Mobile Service

Articles related to offering mobile PDR service.

Why Should I Offer Mobile PDR?

Written by Marty Runik.

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I have been having more conversations with PDR techs asking what the advantages are of having a mobile retail business, and it occurred to me we have never done an article devoted to the advantages of going mobile for retail PDR. These articles will be based on a one man PDR operation in a city with a medium population. Rural areas generally do not lend themselves to mobile retail, as drive time will eat up too much of your work day.

 

    In my opinion mobile retail PDR is a necessity, even if you have a fixed base operation. Convenience to the customer is the number one reason for having such a service. Since minor dents are not really a necessity but more of a nuisance, many potential customers will not spend the time at a fixed base location to use this service because they are just too busy. An exception to this of course is large dent repair. Being mobile makes it very easy for customers to take advantage of your services. The convenience for the customer is well worth the extra money you have to charge to come to them.  High dollar customers especially appreciate the convenience of a mobile service because their time is valuable and they probably will not spend the travel and wait time for a typical dent repair.  

 

     Unfortunately, many techs just seem to be dead set against going mobile, so lets talk first about the negative side of a mobile PDR business, and how to solve the few problems that exist. Probably the number one objection is the scheduling issue. Many techs believe that issues like customers not being available for an appointment, or cancelling at the last minute happen all the time. If done properly, this is not an issue. Simply call the customer the day before you are scheduled and remind them of their appointment. Let them know approximately what time you will be there within a two hour window. Some techs prefer giving an am or pm time. On the next day, just call when you are about a half hour away from them. This eliminates almost all no shows. If they are not sure if they can make the appointment at the last minute, remind them that you will not be in their area again until next week. This will usually encourage them to have someone available if they can’t make it

 

 

   Drive time between appointments is another scheduling objection many techs have. Obviously driving from one end of your town to the other each day will result in more drive time than work time. This is why it is so important to have your territory broken up into four geographic segments, and a floating day. Divide your territory into groups based on the number of service calls you get from each area. Generally you will find one area tends to be the most profitable so you will want to save the floating day for that area so it will get two service days during your week. Try and schedule your most profitable area to be serviced on Monday and Thursday if possible so there is only a three day wait maximum for this area. It will generally take about four months to get a feel for which area you will want to service on a particular day, so don’t set any thing in stone on a website until you know from experience how it works. Schedule your driving day on a street map the night before so you can figure out the shortest drive time between appointments. This only takes about 10 minutes max. My goal was to never drive more than 15 minutes between appointments. Most often my drive time was below 10 minutes.

 

    Occasionally you will have customers that will want you there at an exact time. Don’t get impatient with these people. The best way to handle this is to explain that you never rush a repair to get to the next job because your name rides on every repair. Also that if their repair requires more than the standard time, that you will never rush it, and you will be there for as long as it takes to make sure their vehicle is repaired right. Therefore it isn’t possible to know exactly when you will be at their location. This explanation will generally diffuse any problems a customer will have with an approximate service time. 

 

 

    Cold weather is another major objection. Of course in climates where winters are severe, this is a less attractive option, and sometimes can make mobile service too difficult to do at all. If you ask, many customers will have access to a covered space or garage for you to work in. If the customer does not have a covered place, explain that in order to do a quality repair it is important for the vehicle paint to be warm and ask if they have an alternate location such as a family or friend with access to a garage. Mechanic or detail shops also generally can provide you with a covered space.  I have found the only major market that does not lend itself well to mobile PDR in winter months are Office Parks. 

 

    Excessively hot weather is another potential problem. This is easy to solve. If you can’t find a shady spot to work, an umbrella mounted to a large suction cup provides plenty of shade for you and your dent, while leaving your reflection board lighted up being placed out of the shade. A light beach towel soaked in water and placed over your back like a cape will turn your body into a miniature swamp cooler lowering your surface body temperature a lot. Many techs experience a drained feeling during the day in hot weather. A good bio- available electrolyte is a MUST! I’m not talking about popular drinks that contain electrolytes. While these drinks do contain electrolytes, unfortunately they are largely unavailable to your system and are eliminated in the bathroom. A good bio-available electrolyte such as those available in health food stores will be used  by your body and will give you a noticeable energy boost through hot temps.

 

   Light pollution is another problem with an easy solution. The umbrella idea mentioned above will help with this, and a shadow board will help darken your dent in situations where the umbrella doesn’t work well. If you don’t use a shade board working out doors, you are missing out on a simple and money making accessory. On sunny days silvers and other high metallic colors can tend to give many techs a form of eye strain similar to mild snow blindness. An easy solution to this problem is to get a large dark beach towel as thin as possible, and cut a 6” hole in the canter of the towel. Then wet the towel enough to lightly dampen it and squeeze out any excess water. Now just slap the towel over the dent with the hole around the dent. The wet towel will stick well to any horizontal or vertical surface even on windy days. This dark towel over such a wide area will cut down tremendously on the glare from the high metallic surface and give your eyes a much better look at the dent because your eyes are no longer bombarded by the bright area around the dent.

