Heather Murtagh/Daily Journal
Mitch Rudoni, foreman at Holland Car Care in San Carlos, works on the rear brakes of a Volvo Friday morning.
Making appointments is often made easier by simply going online.
Brad Simmons, 31, noticed a gap in that offering when it came to automotive repair shops. Many still work by taking telephone calls. Possible customers work directly with the mechanics. A generation of people under 35, however, are more comfortable with tech-savvy options like making appointments online after regular business hours.
That’s what Simmons was trying to address with ClearMechanic, which launched in the Bay Area last month. The website allows people to go online, put in information about their car and the problem and look for appointments nearby. At the moment, the service is only serving people in San Francisco to San Jose.
Among those giving the service a go is Mark Schwartz, owner of Holland Car Care in San Mateo and San Carlos.
"We’re always looking for new customers,” said Schwartz. "They do it with restaurants.”
Schwartz, who was approached by ClearMechanic, decided to give it a try. It might be a way to reach younger people. But in terms of the impact ClearMechanic will have on his business, Schwartz said "the jury is still out.”
Taking auto services online started with the company in mind rather than the customer. After finishing at Harvard Business School, Simmons saw an opportunity to take the business virtual. It started with offering mechanics the opportunity to send their clients real-time photos and video to explain needed repairs. That was the focus until one month ago when the company started taking a consumer focus.
Starting the website started with reaching out to friends and family. Simmons quickly realized the one thing missing was the option for a person to say they don’t know what’s wrong with the car.
There are more than 600 possible services listed from which a person can choose. However, Simmons said people either don’t know why the problem is happening or simply don’t want to look through that many options.
By making appointments with high-level independent shops and dealerships available online, Simmons hopes to introduce a younger client base to the businesses. Dealerships, for example, have a customer who, on average, is at least 50 years old.
Moving forward, Simmons hopes to add additional service to ClearMechanic like the video and photo service to justify work. Also, Simmons is interested in adding a feature that would allow people to ask questions. The plan is to start rolling out additional features in a few months after building a customer base for the appointment-making feature of the site, Simmons said.
To give it a try visit www.clearmechanic.com.
Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.