The ACA Research study highlights women and new services as key factors

The latest research conducted by ACA Research for the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) has delved deeper into workshop performance, business profitability, growth strategies, and industry challenges.
The Australian automotive workshop landscape remains in a healthy condition overall despite challenges and a significant slice of the workshop sector is growing with encouraging focus on further opportunities to increase profitability and customer satisfaction.
Considering the average capacity of Australian workshops is sitting at 82 percent, there is certainly room for growth across the board.
This new research shows that of the 48 percent of businesses that expected more growth last year, 38 percent achieved that growth into 2019. As such, the outlook for the industry remains strong and this is backed up with two in every five workshops expecting to increase the number of vehicles they service over the coming year.
Businesses, particularly industry leaders, are pursuing a range of strategies to aid productivity and drive this growth; from an increased female focus, to new service offerings.
Of the workshops surveyed, 81 percent believed increasing female customer satisfaction was an important goal. Furthermore, nearly 60 percent reported female customer growth in their business, showing the importance of a female focus as a key growth avenue.
Investing in equipment, increasing staff efficiency and reducing overheads remain high priorities for business growth across the industry. Value add customer services, fleet servicing and capturing customer feedback are also important growth drivers. At the same time, customer feedback enables business owners and managers to better understand their customers and help steer their business in a direction that improves customer satisfaction and retention and identifies areas for new customer growth.
The addition of new servicing offerings builds value and efficiency for existing customers and can also attract new customers.
Of the future service offerings automotive workshops are aiming to add or expand, vehicle collection and drop off (81 percent) and the use of email/SMS confirmation systems (69 percent) remained the most popular areas of focus, while online booking systems (50 percent) and loyalty programs (28 percent) have seen the largest increase in focus. Weekend servicing, extended business hours, vehicle cleaning, mobile servicing and courtesy buses were also listed in the research.
However, the research found the industry is not without its challenges.
The largest concern for automotive workshops was the number of consumers that are not aware they can choose an independent workshop to service their car during the warranty period. The AAAA is actively campaigning to address this challenge, both at a government level and with the Choice of Repairer consumer education campaign.
On the positive side there has been growth in the number of vehicles serviced within warranty periods for 21 percent of the respondents over the past 12 months and log-book servicing by independent repairers increased from five percent to 11 percent.

According to Lesley Yates, Senior Manager – Government Relations and Advocacy of the AAAA, this research is a great snapshot of the health of the industry and a resource with insights into effective growth strategies for independent automotive repairers nationwide.
“Our industry has always put the customer first. It’s clear from the research that businesses who develop new strategies to make their customer experience more satisfying, increase business productivity, invest in staff development and market to new customers are being rewarded for their efforts,” Lesley said.
“It is fantastic to see more workshops focusing on attracting women and operating in a more female friendly manner and it backs up the findings of our consumer perception study that indicated the majority of decision makers for car servicing in the household were women.
“On the challenge front, we are encouraged by positive signs around the increase in the number of vehicles being serviced within warranty, but we understand there is much more to do, and we will continue to campaign on behalf of independent workshops on this front.”
The latest research from ACA Research is available to all AAAA members for no charge.
“We first ran the AAAA Workshop Research program in 2018, mapping the workshop landscape, and setting benchmarks for the industry around business profitability and labour utilisation,” ACA Research Director, Steve Nuttall, said.
“The 2019 research was a chance to go back, and look at how the sector has changed over the last 12 months, as well as exploring in more detail the strategies workshops are using to improve business revenue, profitability, and productivity.
“What was most obvious to us was that despite less optimism than we saw last year against a background of increasing competition and declining optimism, many are still targeting growth, proactively looking for opportunities to add capacity to their business, increase efficiency, and deliver improved experiences for their customers (particularly women).
“A greater focus on delivering to the needs of their female customers stands out as a key outcome of this year’s research, with workshops appearing to increasingly recognise the role women play in servicing and maintenance decisions.”

For your free copy of the report, please contact the AAAA Head Office.