By Alan Wolf

Service with a smile may be a mantra for retailers, but BrandSource dealers who provide their own appliance repair services are not always happy.

Indeed, members who operate in-house service departments often do so at a loss, and many continue to provide appliance repairs and related services simply as a courtesy to their customers. Among their pain points: the increasing complexity of products, particularly smart appliances; billing rates that don’t cover costs; and finding and retaining servicers in a tight labor market.

BrandSource believes that members’ service operations could and should be profitable businesses and is taking immediate steps to tackle the problem. Specifically, the group has formed a committee of specially-selected servicing members with sustainable business models. These dealers will pool their best practices and work with manufacturers and fellow members to develop a best-in-class service model that BrandSource dealers can embrace.

“The goal,” said Jim Ristow, CEO of BrandSource parent AVB Inc., “is to ensure profitability for servicing dealers. The challenges are real, and BrandSource is proud to lead the way with real solutions.”

Areas of focus by the new Service Committee will include:

  • enhancing operational efficiencies to lower costs;
  • receiving fair compensation for OEM warranty repairs;
  • attracting, training and retaining talented servicers; and
  • creating consumer awareness.

Committee member Scott Bekins, president of the Michigan-based appliance, repair and custom integration business that bears his family’s name, is passionate about the project, fearing that the shrinking base of service outlets poses a threat to the appliance industry and to consumers.

“Customers assume there is an ‘appliance god’ looking over them, and that is far from the truth,” he said. “Unlike the auto industry, where dealer service is mandatory, most appliances are sold today through non-servicing retailers, and those that still perform their own repairs are disappearing.”

The result, he said, is that consumers often encounter unacceptably long service delays and unqualified technicians, which creates ill will toward manufacturers and dealers and fills our landfills with discarded appliances.   

“The industry needs to recognize that service is how you build your brand,” Bekins said. “And our brand is everything.”

The Service Committee will hold its first face-to-face meeting at this month’s 2019 Convention, where additional details about the initiative will be announced. The annual show, which runs Aug. 24-27 at the Gaylord Texan in Dallas, will mark AVB’s 50th anniversary and carry the theme “Better Together.”

YSN is published by BrandSource parent company AVB Inc.