by Bob Beranek
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I think that it goes without saying that shop installations are better than mobile installations for a number of reasons. However, many feel that mobile installations are a necessary evil because mobile service is a luxury expected by our customers. That expectation can be changed if handled correctly. It has been done in the backyard of some of the biggest national players in the industry.

First, I would like to discuss the benefits and the drawbacks of mobile versus shop installs. I’ll list benefits first and then the drawbacks. Add them up for yourself.

Mobile Installations:

  1. Benefit – Customer convenience is by far the best benefit when it comes to mobile installs. The customer can go about their day and the mobile technician can go where the vehicle is. This is a big selling point.
  2. Benefit – Your truck is a rolling billboard that tells the world who you are, what you do and where to get what you sell. Take advantage of your mobile truck by displaying your telephone number and/or website prominently on its side, entering it in local parades, driving different routes to expose it to different possible customers and keeping it clean and well maintained to show professionalism.

Now the drawbacks:

  1. Drawback – Outfitting a mobile unit is very expensive. Go ahead and add up the cost and expenses; truck, fuel, insurance, special tools, power source, maintenance and finding a tech with a good driving record. These things add up and to make things worse, you cannot charge extra for the service. If there is a callback and you have to go out and fix a problem for no cost, then the loss is even greater.
  2. Drawback – Every time the driver does something wrong like drive erratically or offensively, it reflects on you and your business.
  3. Drawback – Mobile installations are susceptible to adverse weather conditions that can cause installation backups and missed appointments that can upset customers.
  4. Drawback – Contamination is a condition that must be addressed. Flying around in the air is debris that will not be conducive to a safe and contaminate free installation, so care must be taken to eliminate as much as possible.
  5. Drawback – The number of installations in a day are reduced due to traffic, weather, time constraints and unforeseen circumstances.
  6. Drawback – Productivity will suffer unless very good routing practices and tools are used. GPS tracking, appointment setters and email reminders will have to be implemented to assure timely and productive scheduling.

Shop Installations:

  1. Benefit– A “bricks and mortar” building gives the customer a sense of stability and legitimacy. It gives them a place to go when things go wrong, questions need answering or more glass breakage needs fixing.
  2. Big benefit – Controlled conditions mean less contaminants interfering with the installation safety, weather conditions are not a concern, scheduling can be easily managed, more paid work can be done in less time, tools can be shared for less cost, there is usually help available for setting large or difficult windshields and there can be more eyes, ears and experience to solve problems.
  3. Benefit – Management oversight is another big benefit that can mean higher quality and more productive work. When a technician leaves the building he is almost completely self-managed. Your businesses success is dependent on how that technician handles himself with customers, the fellow citizens he encounters and how he does his work in the field.

Drawbacks:

The overhead involved with buying a building or paying rent—keeping the lights on.

The features and benefits of mobile versus shop are undeniable, but how can I change my market? I have been saying forever that the customer calls the glass shop for information, not a price quote. Sure, the first thing they ask for is a price quote, but that is a question that everyone asks when they don’t know what else to ask. You have to give them a reason to ask questions and begin the conversation. Once the Q & A turns to safety and they ask what is better, “mobile or shop installation”, the answer is obvious. Believe me when I say, you will be surprised how many would rather bring it to the shop for installation instead of mobile when given the chance to choose. I am not saying that you completely give up mobile service. Only reduce the percentage of business and get the majority on the shop side rather than the mobile side. It can be done.

Comments (17)

  1. RICH LUTTON said on 14-06-2012

    When a customer asks us if we can do a mobile service we say yes but, the quality of service in our shop is much greater and we explain why. It has been far less expensive for us to drive someone to work or even pick up their vehicle and take to the shop than to schedule mobile service. We can litteraly do twice as many jobs in shop in a day vs mobiles. If a customer is not interested in the increased quality they may not be the customer you want anyway.

    • Sue said on 20-06-2012

      I think you’re confusing ‘quality’ with your own convenience. Isn’t it supposed to be about the customer? I don’t believe there is any difference in ‘quality’ between a workshop and mobile installation – as long as the technician is trained and competent in all aspects of safe glass installation. My advice is to get rid of the workshop and be completely mobile – why have the expense of both when a mobile operation is so much cheaper?

