The Saga of Online Car Service Aggregators!
We live in an era where, if there’s an idea, there’s a ‘start-up’ for it. There’s an app for it. There’s someone trying to ‘solve a problem’.
In the area of car maintenance, several players have mushroomed in the recent past backed by venture capitalists with lots of money to blow!
These online players run digital advertisements offering heavy discounts, with skimpily clad models!
But are they really worth it? Let’s consider.
The Online Aggregator & Car Workshop Connection:
These companies have their representatives moving around the city to enrol car workshops on their platform. They usually take the unsuspecting next door poor mechanics into their stride and assure them big profits. The car maintenance market is challenging being extremely dynamic. In such scenarios, it is impossible to generate profits if the work is done honestly.
Online companies offer support to car workshops with supply of engine oils and spare parts. And they charge anywhere between 15-30% commission + GST on their services to the car workshop. And herein is where the problem lies! The car workshops cannot afford to give such margins to these platforms as they themselves work on slender margins. When coupled with lucrative discount offers these companies provide, it is practically impossible for the car workshop to be viable. And that’s why to earn profits, they cheat! Unwanted spares are suggested to be changed and if approved by the customer, the existing spares are just washed and fixed back to show it as new. Often refurbished parts are used and sold off as new. Even company recommended grade oils are not used. Cheap grade oils are used for cars with modern day engines which reduces the performance and life of the engines. Most of the mechanics are new, only guided by one senior mechanic. There are no Service Advisors and any person to monitor the quality of work. The quality of workmanship in such car workshops is far from satisfactory.
In-short, none of the car workshops can be profitable by doing honest work when enrolled by such online car service aggregator companies. Cheating is the only way these car workshops can survive!
The Online Aggregator & Customer Connection:
Technology evolution has made humans very lazy. Employed people or business owners simply do not have time to maintain their cars. To solve this issue, car service apps are becoming increasingly popular. Pickup/drop service, not able to see the car being worked upon yourself, blindly approving any additional jobs, customers not having time – all these problems have made the offerings of these online apps popular. Unreal discount offers, continuous advertisements on digital platforms, fake software bot based customer reviews – all these make the trap sweeter! Since these companies are backed up venture capitalists, they spend a lot of money on marketing themselves. But their claims are not backed up by work. The money power enables them to develop software applications that put up automated fake reviews.
Most of the companies who run these start-ups are unprofessional and clueless about the ground realities and operations of car workshops. No online company representative is available at these workshops. Only ‘trained to talk’ call – center executives who do not have any technical know-how, handle customer phones like parrots sitting at some remote area in the country.
Once you book the service through the app, their affiliated local workshop guys come and pick-up the car. Now imagine handing over your car to some workshop whose services you have never used, don’t know anyone from there, neither have even seen the workshop! Would you hand over your car to such a workshop? Well, it all depends upon how much you love your car, your family and yourself!
But understandably, most customers use these services only once since they experience very bad and unprofessional service, know that they are fleeced and cheated, but since no accountability lies with these companies, they have nowhere to complain and give up after experiencing harsh realities. There could be few exceptions where one may receive good and honest service, but that workshop would soon deregister itself from these online platforms.
A very popular car technology online forum had this poll on the question: Would you use an online service for maintenance & repairs? 75% of the passionate car owners on this platform replied “NO!”
Less spoken about company authorised service centres is good, since most car owners know what happens there. That’s the reason you must find out the best FNG (friendly neighbourhood garage) or ask for recommendations. See the workshop yourself, meet the advisors\managers, check their reviews, get that confidence for yourself and then handover your car or get it picked up from them for service or repairs.
Do not fall into the trap of sweet advertising and convenience. Such convenience will not only drill a hole in your pocket, but also will compromise the safety of yourself and your family!
Treat your car well, and it will take care of you.