable knowledge at their fingertips to explain what the print-out means and why it is false economy not to have any adjustments performed, based on the evidence. Clive Seabrook, CEO of Pro-Align, told AT that:
“All too often, I see business owners treat the customer as though they ‘don’t really need to know’. This is a mistake, as the customer will be less likely to buy alignment.”
Aside from all staff recognising the importance of alignment as a customer-beneficial revenue stream, technicians must also have the confidence to use the equipment accurately and time efficiently. The importance of technician training is not lost on Tecalemit, which reminds us that the alignment system relies on the technician’s correct adjustments, hence why the company accentuates its installation and training support services. Recently, Absolute Alignment uploaded all of its training and demonstration videos to its website and reports an expanded social media presence, with its one-to- one technical telephone service. Pro-Align not only emphasises its training but also its after-sales support, too.
Most companies that we contacted report particular demand from Vehicle Testing Stations, not only because of the number of cars failing on illegal tyres but also because four-wheel alignment services can be performed in MOT bays. This multitasking approach is immensely space-efficient, even if the MOT bay is not in continuous use. For example, Snap-on has provided dual revenue ramps with all its DVSA approved lanes as standard and reports that a full 3D alignment can be conducted simultaneously as an MOT Test, adding only a couple of minutes to the procedure.
Alignment equipment suppliers can assist you with selling geometry services to the public, although this cannot replace in-house training. We asked four suppliers what they do to help:
Absolute Alignment can supply promotional literature and banner artworks for both workshop and reception areas that tap into its Stay Safe, Stay Legal, Save Money campaign. Absolute Alignment Approved Centres can also use the consumer-focussed website on www.absolutewheelalignment.co.uk.
Pro-Align‘s retail focussed website informs and cajoles customers and directs them to their nearest Hunter Wheel Alignment centre, www.alignmycar.co.uk.
Supertracker supplies a Professional Wheel Alignment banner and Supertracker Alignment Centre sign with all of its machines, as well as promotional literature. This material includes ‘Why Wheel Alignment?’ posters and leaflets for display in reception areas.
Tecalemit customers have access to a dedicated marketing team, supplying PDF information leaflets for the motorist. If desired, you can have these branded with your garage’s details, to help with your local promotional activities. Tecalemit can also supply videos that you can download for viewing in your reception areas.
Taking the plunge…
As we have highlighted before, now is a good time to invest in extra services, especially with wheel alignment’s attractive return on investment, if marketed correctly. Snap-on echoes AT’s advice that workshops should explore the different options from manufacturers before choosing the correct aligner for their workshops. Absolute Alignment calculates that, should you take advantage of the government’s Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS), you could invest £6,850 (+ VAT)
in an Absolute Alignment Bluetooth Pro aligner. Should you carry-out a single £30.00 (+ VAT) alignment per weekday, the payback time is under twelve months. Consider also that the BBLS has no interest repayable for 12 months. Supertracker’s online profit calculator is also worth consulting, as well as its leasing options. Even so, you will need advice on the equipment options not only now but also in the longer term. Snap-on emphasises the full importance of correct alignment, especially as ADAS systems rely on it. While we shall discuss ADAS alignment considerations later in the year, you should not forget that such systems’ calibration is an essential part of your duty of care obligations.
Yet, the appropriate hardware and software cannot be decided by budget alone, which is why contacting a credible and respected supplier is crucial. Supertracker advises that the most expensive, or high-tech, options are not always the most appropriate. Despite the variety of systems that Telcalemit has in its portfolio, it advises that they take the same basic measurements but present the data differently. It advises that laser alignment provides an excellent value for money option for garages, who are looking to offer geometry adjustment for the first time. As they work well on level floors, laser systems do not necessitate valuable ramp space. Furthermore, they are available in space-efficient wall, or trolley-mounted storage formats. Over the laser system, Tecalemit highlights that the eight camera CCD offers the main advantage of being quicker to use, by being able to capture both front and rear measurements at once. A 3D alignment system is faster still but is best used in a space with a dedicated alignment bay that experiences frequent use. Yet, do not forget the advantages of free checks. Snap-on encourages its customers to incorporate a full alignment inspection on every vehicle that they see, irrespective of the reason why the vehicle has entered the workshop. Absolute Alignment highlights its Drive Over Tyre Condition Profiler that evaluates not only tyre condition but also wheel alignment. Yet, the company emphasises that this cannot replace a physical inspection but is a useful tool to alert the customer and help raise garage profitability.
In short, investing in alignment and marketing the service appropriately ensures that everyone is a winner.