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Point Of View: Offsetting Negative Perceptions About Us

There is not a day that goes by when we are not bombarded by a new study, a new survey or a new poll that alleges to define for us the lay of the land in regard to some area of both our personal or professional lives. Contradictory health studies seemingly indicate opposite findings or negate a previously, long-held belief regarding what is good for us – or not. Surveys tell us what consumers react to, believe or hold as concerns. And polls – particularly in the wild and woolly world of politics – tell us who the winner is long before we vote, often having strong influence in the actual final results.

With this overwhelming, constant flood of alleged information, one must always be a bit jaundiced when taking this type of information to heart, always being quizzical about who did the study, how the research was conducted, and even the details of when, where and how the questions are asked. That natural level of cynicism is necessary in today’s Information Age — a time that can just as easily be labeled the Misinformation Age or the Misleading-Information Age.

Add to this the impact of the Internet – a perceived world where one commercial humorously says, “They can’t put anything on the Internet that isn’t true!” – and you have a recipe for confusion and misdirected priorities.

Just the other day, for example, the folks at RepairPal put forth the summary of a study done in conjunction with Harris Interactive that discerns the discrepancies between men and women regarding car repairs. Among some of the study’s more negative findings…
• 66 percent of consumers who own/lease a car think they have been ripped off by a repair shop;
• 38 percent of consumers who own/lease a car worry that they cannot trust the mechanic;
• 77 percent of car owners/leasers think repair shops perform unnecessary repairs more for women than men;
• 71 percent who own/lease a car think repair shops are condescending to women;
• 66 percent of who own/lease a car think repair shops charge women more for repairs than men;
• 41 percent of consumers who own/lease a car would rather do their taxes by hand than get their car repaired;
• 48 percent of women who own/lease a car said, “being taken advantage of” makes them anxious, while 38 percent of men felt the same way; and
• 75 percent of consumers who own/lease a car have delayed an auto repair for some reason.

One could question the study methodology, of course. The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of RepairPal from March 5-7, 2013 among 2,128 adults ages 18 and older, among which 1, 911 own/lease a car. But I do not believe the study is necessarily flawed.

I do believe that the survey reinforces perceptions that may be underlying between consumers and our industry, and simply giving voice to the negatives over and over only gives them continued life. But, no, I certainly don’t blame the folks at RepairPal for creating the doubt consumers have for auto service and repairs either. Like it or not, the perception as measured is reality.

What we, who are actively trying to move this industry forward, need to remember is that this is a complex issue, and the complexity of today’s vehicles only adds to the problem. That, coupled with the general ignorance of most consumers regarding their vehicles, makes it a real uphill climb for the independent aftermarket to win consumer trust.

Most importantly, though, I sincerely believe we need to look behind the negative perceptions allegedly held by consumers and realize that these types of consumer surveys will always bring out the negative rather than the truth.

Over the years, I have constantly seen studies that said price was a key component in most transactional relationships – whether B2B or B2C. Anecdotally, when asked, most buyers will comment on price, the easiest topic to discuss, the easiest enemy to focus on. But most buyers value a lot more factors than price, and that is what truly defines the transactional relationship.

I believe the same may be true of the alleged negative perception about our industry. In the most fundamental way, consumers will always complain about car repairs and service – about the price, about the service, about how long it takes, about the real need for the actual service rendered. But they will also always come back when treated respectfully, educated to the need for the repair, and taught the realities of today’s vehicles and what is needed to keep those vehicles running effectively and efficiently.

That is the challenge we face as an industry, but one that can be won one successful transaction at a time.

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Gary A. Molinaro
Editor/Publisher

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