 

   Many techs feel that if they provide mobile service, this obligates them to waste time giving mobile estimates. This is not true. Explain that if you did mobile estimates you would spend your entire day giving estimates with no time left for dents Most will understand this. An easy solution to this is to have at least a dozen pics on your website of damage that can not be repaired and ask the customer if his dent looks anything like these pics. Also, have the customer email you a few pics of the dent taken from at least two different angles. If the customer is not motivated enough to send the pics, they will not be serious customers.  If you decide to do mobile estimates make sure you schedule them on days you will be in that area. 

Mobile PDR Service Part 2

Written by Marty Runik.

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In the last article we discussed the reasons many PDR techs do not want to offer mobile service. Now we will talk about some of the many advantages of a mobile based PDR operation.

 

   In my opinion the best reason to offer this service is a purely personal and selfish one …. FREEDOM!  A mobile retail based business is far easier to structure in order to offer the owner a more fluid and less stressful business. The mobile owner has far fewer fixed expenses to pay every month than an FBO. Rents on business properties are usually high, often rising even in tough economies. Also, many landlords will sell a property during these times leaving you with another owner you may not like. Being at the mercy of the whims of any landlord can be a real nightmare as many FBOs can tell you. A building also requires you have others working for you to pay for all the extra expenses and this will always bring more stress and of course less freedom to enjoy life. An FBO owner must have at least one person at a store at all times to handle drive in customers and phones

 

 It may sound cruel but just about any FBO will tell you that problems that come from employees are the most stressful part of operating an FBO. Making your PDR techs sub contractors instead of employees is fine. But a secretary, detailer, shop helper, or other full time employee is often essential. Even one employee brings a much more complicated government regulatory and tax environment. In addition, any one that has employed people knows first hand that simply offering someone a job is not enough any more. The hard work ethic so prevalent a generation ago is all but gone now. Also, these days, your employees personal problems will often end up becoming yours in some way. 

 

 Other often overlooked expenses are State, Fed and County regulatory fees. These same agencies are rapidly expanding the amount of laws that apply to businesses that the business owner, not the landlord is responsible for. The government and especially County government is looking much closer at businesses for hundreds of violations in employee, environmental, tax, and County laws, Most of these issues will not apply to the mobile tech.

 

   Another example of this freedom is the relative ease of taking time off. A mobile retail operation can do this with little notice, more frequently, and can be gone for a longer time. When your on vacation, it’s a lot less stressful not having to worry about the problems that inevitably come when the boss leaves an FBO for more than a day. A mobile retail tech can leave on as little as a couple days notice, put a “gone fishin” message on his phone, and take a week off with no one to worry about and usually pick up the business with no issues except a back log of work. Retail customers generally have no problem with this and generally understand the need to get away. Especially when you go to them!

 

   Having more control of the time you work each day is another little bonus. An FBO pretty much has to keep the store open 9:00 – 5:00.  Being able to take off early when you have made enough, or just because you feel like it sometimes is usually much easier for a mobile tech especially on short scheduled day. Also going to events at your kids school or other special events is usually easier for mobile techs. 

 

   Many FBO owners do not think about all the little distractions that add up during the day that a mobile tech does not have to deal with. One example of many is that when a mobile tech decides its time to quit for the day, he just drives home and parks his business in the driveway. Try closing up a store that quickly.  Most FBO owners will tell you it takes them at least an hour and usually more to close up and start the drive home. Now this may seem like a small thing, but when I made the transition from FBO to only mobile, one of the first things I noticed was all the extra family time I had. I started looking back and realized I spent between one or even two hours just closing after deciding to stop work for the day. There were so many last minute distractions that I no longer had to deal with it was amazing! I was now having dinner and relaxing at home when I would still be handling issues at the store.

 

   Another very important plus for mobile operators is that In bad economic times, a mobile retail business can turn on a dime and revamp their business to suit the times. He can also offer more at a much lower price since his operating cost is so low. Let me give you an example from my own experience. In 2003 my area had a bad down turn when the State Government laid off thousands of people in my area. I almost could not give away a small dent repair. Had I been saddled with an FBO I would have been sweating big time. But being mobile, I simply restructured my website with some pics of large dents that could, and could not be done by PDR and changed my home page slogan to “ The fast affordable alternative to Body Shops.” Then I just staring doing more mobile large dent repairs. People don’t care about small dents in a bad economy, but they do look for more affordable alternatives to high cost body shops. When you combine the lower cost of a mobile business with the convenience of coming to them, you have a winner. We all know that this country is in bad shape financially and will probably get worse. Being stuck with a high overhead operation in such times will cause you stress that never ends!

