How a negative review resulted in new business – Autotechnician’s Editor Nicola StClair catches up with her local workshop to discuss their experience of Google Reviews and business post-lockdown.
MY Motoring is my local family-run garage in Gillingham, and I’ve been using them for years to keep my old Saab 9-3 on the road. They have four bays, with an additional one for MOT, and are kept busy conducting around 11 MOTs and a further 10 repair/servicing jobs each day. They decided to remain open for the first week of lockdown but had no jobs booked in for four weeks. To save the business, they put everyone on furlough and closed the gates on 2nd April. “The support for garages was up in the air at that time and we thought ‘Are we going to re-open?”, says manager James Cameron. It was a huge relief when they managed to get the 25k grant to cover ongoing bills. Like so many others, it gave them a chance to carry out some maintenance work – James and his brother Michael, who is also a technician at MY, tidied up the premises and their dad Mark, who owns the business and runs things behind the scenes, built the plastic screens in reception to help protect staff and customers.
“We re-opened on the 11th May with three of us in the workshop and thought the MOT tester would be on furlough for six months [due to the extension] but we had to get him back in quick. You’ve got to prepare for all scenarios, but luckily, our customers are using their common sense – the car’s not been on a ramp for a year, so get it in and tested, people want to make sure their car is safe.”
MY discount their MOT fee and James would like to see a situation where the MOT fee is monitored and fixed at one price, as it is in parts of Europe, but for now, they can’t see them charging the full rate. “I think we’d lose a lot of MOTs, it’s not an affluent area and a lot of people are looking for a deal out there. We charge £65 an hour plus VAT for labour, but we’ll charge £10 more if it’s the latest BMWs for example, and we need to spend more time on it. We think that’s about right when you compare it with the competition with a similar set up to us, to cover our overheads.”
“It’s not the best trade to be in financially sometimes, you’ve got to work hard for it – and by working hard, I mean being polite, being fair, truthful… By doing that you get repeat business and this spreads by word of mouth and you know you have a successful business – by doing it right and being transparent. You’re asking people to spend a lot of money sometimes and they wanna know how it’s being spent so we break it down. We’ll explain the labour, where we’re getting the parts, how much it costs…”
But it doesn’t always go according to plan. A dispute arose last year after unauthorised work took place. The customer brought a car in for an MOT and the headlights were adjusted to get it through the test, but crucially, they didn’t check with the owner before carrying it out, resulting in a rather irate online review.
The vehicle failed the MOT due to the offside headlight aim being too high and as the vehicle was only going to fail on this one item, they thought it was best to adjust it so they could issue a pass certificate. They apologised for not ringing the customer straight away and did not charge for the adjustment. This situation has modified their process and now get the green light on any work from the customer, no matter how small. And funnily enough, the damning review, and positive way in which the garage dealt with it, has actually won them new customers who have searched the local area for garages.