Convertible top work is a mainstay for many auto trim businesses, due to the fact that pretty much only auto trim shops have the know-how to replace tops.
With more people restoring cars these days, convertible work is a niche that many shops can count on because tops will always need to be repaired or replaced at some point.
Like many other types of auto repair shops, most trim shops stick to replacing tops when customers contact the business.
Although this is one way to operate, nowadays if a shop relies on convertible top work for a significant amount of revenue, it’s likely that business is slower than normal as customers decide to wait longer before replacing or repairing a convertible top than they would under better economic circumstances.
So how can trim shop owners keep repair business coming in?
One idea they can borrow comes from your run-of-the-mill automotive service centers: offer a maintenance plan to customers.
For many trim shop owners, this isn’t exactly a revolutionary idea, but it’s one that the vast majority of shops haven’t successfully adopted yet.
Let’s look at how a program like this could work.
First, when a customer comes in to get a top repaired, you should ask them if they would be interested in a maintenance plan. (This is, of course, after they have at least put down some type of deposit for the repair job.)
This plan would basically be an up-front fee that would pay for an inspection of the top, a basic cleaning and an assessment as to when the customer would need to bring the top in for repair work.
Offering a program like this would have a number of benefits.
First, and most importantly, it helps keep the shop in mind whenever the owner is looking at the top and considering whether to have work done.
A regular postcard or e-mail reminder a couple of months before the top is due for an inspection can help ensure that the customer comes back in for scheduled maintenance.
Second, a maintenance program will earn the shop a bit more money.
As long as you charge appropriately for the program, remembering to include the cost of materials and labor with some profit margin built in, a program like this won’t cost the shop time or money.
If the maintenance program fee is reasonable, customers will be interested.
People are keeping their cars longer these days, and collectors want to keep their convertibles in the best shape possible.
The key to selling people on this plan is to tell them how much money they will be saving in the long run if they get regular repairs and take good care of their convertible’s top.
If a regular replacement top installation costs anywhere in the neighborhood of $1,200 to $2,000 (depending on the cost of the top, the shop’s labor rate, additional repairs needed, materials, etc.), then regular maintenance over time will save the customer from having to pay to have the entire top replaced all at once.
The more things that are wrong with a convertible top, the more it will cost the consumer.
For most customers, the top will eventually need to be replaced, but a maintenance plan will at least delay the inevitable replacement.
In the meantime, it will bring customers back into your shop at least once a year, depending on how often your maintenance plan reminds them to come in annually.
It will also give you the opportunity to sell them on other services for their vehicle.
Lastly, when the customer is looking for a trim shop to replace the top, he will likely come back to your shop.
If your shop has been regularly sending out maintenance reminders and has taken good care of the top for a few years, the customer will ultimately trust that tried-and-true shop where they know the owner and technicians rather than an unknown business.
It’s that simple.
In the classic and restored car market, this kind of maintenance plan is even more valuable to customers because these customers see their cars as investments. They will be more likely to take you up on a maintenance plan offer.
Classic convertible owners want to take their cars to shows and know that the top works correctly and looks good.
With a maintenance plan, a shop owner can give that customer peace of mind and generate repeat business, making this, potentially, an invaluable marketing tool.