 

   As mentioned in the last article customer convenience is extremely important. In tough times things like the cost of fuel, time off from work, can make the difference between people live with their dents, or getting them fixed. This is especially true for office parks and other concentrated pools of higher income customers. Going to the customer not only builds a healthy business relationship, but builds a better personal relationship as well. Going to the customer offers a level of personal care that is hard to get any other way. People really do appreciate and remember how easy it was to do business with you and are more likely to refer you to others.

 

In the next article we will explore little known specialty markets for PDR.

Mobile PDR Service Part 3

Written by Marty Runik.

User Rating:   / 0

 Let’s discuss some more advantages of a Mobile based PDR business.

 

   In my opinion one of the best reasons to offer this service is a purely personal and selfish one …. FREEDOM!  A mobile retail based business is far easier to structure in order to offer the owner a more fluid and less stressful business. The mobile owner has far fewer fixed expenses to pay every month than an FBO. Rents on business properties are usually high, often rising even in tough economies. Also, many landlords will sell a property during these times leaving you with another owner you may not like. Being at the mercy of the whims of any landlord can be a real nightmare as many FBOs can tell you. A building also requires you have others working for you to pay for all the extra expenses and this will always bring more stress and of course less freedom to enjoy life. An FBO owner must have at least one person at a store at all times to handle drive in customers and phones

 

 It may sound cruel but just about any FBO will tell you that problems that come from employees are the most stressful part of operating an FBO. Making your PDR techs sub contractors instead of employees is fine. But a secretary, detailer, shop helper, or other full time employee is often essential. Even one employee brings a much more complicated government regulatory and tax environment. In addition, any one that has employed people knows first hand that simply offering someone a job is not enough any more. The hard work ethic so prevalent a generation ago is all but gone now. Also, these days, your employees personal problems will often end up becoming yours in some way. 

 

 Other often overlooked expenses are State, Fed and County regulatory fees. These same agencies are rapidly expanding the amount of laws that apply to businesses that the business owner, not the landlord is responsible for. The government and especially County government is looking much closer at businesses for hundreds of violations in employee, environmental, tax, and County laws, Most of these issues will not apply to the mobile tech.

 

   Another example of this freedom is the relative ease of taking time off. A mobile retail operation can do this with little notice, more frequently, and can be gone for a longer time. When your on vacation, it’s a lot less stressful not having to worry about the problems that inevitably come when the boss leaves an FBO for more than a day. A mobile retail tech can leave on as little as a couple days notice, put a “gone fishin” message on his phone, and take a week off with no one to worry about and usually pick up the business with no issues except a back log of work. Retail customers generally have no problem with this and generally understand the need to get away. Especially when you go to them!

 

   Having more control of the time you work each day is another little bonus. An FBO pretty much has to keep the store open 9:00 – 5:00.  Being able to take off early when you have made enough, or just because you feel like it sometimes is usually much easier for a mobile tech especially on short scheduled day. Also going to events at your kids school or other special events is usually easier for mobile techs. 

 

   Many FBO owners do not think about all the little distractions that add up during the day that a mobile tech does not have to deal with. One example of many is that when a mobile tech decides its time to quit for the day, he just drives home and parks his business in the driveway. Try closing up a store that quickly.  Most FBO owners will tell you it takes them at least an hour and usually more to close up and start the drive home. Now this may seem like a small thing, but when I made the transition from FBO to only mobile, one of the first things I noticed was all the extra family time I had. I started looking back and realized I spent between one or even two hours just closing after deciding to stop work for the day. There were so many last minute distractions that I no longer had to deal with it was amazing! I was now having dinner and relaxing at home when I would still be handling issues at the store.

 

   Another very important plus for mobile operators is that In bad economic times, a mobile retail business can turn on a dime and revamp their business to suit the times. He can also offer more at a much lower price since his operating cost is so low. Let me give you an example from my own experience. In 2003 my area had a bad down turn when the State Government laid off thousands of people in my area. I almost could not give away a small dent repair. Had I been saddled with an FBO I would have been sweating big time. But being mobile, I simply restructured my website with some pics of large dents that could, and could not be done by PDR and changed my home page slogan to “ The fast affordable alternative to Body Shops.” Then I just staring doing more mobile large dent repairs. People don’t care about small dents in a bad economy, but they do look for more affordable alternatives to high cost body shops. When you combine the lower cost of a mobile business with the convenience of coming to them, you have a winner. We all know that this country is in bad shape financially and will probably get worse. Being stuck with a high overhead operation in such times will cause you stress that never ends!

 

   As mentioned in the last article customer convenience is extremely important. In tough times things like the cost of fuel, time off from work, can make the difference between people live with their dents, or getting them fixed. This is especially true for office parks and other concentrated pools of higher income customers. Going to the customer not only builds a healthy business relationship, but builds a better personal relationship as well. Going to the customer offers a level of personal care that is hard to get any other way. People really do appreciate and remember how easy it was to do business with you and are more likely to refer you to others.