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Work referral services – proceed with caution

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The IGA (Independent Garage Association), has published its latest report into consumer-facing websites that refer work to independent garages.

The 2019 Garage Work Provider Report investigates the various business models, fees and terms and conditions that consumer work provision websites use, and the comparisons will prove useful to any independent garage considering using these types of work referral businesses. 

“One of the major strengths of independent garages is their ability to provide a far more personal experience for the customer, building a relationship that often spans several generations of customers,” says IGA CEO Stuart James. “These third-party disruptors have a significant detrimental impact on the sector by placing themselves between the customer and the garage, ‘skimming’ a fee from either the garage, the customer or both, with the potential to damage the brand identity of the garage. We consider it our responsibility to our members and the sector as a whole to ensure that garages are given the right information before they decide whether to engage or not with these third-party organisations. 

“We will continue to listen to and engage with its members and survey the marketplace to ensure that garage businesses are not subject to any detriment as a result of working with consumer work providers.” 

Seventeen work referral businesses are detailed within the report, presenting feedback from both customers and workshops who have used them. Fixter.co.uk received two positive reviews from IGA members, one comments, “Completed 6 jobs through them and I found them very professional.”There is no subscription fee for the service, and they pay workshops a set labour rate and charge the customer a higher rate. Customer payments are made directly to Fixter and payment is pre-authorised from the customer’s account before the job takes place. Motorists have no choice in garage and it is Fixter that stamps the service book. The fact that direct contact between customer and garage is removed is a concern. The report concludes: ‘We still believe that you should be particularly wary of any provider where customers make payment direct to them rather than to the garage. With this model the consumer is far more likely to view the transaction as being with the work provider rather than with the garage, mainly due to the fact most garage visibility is hidden away, however any liability for work carried out will remain with the garage. Depending on the terms of any scheme the garage may remain liable should the work provider fail. There may also be delays in receiving payment for jobs carried out.’ 

Many negative experiences feature within the document, and it makes a good read, particularly for those who are starting out and considering the use of these services to kickstart traffic through the doors. For some, if used with caution, it can be a useful way to generate new business. One IGA member comments: “I use Whocanfixmycar.com and they work well for us. They charge an upfront annual fee of around £85 + VAT. On average, we only get 2 or 3 jobs a month from them, and I pick the jobs I want from them at a price I want. You know what you’re getting, and I have had positive feedback on the website which has then led onto more customers. Use it to your advantage and don’t get involved in the bidding war then it’s all fine.” 

Stuart James concludes: “The IGA firmly believes independent garage businesses should continue to engage directly with customers and promote their own brand and image.” 

Head to the www.independentgarageassociation.co.uk to download the full report.

 

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