Archive for September, 2015

Chris investigates: What’s going on, Yelp?

Friday, September 25th, 2015

honest mechanics airdrie

By Chris Dekker

Most people are familiar with the website Yelp. I used to use the site a lot, myself. I trusted their user reviews when trying to make decisions about which restaurant to go to; things like that. However, recent experience as an owner of a business listed on Yelp has changed how I feel, and I’ve learned that their business ratings and reviews are worth a lot less than I’d thought:

 

Recently, a customer brought it to my attention that we had a negative review (and a 1-star rating) on Yelp. This was a major concern, as no single part of running my business has ever been more important to me than taking care of the customers. I literally can’t get to sleep in the evening if I feel like a customer is upset with us for some reason!

In the case of our bad review, a customer had their radiator replaced with us, and their water pump started leaking 3 months later. They were upset that we wouldn’t replace their water pump – a totally separate part – for free (under warranty, somehow?) and posted a negative review on the site.

When I checked out our Yelp page, I found that we also had a 5-star review from another user. However, this review wasn’t factored into our overall rating because Yelp’s automated software that looks for “quality reviews” had decided that this review shouldn’t be recommended for some reason. Non-recommended reviews are not included in a business’ rating, and are hidden from their main page.

I decided to do some looking around on Yelp, and see how our competitors were being treated by the website and its users. I found some rather large variations between different businesses’ scores, and how Yelp came up with these scores! Check out how some of the other local auto repair shops have fared:

 

  • W&B Automotive has one positive review and one negative one, just like us. However, they have a 5-star rating because Yelp is hiding the negative review and showing the postive one – the exact opposite of what has happened with our page.
  • Fountain Tire and Smart Automotive each have one positive review, but Yelp is hiding both of them, so these businesses have no rating.
  • Davis GM has a 2-star rating, based on a single review. However, Yelp is hiding a 5-star review from another customer, which would have improved their score to 4 stars.
  • Airdrie Dodge has a 3-star rating, based on 4 reviews. However, Yelp is hiding eight additional 1-star negative reviews, which have not been factored in.

 

Do you see the pattern there? You shouldn’t, because there isn’t one. There seems to be no logical explanation for why Yelp’s software recommends some reviews and not others.

The biggest laugh came when I viewed Highland Automotive’s Yelp page. They have a 1-star rating based on one review, and the review isn’t even for their business! You won’t believe why someone posted the review, either. The customer thought they called Highland Automotive about a custom exhaust job, but actually called Stand Fast Auto Repair instead. The boys at Stand Fast told the customer that they weren’t set up to bend and build custom exhaust (neither are we) and referred them to an exhaust shop in town. The customer had a bad experience at the exhaust shop, and left Highland Automotive a bad review because of this!

Yelp boasts that businesses can’t pay to alter or remove negative reviews – and this is true. Unfortunately, this rule extends so far that, like the poor guys at Highland, companies can’t even remove reviews that were meant for a different business!‎ Yelp employees also cannot change which reviews are recommended and which are not; once their software makes a decision using its pre-programmed algorithms, those decisions are final.

One thing Yelp employees can do, however, is call businesses and try to sell them advertising – and boy do they call. And call… every month. It isn’t actually advertising, though – or not what I would call advertising: Yelp actually places ads for our competitors’ businesses on our page, and then wants us to pay a monthly fee in order to remove them!

Thanks Yelp, but I think we’ll pass.

The best deal we’ve ever offered!

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Any customer who uses us will get a great quality repair for a very competitive price. But yesterday, Brenna G. of Calgary got the best deal we’ve ever offered – hundreds of dollars in much-needed repairs, for free!

Brenna was the winner of our September Facebook contest. We asked parents to nominate themselves, or another parent they knew whose “family taxi” needed some love during this busy, and very expensive back-to-school season. We promised one entrant some free repair work – and we delivered.

 

Airdrie car repair

Here’s Brenna’s Ford Explorer, just into the shop.

 

Since we had never serviced this vehicle before, and it was due for an oil change, we decided to start with our service/tire rotation/full inspection packages.

 

airdrie oil changes

Here is Klayton doing the honors on the oil change.

airdrie mechanics

Even though we did this oil change for free, we didn’t cheap out! The Explorer got a premium filter (as always) and 5 litres of Mobil 1 synthetic oil.

airdrie car inspections

Here is the inspection form that we’ve made up. We fill this out with every oil change.

 

The customer had noticed a clunking noise underneath, and we found a pretty serious issue: the upper control arm bolts on the driver’s side were coming loose! We tighted these up.

 

airdrie wheel alignments

Here is one of the upper control arm bolts that had come loose.

 

Based on the results of our inspection, the most urgent repair on the Explorer was to fix a bad coolant leak from the radiator. We decided to install a new radiator, and flush the cooling system.

 

airdrie radiator repairs

Here is the new radiator going in. This is about a two hour repair on a V8-powered Explorer.

 

One thing we’re proud of is that we only use OEM-approved, correct fluids in ever repair. This repair was no exception. We even mix our coolant with distilled water, which helps reduce corrosion in the cooling system compared to tap water. It’s one of those little things that every mechanic knows you should do, but very few shops actually do it.

 

affordable car repair

That’s a heck of a deal!

 

We hope Brenna enjoys her newly-repaired vehicle, which should be a little safer and more reliable when shuttling the kids back and forth to school now!

Out of Province inspections, and why people won’t like us anymore.

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

By Chris Dekkerairdrie car inspections

OK, maybe not liking us anymore is a bit of a stretch, but read on…

As our business grows, we’ve been excited to add more equipment and offer more services to our awesome customers. In January 2014, ‎we started offering full air conditioning system service. In September last year, we started selling tires and performing wheel alignments.

Now, another development: We are now a provincially licensed inspection facility, which means we can offer Out of Province and Commercial Vehicle inspections. This is exciting for us, but there’s some nervousness there, too. Why is that, you ask?

Unfortunately, the Out of Province inspection can be a matter of contention for some vehicle owners. The inspecting technician can often come out looking like the “bad guy” simply for doing their job properly. This is because the inspection standards that we’re required to follow for these inspections are very strict. The provincial inspection manual is an inch thick!

To pass an Out of Province inspection, vehicles must be in almost showroom-new condition. Are there any warning lights on? That fails. Many fluid leaks and windshield cracks also won’t pass. Most aftermarket modifications (exhaust, window tint, headlights) also fail.

What makes this even more frustrating for some customers is that cars already registered in Alberta basically never get inspected – and some of them are in pretty rough shape – something we don’t agree with. It seems like a bit of a double standard.

What some customers don’t realize is how strictly Alberta Transportation tries to police the inspection process. They actually mystery shop inspection facilities, having somebody bring through vehicles that they have installed “bugs” in, to see if we will catch these problems. We’ve personally seen a newer 4-door sedan in which they had disconnected one of the rear interior door handles, so the rear door wouldn’t open from the inside. A couple years ago, tons of shops got caught on a vehicle where one of the rubber exhaust hangers had been removed. For the repair shops that fail these tests, there are consequences: The shop is fined thousands of dollars, and the technican is personally fined as well. Repeat failures can lead to the technician losing their inspection license.

You can see why a technician would want to perform their inspection by the book!

Sure, there are shady shops that will pass a vehicle sight unseen for a quick 200 bucks. We’ve already had customers ask if we’re willing to accept some cash to “look the other way” and ignore some pretty serious issues. (The answer is no, of course.)

So, while we can’t change the rules, we can help our customers by following them honestly. Honesty is something our business is known for, and it’s probably the number one way that we save people money every day. After all, a great price for a repair that you don’t actually need is still a bad deal!