This month, our contributors discuss whether it’s better to offer a ‘one-stop shop’ solution or find a niche and specialise.
Managing Director, Autosupplies (Chesterfield)
Specialising and finding a niche works for many businesses, but that is not how we have approached our work here at Autosupplies. In fact, we have gone in the opposite direction, offering the widest range of products available through a substantial stock holding and offering the best possible service.
I’ve been quoted many years ago as saying ‘whatever our customer needs, we want to be able to supply it’. Nothing has changed in this regard. We’ve added more brands and more ranges, like engine management, to our portfolio and we promote what we sell to all our customers.
We’ve maintained a personal touch and, as Managing Director, I visit customers weekly and accompany our area sales managers to meetings on a regular basis. It’s important they see how crucial they are to us and what we’re doing to improve in order to help their individual business.
Factoring is not all about product. Don’t get me wrong, high quality items are crucial, but to really achieve success customer service must be up to scratch.
To bring it back to the topic of ‘finding a niche’, we have managed to create a name for ourselves by offering a ‘one- stop shop’ solution, rather than a specialised service. We’re the largest paint and car parts supplier in the area, but also excel at garage equipment, tools and diagnostics. We haven’t exhausted these avenues but instead invested to ensure we’re the leading motor factor in each of these areas.
Proprietor, Scotlands Ash Garage
It’s all about exploring different channels. For example, we’ve made a conscious effort to incorporate light commercial vehicle (LCV) business into the garage. We’ve even gone to the lengths of having a courtesy van to help drivers carry on with their working routine while their vehicle is undergoing repairs. It’s a growing market for us and the skill set required to work on these vehicles doesn’t differ very much, if at all, from passenger cars.
From a garage point of view, we’ve had to look at promoting our expertise in niche areas so that customers are fully aware. And, we don’t just do it once, but continually repeat the message over and over again.
For example, our team of technicians are skilled in electric vehicles and, while the vehicle parc is still relatively small, it’s something that we’ve invested in, so we need to make sure our customers are fully aware of what we can offer.
Air conditioning is another example. We invested heavily in being able to service both types of air-con refrigerant. It’s a small but growing area and we have to communicate our offering to customers.
And, then there’s MOT. All our technicians are fully trained on the new MOT changes and we make sure everyone knows about it. We’re different in that we don’t discount. This may not sound like a strong selling point, but when we explain the reasons why, we become the popular choice for MOT tests. It’s about what makes us different to the competition, be it independent or franchised dealer.