What is the new year bringing to the independent automotive repair industry? Should shop owners be worried, excited, or somewhere in between?
I have been asked by several industry peers about my thoughts on what to expect in 2023 as an independent repair shop owner. “Is this boom over?” “What’s the economy going to look like?” That’s not even acknowledging the elephant in the room over the past few years regarding the technician shortage. Needless to say, a new year often brings new thoughts, and new thoughts breed new discussions.
I always start my answer to these yearly questions with my battle-tested, time-held saying, “whichever you choose to believe, you're going to be right.” Yes, I said it. You don’t necessarily have to go back and read it again. I admit that you are right. Those that know me best can appreciate the humor, given my natural competitive spirit that often lacks the ability to be wrong. The year 2023 starts with a simple date on a calendar and your perception is what often determines your reality. There are tons of articles on the positives and negatives out there to feed the inner observation bias, therefore, choose wisely.
The beginning of a year is a great time to reflect on your previous year, as well as plan for the future. Was 2022 a great year for your shop? What goals did you hit? Which ones did you miss? What I often encourage shop owners to do first is to develop a plan. You are reading this article, which tells me that you are taking your first step to developing a plan for what is surely to be your - in the words of the great John Wafler - “best year yet!”
Now, is there anything I do think that auto shop owners should expect in 2023?
I don’t necessarily see car counts taking a dive this year. The research I have done tells me quite the opposite. Matter of fact, there are more cars on the road now than ever before. More cars = more cars needing our services. What I do see changing is labor rates. The technician shortage is creating a drastic increase in technician wages that will only continue to climb in 2023. Regardless of your thoughts on how we got into the labor shortage era, it is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
In the many conversations I have had with shop owners, the technician shortage is the biggest area in their business that needs to be addressed in 2023. The great news is, this is an opportunity for you to review your labor rates and ensure you are positioning your company in the driver seat to attract and retain top level talent. There will be two types of shops in the near future regarding technicians; the “haves” and the “have nots.” Regardless of labor rates, cars will still need to be maintained, and they will be maintained at the shop that has the skilled professionals. The time to start taking action is now.
Another evaluation I feel is needed to have a successful 2023, is evaluating your customer experience. Many customers do not know or ask labor rates. Because a labor rate is not anything tangible to them. Ms. Jones cares less about your labor rate and more about how your service advisor greeted her than we want to believe. Customers care about value, not about price. Remember, price is what we pay, value is what we get.
When was the last time you really viewed your experience through the lens of a customer? Have your service advisors received professional training? We expect technicians to become ASE certified with ongoing training requirements, yet we hand the advisor the phone on the second day, armed with a cheap pen and vendor-supplied notepad. Remember, cars don’t drive themselves to our shops, people do. Your customer experience should dwarf your labor rate. Every. Single. Day.
Lastly, there has been an acceleration of changes over the past few years of how companies like Google, Facebook, & other online giants are controlling how well you are found by your customers. Just in the past year Google has adjusted the Google My Business application to Google Maps. Facebook is adjusting their algorithms on a daily basis. Knowing how these changes can affect your online presence, as well as managing these trends is something auto shop owners should expect to be a top priority moving forward into 2023.
There are several things you can do to ensure that companies like Google are placing your business in the top search results organically. With Google’s recent purchase of YouTube, short video-based media content will continue to play a significant role in organic SEO (search engine optimization). Are you creating unique content on a weekly basis for your shop?
When was the last time you opened a private browser on your phone or tablet and searched “Auto Repair Near Me” from a neutral location? Did your shop pull up in the top search results? How your customer’s find and see your business will continue to play a pivotal role in driving potential customers to your door.
What to expect as an independent repair shop in 2023 will largely change based on your location, your goals, area of expertise, and other factors. However, labor rates, customer experience, and online local marketing are things that all shop owners should be aware of while planning for their best year yet.
Overall, a new year is here. I believe there is no better time to be in the automotive repair industry than now. Plan out the year with SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, & Time Based) and focus on what you can control. Every day is an opportunity to grow, you just need to find your water.
If you have questions about this article or aren’t sure where to start with your SMART goals for 2023, we can help! Email our team (email@example.com) or schedule a complimentary business assessment here. We’ll take a diagnostic approach of looking at where your shop currently is and what may be standing in your way. Then, we’ll help you create a plan to get your business where you want it to be. Because at The Institute, we believe a better business creates a better life and, ultimately, a better industry.