      • Bob Beranek said on 21-06-2012

        Sue – You are right when you say that the quality can be equal if the techs are competent and properly trained. However, while they are mobile they are not being managed or critically observed so what they do is completely up to them and not up to you. If you have enough faith to put your businesses future in the hands of unsupervised employees, you have a stronger faith than I.

        I would check ALL the cost of a mobile unit versus the cost and added productivity of your shop installs before making the statement “a mobile operation is so much cheaper”.

      • Daniel said on 26-06-2012

        Dear Sue,

        Compare with this:
        You send a super-crew into a state-of-the-art Space Shuttle to repair an Orbital Station.
        But a meteor shower suddenly occurs, whilst all the team is outside the shuttle, repairing the Space Lab.
        Maybe not the happiest comparison, but, no matter how well equipped the Technician, he will still have enough adverse factors to fight with. The driving, tool and environment organizing, as well as the disturbing adverse factors will stress the technician close to his bearable limits. Not to mention that you must may him extra for the extra service he provides.

        • Sue said on 27-06-2012

          Sorry Daniel – I thought you guys would have weather forecasts in the US the same as we do in New Zealand. You would have to be verging on brain-dead to send a technician out to replace a windscreen when the weather was going to break.
          Unfortunately, we’ve never had a call from outer space to repair anything either, so that comparison doesn’t work for me.
          85% of our business is commercial – meaning we are travelling to do the job in their workshop, not out in the pouring rain as you seem to suggest.

          • Daniel said on 13-07-2012

            Sue, please notice I perform in Romania, and not in the US. USA was a must in my skill completion and I proudly take advantage on what I learned there.
            However, Conditions and situations vary so much, that it’s almost impossible to display theorems in any job guild.
            We just share our expertise and situations, and learn from each other as much as we consider it helps us doing our best jobs.
            Kindest regards.

    • Bob Beranek said on 21-06-2012

      Rich – I agree almost 100% with you on you comment except the last sentence. I want all customers that call me to have to the opportunity to be serviced by me. I am better for them than my competition.

    • Daniel said on 26-06-2012

      Hey, Rich

      As much as my opinion counts for you, I totally agree with the fact that if the customer is not able to understand quality, he is not a worthy business partner.
      Sorry Bob if I disappoint you ! He-he-he !
      O.K. not all of our customers must be Executives or Board Counselors, but wasting time and energy to make a redneck understand what is is not willing or capable of achieve leads to the decision of dropping the demand of a small job and saving time and energy for a big one.
      The big fish is to arrive, if the unwanted job is turned down with enough courtesy. I face this situation every day.
      Hope we might all have a true meeting sometime, for a Bud or a Heini.
      Best wishes for all of you.

    • Daniel said on 26-06-2012

      Say Rich, please find my Reply a little bit lower.
      I missplaced it, and it might have some leaks. Hahaha.

  2. Daniel said on 14-06-2012

    I would dare to post here my home, European expertise versus the USA practice in DC.
    In Romania, I and my crew perform successfully workshop replacements since 1992. Even we offer 3 mobile units, fully equipped units, their charge is far from being on profit.
    Maybe because we run them only into a 25 miles radius territory and charge the customer zero for the extra service. Yep, you’re right: we’re idiots doin’ it 4 free !
    While in the US, I was driving a 4.3 liters gasoline power F350 Ford truck fully charged for say a 40 bucks replacement some 40 miles away from DC, not to charge even the (HAHAHA) 50 cents I-95 tax and finding out it was a misscall or a dumb customer doing Halloween tricks !!!
    Basic fact is trust must prevail: once customer orders a mobile job, he/she must be ready to pay for the extra-service. Unfortunately, these days we, “The Independents”, must deal with all kind of jobs, such as the teams of 911 face every minute.
    If my opinion counts, I would put all my bets on WORKSHOP job. If customer feels restrained, then I, in my filthy environment of East Europe, I offer a duty vehicle for the time his/her car is under my care or, at least transportation to/from the desired destination. Expensive solution, but so goddam’ useful for the Company’s public image !
    Professionals need not any further arguments.
    Love and respect from crashing Romania !
    Daniel

