The auto repair industry has a sketchy reputation. Part of it is the players and part of it is the nature of the industry. While it is 100% on shop owners to make the changes, part of the changes rest on educating customers and debunking common myths. I want to take a minute to share some of the structural components of this business that contribute to the mistrust surrounding this industry.
The Players - A large percentage of shop owners are former technicians. While technicians are fantastic at working on vehicles, they are not always so talented at communicating with customers. The problem with this is that when customers don't understand why they need a repair, or how a system works, they can easily think that a shop is just adding parts or fluids to pad their profit. Shops need to do a better job explaining repairs to customers, especially the 'why'.
The Industry - This industry is challenging. Cars can be rusty, poorly maintained, inherently complex or expensive to fix and often the owners of these vehicles can't afford to perform maintenance or repairs. When techs attempt to fix vehicles parts often fail during a repair. Bolt heads snap off, fluid lines crack, and sensors break, to name a few of the many things that can go wrong when working on a vehicle. This is the nature of maintaining old machines. It doesn't mean a shop is unethical, it just means that the vehicle was not in a serviceable condition and required unforeseeable work outside of the estimate to complete the repair. The customer doesn't always see it that way which is understandable. Shops need to do a better job of defining an estimate and explaining upfront that an estimate is subject to change for unestimable items.
The Distribution System - Parts prices are always a source of frustration with customers. Often they are comparing the prices that shops charge with the prices that auto parts stores charge. These are not comparable because the prices are at different points in the distribution system. To understand this we need to look at the distribution system. There is a manufacturer(usually a factory in China), a distributor (Moog, AC Delco, etc...), a retailer (NAPA, O'Reilly's, etc...) and finally the shop. Each part of that distribution system needs to make a profit on the part. Look at a steakhouse for example. You can buy a steak for $6 at the supermarket but it's $30 at a restaurant. The same is true for auto repair shops. We sell parts at a price that is higher than we buy them for just like every other point in the distribution system. That isn't unethical but some customers have a hard time understanding why shops set their parts prices higher than auto parts stores. The price at each point in the distribution system should be set to allow the business to stay in business and expand their business without borrowing.
What I've found is that most unhappy customers are unhappy with one of the three situations mentioned above, all of which are inherent to this business. They require proactive communication to help customers understand 'why' repairing vehicles is costly and unpredictable.
I spent about an hour on the phone today with an SEO consultant. This happens from time to time as they have a bad habit of cold calling me until I talk to them. Truth be told they rarely know more than I do about SEO. Anyway, now that I've patted myself on the back tonight I want to take a moment to explain Google before I explain why I control every aspect of my website.
You see, Google wants you to find the most relevant website. That means it is guessing at what you are searching for. It bases its guess on data from millions of searches. This data is weighted towards urban areas because they have more people, more tech savvy searchers and more search history. Because Integrity Auto Care is not in an urban area, many of the data points that Google uses are skewed with urban data and therefore do not actually provide the user with accurate results. Further, because there is less competition on the web in small towns the game is entirely different.
In fact, it is very easy to skew the search results in a rural area if you know just a little bit about SEO and are willing to load the dice so to say. You see, Google uses many factors to determine if a website is relevant to your search. Some of the easiest factors to game are ratings/reviews, content, page titles and keywords. Because these are so easy to control, the search results in small towns tend to show the auto repair shop with the most crooked SEO firm at the top of the results, instead of the best shop. Kinda makes you skeptical of the shops at the top of the results right?
However, over the past few years Google has been getting better at pushing these dishonest sites to the bottom of the results. In fact, some of those SEO firms have seen their clients wiped off the web...literally. Google has shown that it really doesn't want people trying to trick it and it doesn't really care if it crushes a few websites in pursuit of its goal.
So, my bet is that at some point in the future only the honest websites will be left at the top. The sites that are different, that are the most useful, and that have real reviews. Because I am relying on Google's goal to provide the most relevant results, I expect that my honest little website with a couple real reviews (as opposed to fake or purchased reviews), real content (instead of rehashed auto repair garbage) and a light, airy tone (as opposed to a robot), will float to the top of the results.
So there, that is why I make my own website. I code it, I design it, I write it, and I am not interested in farming any of it out. May the best shop win. Not the best website. :)