Expanding shop certification program seeks quality-oriented suppliers

Sept. 22, 2015
Having experienced “explosive growth” to encompass more than 1,000 automotive service centers since its founding in 2007, RepairPal plans to double its network of certified shops by the end of this year.

Having experienced “explosive growth” to encompass more than 1,000 automotive service centers since its founding in 2007, RepairPal plans to double its network of certified shops by the end of this year.

The San Francisco-based firm is inviting suppliers to become vendors to the nationwide membership, which aims to instill trust throughout the auto care process.

“RepairPal’s Certified Shop Network sets the bar for quality work, fair prices and customer satisfaction,” says CEO Art Shaw. “Our goal is to acknowledge the realities of our industry, bring them to the attention of consumers and ensure meaningful solutions are put into place for both automotive business owners and consumers alike. We’re here to restore consumer confidence in auto repair by discovering great mechanics who charge fair prices.”

That same attitude also applies to parts procurement, according to Steve Moretti, vice president and general manager of business development.

“We have multiple industry relationships – associations, parts, technology, training, etc. – with companies that provide shop owners high-quality products and services. Our shops are free to work with any product and service provider they choose, but specific to parts, in order to become RepairPal Certified we do have requirements on the quality level of parts that a shop uses,” he explains.

“We strive to work with multiple industry partners and find unique ways to work with them to benefit our mutual shop customers. Many times these relationships include cross promotion of our solutions to the partners network of shop customers, and vice versa,” says Moretti.

“In some cases the relationships can be more integrated. For example, we are working on multiple relationships with technology companies to help our shop owners leverage their RepairPal Certified status and associated license to our RepairPrice Estimator in valuable ways on the shop’s website, in shop customer communications and onsite at the shop.”

Pointing out that “increased repair orders for shops will mean increased sales for part suppliers,” Moretti stresses that vendors can certainly benefit their bottom lines by establishing business relationships with individual members while also calling attention to RepairPal’s offerings to your lineup of existing customers.

“The technical assessment of our certified program covers the quality of the parts that will be used in repairs, as high-quality parts are critical for high-quality repairs,” he says. “So, if a parts distributor is carrying high-quality parts, we have programs available whereas the distributor can promote our program to their shop customers. If a company is interested in promoting RepairPal to their shop customers, we are open to promoting them to our shop customers as well. As the No. 1 website for car repair and service with over 3.5 million monthly unique visitors, the more consumers we direct to shops in our program, the more business that shop does, and the more parts they need.”

The company is clicking with drivers in a big way as its Internet traffic has expanded by more than 600 percent since 2007, amounting to some 10 percent of all in-market potential repair and maintenance customers in the U.S.

Addressing skepticism

Shaw cites the results of a Harris Interactive survey concluding that motorists value “trust and certification” as the primary factors when selecting repair and maintenance services.

The study also shows that 75 percent of car owners over age 30 are skeptical of online reviews, so they turn to recommendations from friends and family. Shaw cautions that “while friends mean well, they rarely have the knowledge to evaluate a repair shop’s technical capabilities. While most technical professions have demanding requirements, such as years of education and passing examinations, in most states there are no requirements for auto mechanics.”

Review-based websites that list local businesses have come under fire due to concerns of ratings manipulation and reviewer authenticity, he observes. “We make sure that every RepairPal Certified shop has highly trained mechanics, uses only quality parts and never overcharges – or we will refund you the difference.”

As a free resource for concerned consumers, RepairPal independently certifies auto repair shops nationwide, provides data on the average cost of each repair and offers trusted customer reviews, thus eliminating the need for people to shop around, he says.

Shaw reports that the company’s team of expert technicians and data analysts has invested more than 75,000 hours analyzing the cost of labor and parts for repairs and the zip code where shops are located. The data is then processed by the RepairPrice Estimator, which calculates a price range where an estimate should fall.

“RepairPrice Estimates are presented as a range because our research has shown that each shop prices its services a little differently, based on the parts they use, the tools they use, and the labor rate they employ,” he elaborates. “If you call several local shops and dealerships, you’ll receive a range of quotes based on the quality of the parts used and the shop’s investment in tools and diagnostic equipment. Convenience features offered – like loaner cars and staying open for extended hours – also factor in.”

Member businesses receive a steady stream of reports designed to augment your marketing efforts, such as a recent missive emphasizing the importance and ease of accomplishing search engine optimization without having to hire a costly SEO consultant.

More than half of the customers who make in-store visits will first find your company via their smart phones, “so how they find you online is crucial to your bottom line,” says Shaw, who lists five key steps that can be accomplished within just a week’s time:

  • Step One: Put contact information front and center. Make sure your company’s name, address, phone number and city are prominently displayed on your website. Ideally, this information should go in the top right corner in a large, easily readable font.
  • Step Two: Claim your Google Business listing. Claim your Google listing so new customers can view photos, hours and details directly from a search query. In addition to core information, select your business category and include a description that highlights your strengths.
  • Step Three: Get reviewed. Glowing reviews boost SEO and make your business more attractive to web searchers. Put a sign up in your shop asking for reviews to encourage loyal customers to help out.
  • Step Four: Make your site more mobile-friendly. If half of your customers are finding your business on their smart phones, optimizing the mobile experience is simply a must if you don’t want to lose new leads.
  • Step Five: Link up with local influencers. Do some research to identify influencers in your hometown. Ask them to link to your site – or better yet – write about your business.

“Not only does our award-winning RepairPal mobile app make your new client’s search process seamless and your shop easier to find, but by linking to your site, RepairPal connects you with 3 million-plus monthly visitors looking for a trusted repair shop,” says Shaw. “What’s more, you have access to brand new customers through exclusive partnership with major brands, such as AARP and their 37 million members.”

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