Car Repair is Scary (so is repairing your service parts)!

That new car smell, that fresh leather, that perky engine that starts on a dime and responds immediately to my desire.  Ah yes, a new car.  As comfortable as the car is to drive, equally comforting is the realization that I am surrounded by a 36-month / 36,000-mile warranty.  Life is good.

Two and a half years later I notice an engine problem.  My odometer eerily glows 36,666 miles as I limp home in the dark.  I make arrangements to bring my car back to the dealer with full expectation that there will be major blood-letting from my wallet before this is over.  Despite the cost, I will at least have the comfort of knowing that certified mechanics will repair my car like skilled surgeons.  After all, who better to deal with my car than the very same company who built it?

A neighbor gave me a ride to work the next day while my car was out of service.  He asked me why I didn’t take the car to a local independent repair shop that we pass every day.  I never really gave it much thought to be honest.  I want the right expertise for the repair and I want the highly trained mechanics to fix the problem the first time.  I also know that the dealer has all the information (instructions, service bulletins, etc.) and they are very familiar with the car.

My neighbor told me that he’s been using the independent shop for many years and loves it.  Several times he brought his car there for repair and it actually cost LESS than he expected.  He “knows” the mechanic there and apparently trusts him very much.  Sometimes he finds alternatives to large repairs and saves money.  Sometimes, the mechanic will notify him of other potential problems and take care of it.  He says the mechanic takes the time to show him the problems/solutions and will even personally test drive the car.  All the mechanics there are certified and have access to the same information my dealer has.  After this glowing recommendation, I looked up the shop on-line and read several great reviews.  I also talked to a few other people at work who also use this shop.  They love it!

I switched to the independent repair shop, first using them for a simple scheduled maintenance.  They did a great job.  The cost was reasonable and the work and turn-around time were impressive.  I now use them for all my family’s auto work and they have exceeded my expectations.  They know me there and I get treated like a valuable customer.

I thought this experience served as a very accurate representation of my business.  I work for a company that specializes in aftermarket repair of high-tech products.  Many companies use a contract manufacturer (CM) who acts as the company’s factory, producing and shipping units of the design on behalf of the company.  The CM has this manufacturing/assembly relationship with the company, similar to the relationship I had my car dealer.  When product is returned for warranty, the CM will provide this service as well, although repair is often not their core competency.

Like car repair, the company uses their CM (dealer) because it feels safe and it’s covered by warranty.  As warranty begins to expire, the CM continues to offer repair services, but now charges for the work, often times excessively.  After all, the CM knows the product (they built it), and they have the drawings and experience.  As in my car repair story, these companies often aren’t even aware of the alternative to returning to the CM for repair.  Just as I had an independent auto repair shop, companies have independent repair depots available to help with the repair of their complex electronic parts/products.

What led me to the independent repair shop was a trusted recommendation from a neighbor.  With our business, we depend on references from our current customers and also awards touting our value as a partner.  With my local car repair shop, I started out with simple maintenance items and eventually gave them all my business, large and small.  At my work, we often engage with a prospective customer by starting small to highlight our service and to build the trust.

I was curious to compare my company’s top benefits that we advertise and compare these to my car repair story;

Bringing the car to the dealer is still a viable post-warranty solution – as is continuing to use the CM for repair.  The process works.  You know how to do it.  Change takes some effort.  Once you take that step however, you’re rewarded with additional value in terms of cost and service.

Sure, car repair is scary, but it is probably scarier to think you may not be using the best solution and leaving value on the table.