    • Bob Beranek said on 21-06-2012

      Daniel – Again I agree with you on all counts. I have been asked by several clients to calculate the difference between a mobile unit and a car rental for one day. The difference is amazing. You could work a deal with a car rental place and offer a car rental instead of mobile service and be ahead of the game. Charging extra for mobile service is also not out of the realm of possibility either. Sure Insurance companies will not pay the extra charge but if sold correctly, a mobile service charge can be passed on directly to the vehicle owner. Give it a try, you may be surprised.

      • Daniel said on 26-06-2012

        Frankly, I do price adjustments for customers demanding mobile service. But I strongly advise them about the multitude of factors that may jeopardize the top installation quality, desired by both parts.
        Anyway, mobile units still operate, but the workshop puts the cherry on the top of the cake.

  3. Sue said on 14-06-2012

    Hi, I’m down here in New Zealand and have to say I disagree with the comments regarding shop vs mobile service. Our analysis of consumers show that an overwhelming amount of clients want a mobile service and will not take their vehicle into a workshop because of all the hassle that entails. Getting to the shop, having someone follow to take you to work, getting someone to take you back to the shop to pick up your vehicle vs having a mobile technician come to your place of work, carry out the job, and the vehicle is all ready for you to drive home at the end of the day.
    I do not believe the ‘contaminants’ in the air argument, as contaminants can be floating around the air in a workshop as well. As long as the technician is competently trained in all aspects of safe glass installation, I do not believe it matters safety-wise whether the job is carried out in a workshop or in someones own garage or driveway.
    Also, the cost of a lease far exceeds the cost of running a vehicle.
    Cheers from Down Under

    • Bob Beranek said on 21-06-2012

      Sue – The reason I wrote this article was to provoke discussion and I am pleased to see that my goal has been reached. Your arguments are well noted and I cannot comment on the market in New Zealand so what ever I say can be easily disputed but I do respectfully disagree with you concerning some of your statements. Especially when it comes to comparing cost versus return on investment. Unfortunately, this is a discussion that will probably have to be debated over a beer or a professional assessment of facts. Neither of which we can do at this venue.

      Cheers from Up Over?

  4. Terry Aivaliotis said on 15-06-2012

    Twenty one years ago we started as a one man mobile auto glass service providing 60% home service and 40% fleet business, when the retail auto glass business was 90% insurance and deductibles were low and our margins were very good, it was feasible in terms of economics, but many challenges in terms of technical, quality control, employee morale and logistics.

    Bob you said it,there are many challenges and costs related to providing mobile service to the retail sector, times have changed, cars are more complicated and costs have increased.

    Today, we provide mobile service only to our Fleet customers and or if a vehicle cannot be driven. We have many successful Retail stores where all auto glass installations are performed.

    The key to having customers bring in the vehicle as oppose to providing mobile service is educating them!! Your customers, employees and bottom line will love you for it!!

    • Bob Beranek said on 21-06-2012

      Terry – Bravo! Well said. I have several success stories of former and current clients that have decided to reverse the mobile versus shop percentages and having great success in doing so. It is not impossible because it has been done in several very tough markets. It takes education and a realization that customers are not that well versed in auto glass installation and are looking for guidance. If you provide the guidance they will give you the job.

      • Chris Hernandez said on 23-06-2012

        About 6 years ago we decided to stop offering mobile service and do only in shop work. It was a bit scary at first but in the end it paid off. I was spending on average 4 to 6 hours a day in my truck driving. We are in Houston, TX and this is a very competitive market as probably the rest of the country is in at the moment. Today we had a client drive to our shop from Texas City, TX that is nearly 46 miles away for us to perform work for him. Two weeks ago we had a couple that drove from Galveston, TX 59 miles away to have us replace their windshield because they didn’t trust anyone else. Bob your right about the guidance, don’t just give someone a price educate them on their future purchase.

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