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.