How powerful are the emerging technologies and tools in field service? Powerful enough, apparently, to start reinventing some old-line consumer businesses that still seem stuck in the Industrial Age. Case in point: your local car repair shop.
Mountain View, Calif. based start-up YourMechanic is using a slick, cloud-based platform to turn a small army of independent mechanics into mobile service technicians who pull up in your driveway with the right tools, parts, and information to tackle hundreds of basic repairs. The company, which recently won top prize at San Francisco’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference, is betting on the fact that business has slowed for many mechanics, and that customers today want immediate, front-door service.
The solution: An online app that ditches the garage-mechanic hierarchy and instead provides customers a real-time network of freelance, on-call mechanics to make on-location visits to the cars they service. Log into YourMechanic, enter the repair needed, year and model of the vehicle, and location. The site then finds an available mechanic in your area, a quote for the job, and available appointment times. The customer doesn’t have to depend on a certain garage and can search a mechanic based on location, availability and reviews; and the mechanic can tap into a whole new network of business.
Taking Mechanics Out of the Shop
“Three or four years ago, the idea that you could manage a large fleet was a big proposition,” founder Art Agrawal says. “For us to manage a workforce that is fluid, we need technology. Without it, managing their schedule would be nightmarish.”
Mechanics are able to make their own hours and block off availability using the YourMechanic mobile app. By taking the mechanics out of the shops — where Agrawal says they make around 20% of the labor fees — and allowing them to set their own schedules, they can do things like one recent mechanic did: take a few days off because his wife got sick. Plus, the money is better, Agrawa says.
New Revenue Model
With YourMechanic, the workers make 85% of the labor fees. Agrawal says YourMechanic monetizes in other areas — like parts, for example. Of course that means the mechanics have out-of-pocket expenses for things like their own service vehicles that they wouldn’t have to worry about at a garage.
Hiring customer service-friendly mechanics one of YourMechanic’s biggest focuses, as these mechanics have more customer interaction than if they were at a dealership or garage.
“We really try to get mechanics that are friendly,” Agrawal says. “There’s a lot of negatives surrounding this industry, so that’s important to us. It’s a new marketplace. We get feedback about our mechanics very quickly. They do five or 10 jobs and we know what kind of mechanics we have right away.”
In fact, the feedback and ratings from customers are what drive the mechanics in the network to do better — whether it be showing up on time or doing a job well.
“We can’t train them everyday,” Agrawal says. “But we show them the ratings. They are really receptive to this feedback. Feedback we wouldn’t be able to share so quickly without the technology.”
But it will be seen whether this model will work. YourMechanic, is only launched in the Bay Area so far, with a network that covers 75% of the Bay Area, Agrawal says. And do customers really want oil stains on their driveway?