Abacus make Kitemark® count


30 March 2007

“We’re winning 0 to 3 year-old aftersales and warranty work because of the Kitemark® for Garage Services,” says Paul Chance, Managing Director of Abacus Auto Services.

As one of the first garages to obtain the Kitemark® in the automotive industry, Abacus Auto Services is growing and succeeding in new areas through embracing one of the most eagerly anticipated schemes to ever hit the garage trade.

But, Chance admits that, at first, he was sceptical about the scheme. “My first thoughts were ‘oh no, not an other gimmick to hang your hat to’. But, when I learned more about BSI and that the scheme was actually about implementing effective systems into a business, providing a framework to work from, I became intrigued and wanted to know more.”

This investigation by Chance reached dizzy heights when he soon realized that the prize for meeting the set of standards and procedures laid out was the Kitemark®, one of the world’s most recognizable symbols of quality.

“It took us three months to prepare for the scheme,” said Chance, “because we wanted to have the systems in place before the audit from BSI. We had a mock audit and also two unannounced visits from BSI, so it was quite stringent, but made us more collectively assured that this was a proper scheme designed to raise standards and, more importantly, install confidence in consumers.”

As soon as achieving the Kitemark®, Abacus Auto Services set to work in promoting its new feature to potential customers by way of newspaper advertisements and radio ads.

“We analysed the response from these ads and from the increased business gained, customers said it was the Kitemark® that was the deciding factor for them to use Abacus.”

Abacus Auto Services has been in business for more than 12 years and operates out of a purpose-built facility in Redditch, Worcestershire. With a densely populated area and more than seven garage competitors within in a five miles radius, Chance believes the Kitemark® differentiates the business from others operating in a very competitive marketplace.

“Fast-fits and dealerships are all attacking the service and repair sector dominated by independent garages. But, with the Kitemark®, we are fighting back and winning business against competitors.”

Chance is certainly proud of this achievement and, as a Unipart Car Centre, is fully supported by Unipart in succeeding in this area. “As long as the work’s done properly, in accordance with manufacturer schedules and using the correct grades of oil and matching quality parts, then garages will succeed as a credible alternative to VMs and won’t invalidate a vehicle warranty.

“Independent garages have to help themselves in fighting the VM dealerships. Dealers have clean areas, nice receptions and immediately project themselves well to the consumer. At Abacus, we believe we exceed this and our reception area is all part of the experience of using Abacus.”

Gaining warranty work is just one of many advantages that the Kitemark® brings to Abacus Auto Services. According to Chance, it has eradicated problems and every area of the business is fully audited with processes and actions documented, ensuring complete transparency and protection for the garage and consumer.

“Before the Kitemark®, I ran the business and if I was taken away, it wouldn’t run smoothly. Now, with fundamental business management systems in place, everyone in the business is aware of their responsibilities. This leaves me free to focus more on growing the business.

Growth for Abacus may be in the form of a new site in a nearby town and Chance is under no illusion that the Kitemark® has been instrumental in the company’s growth.

“The Value of the Kitemark® can’t be underestimated and it’s paid for itself many times over.”

Whether more garages embrace the scheme is not Chance’s problem, as he wants to be the only licensee within 25 miles.

“I’m always hearing comments from other garages that say ‘we’re always busy, we don’t need the Kitemark®’. In fact, I was the same, but – with or without a possible super complaint from NCC – competition is growing for independent garages and they’ll only beat this and grow with the Kitemark® for Garage Services.

“It might not happen tomorrow, but garages that don’t embrace the Kitemark® won’t be around in five or ten years time. I feel strongly about this and as a business have a responsibility to both staff and customers to ensure we are a business for the future and perfectly positioned to service and repair vehicles to the highest possible standard.”