Here comes the sun

Published:  25 June, 2017

A Suffolk garage proprietor has gone totally over to solar power, just in time for summer. Mark Bradley, owner of Spot On Tuning in Denham is running his business entirely via solar panels. He used 240-volt arrays from his other business, a mobile solar power hire firm called Solar Decker he has run since 2007.

The workshop business is now is being powered by the solar array set up on the eponymous Solar Decker, a double-decker bus re-purposed to provide solar energy.

Speaking to Aftermarket a week after going off-grid in June, Mark said: “It is definitely lowering my costs. At the moment I am only using the bus. I hooked up to the garage and I am getting 100 per cent full power since last Wednesday when officially went off grid.

“158 kilowatt hours have been used. You always have to charge fore more hours than you can get out. I am very well charged as we speak."

The power unit consists of two for lift batteries. Each cell is 2 volts and there are 24 cells. Each one is 1,000 amp hours, which equals 1,000 amps hours at 48 volts.

He intends to run off-grid until the summer ends: “I want to keep this going for as long as I can, until the winter comes. It’s more about the environmental concern. At least I know where my power is coming from. It’s the energy source of the future. It used to be too expensive, but now it’s a lot more affordable.”

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  • Come and look at my knives! 

    Our industry is full of enthusiastic technicians and entrepreneurial business owners; people who love what they do, and their chosen trade.

    With all this talent why is it that similar questions prevail year-on-year? Customers constantly ask "how much, and can’t you just plug it in?" Business owners ask "why don’t customers want to pay for diagnosis?" Technicians ask "how can I diagnose this fault when I’ve not been given enough time?"

    Individually these are all reasonable questions from the viewpoint of person asking, but really annoying if you’re the party being asked. Is it possible to crack this enigma? I would like to believe so.

    In this article we will show you how to grow profit, give your technicians the time they need to succeed and always do the right thing by your customer.


    Knives out
    We should not be surprised that customers want to find out how much it's going to cost. After all, it's an obvious question. Just because a customer asks "how much?" does not mean they are only focused on the lowest possible price. If you walked into a Gordon Ramsey restaurant and there were no prices on the menu you'd still ask "how much?" You wouldn't expect the answer to be McDonalds prices. This is where as an industry we don't always help ourselves.

    Customers will build an impression of your business quickly, and whether they’ll consider using your services during their very first experience, which more often than not starts online.

    Back to Gordon Ramsey then. You Google (other search engines are available) ‘Gordon Ramsey restaurant’ and are presented with a list in the search results. Naturally you start from the top, you click, and the page loads. You’re met with a surprising image. Rather than a picture of the restaurant, and amazing dining experience, you're presented with a chef in his whites with the caption, “come and look at my knives; we’ve got the best knives in town.”  The text beneath this states “we have the latest oven technology!” As a customer I’m not sure that’s what I expected to see. Peculiarly though, other restaurants are putting the same message out there and it’s colouring my view of what I need for a great steak.

    With this in mind, we shouldn’t be surprised if a business proclaiming “we have the latest diagnostic equipment,” causes customers to think it is the kit that fixes the car. Maybe that’s why they then ask “can’t you just plug it in?” Could it be that our own websites are a contributing factor as to why diagnostics is a difficult sell?


    Don’t just take the keys: Ask great questions
    So you arrive for your meal at Ramsey's restaurant. The Maître d' confirms your reservation, takes your coat and sees you to your table. Unfortunately the menu is written in French (damn - should have concentrated more at school) and you're feeling uneasy about what to order. At this point, great front-of-house staff will put you at your ease, and ask the relevant questions to help identify the ideal menu choice for you. Garages are no different. Front-of-house staff have a pivotal role to play particularly where ‘diagnostic’ repairs are concerned. They have to put customers at ease, outline their options and ask great questions.

    Enter Steve… The battleground on this occasion was a 2011 Skoda Yeti that would intermittently lack power and ultimately cut out. The client explained that it had been inspected previously, but he’d been told by the repairer “it hasn’t happened to us” and no fault was found. Intermittent faults: Our favourite type.


    Sleuthing
    Steve asked if the customer could spend five minutes to take him through how, what and when the issue occurred. Five minutes spent here often means a reduction in diagnostic time and a reduced cost to the customer. Naturally the client was only too happy to oblige.

    The client explained his issue and Steve listened diligently, noting the salient points on the job card. He found the fault normally happened on longer journeys. Further questioning revealed that it was predominantly on the weekend. Steve asked “what’s different on the weekend”?

    Now, this was the killer question. It transpired that the client was an avid football fan and would regularly travel to away games, collecting his pals on the way. Steve’s next question closed the door on his sleuthing. “Is it only when you have passengers in the back seat?”

    “Yes,” came the reply.


    Happy Techs
    What a great job card for the tech to receive. In this instance the tech removed the rear squab to reveal a chafed fuel pump harness, which was duly repaired and routed to ensure the fault didn’t re-occur.

    Post-fix processes confirmed that the car wouldn’t be back anytime soon and the keys and job card passed back to reception. A straightforward fix but one that could have remained elusive was it not for “diagnostics at the front desk”.

    Easy? No. Achievable? Yes. It’s often possible to resist change even though we understand why it’s necessary and the benefits change will bring. If you have been doing it the same way all these years, a new approach could seem difficult. The task can often seem too big. However, small constant steps are all that is required:

    Focus on crafting a consistent customer message that delivers on your unique benefits and the skill of the technician

    Have a realistic evaluation fee that allows your tech the time required to succeed and a front-of-house team that can show the customer how this benefits them

    Add great front-of-house questioning skills to unearth the hidden gems only known to your customer, which will help your techs and reduce the time taken for diagnosis

    A winning combination: increased profit, happy techs and happy customers... What’s not to like?

    If you’d like to find out more about Auto iQ then call 01604 328500 or go to: www.autoiq.co.uk. Join the conversation on Facebook @autoiq.

  • It's all about the data 

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    A fundamental issue will now be that much of the data contained in the vehicle can also be considered personal data and is subject to data protection legislation. It is much more than just logging your customer’s contact details as you may have previously done. To help understand how this is linked together and how it can develop from being a liability to an asset, let’s look at how a typical repair workshop business should handle data.

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  • Business rates revaluation 

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