Quality, customer service and hard work bring well-earned recognition for the RMI’s Larne Coachworks

Well earned recognition for Larne CoachworksHard work and commitment to the highest professional standards, along with dedicated customer service, helped NAB member Larne Coachworks become the first in Northern Ireland to be awarded the new Kitemark licenced PAS 125:2011. We talk to Managing Director Alistair Nevin about his business and what the Kitemark means to him (RMI Automotive Insight Magazine, Dec 2011/Jan 2012).

Few awards better demonstrate a company’s dedication to professionalism and its commitment to ongoing technical improvement than the Kitemark, so NAB member Alistair Nevin was understandably thrilled when his Co. Antrim business was awarded the prestigious Kitemark licence for the upgraded and more exacting PAS 125:2011.  Alistair has been involved in the motor repair and bodywork business all his life and knows full well the value of the Kitemark PAS 125:2011 but says the road to the award has been a long one, and success only possible through the conscientious efforts of his staff.

How the RMI Can Help

RMI - Supporting the motor industry since 1913Alistair was also generous in his praise for the help that RMI local representative Andy Robertson had given Larne Coachworks.

Alistair said: “Andy guided us and helped us achieve PAS125. Andy’s knowledge of the PAS requirement and wealth of general experience is only superseded by his natural ability to keep the workshop technicians on his side regarding all the regulations for this strenuous test.”

Acknowledging the success of Larne Coachworks, Kitemark praised the company for its success saying: “The Kitemark schemes are voluntary and this shows that Larne Coachworks are committed to providing their customers with the very best quality and service. Furthermore, as a Kitemark licensee they are regularly inspected to ensure the same quality and safety every time.  All of the firm’s technicians are ATA accredited.”

Larne Coachworks, ensuring quality in repairThe Kitemark is just the latest landmark for Alistair and his business, and Alistair says: “We were the first garage over here that the RMI put up for this and we were also the first garage in Northern Ireland to be successfully awarded the new 2011 Kitemark licence. I really do believe it was well worth doing and I would recommend any other garage, perhaps undecided about whether or not to go for it, to do it. This is an independent assessment of your garage’s overall performance. It is very stringent, involves a lot of work, but proves beyond doubt that you can offer your customers the very best levels of quality and safety.  It is early days to say as yet whether this will change things for us. We went for it more as a way of holding on to what we have got and of demonstrating to our existing and potential customers our professionalism and our determination to keep up our standards.  It also gives us more credibility with the insurance companies and the engineers because they know the amount of work that goes into being awarded PAS 125:2011 and this is something that we have been working towards for quite a long time.”

It all began when Alistair started working with his father: “My father owned a garage in the countryside that did a lot of mechanical work, working with Land Rovers and tractors, and I worked for him for a while, but I had always wanted to do bodywork. I then went to work in various garages and ended up buying the premises where I had served my time. That was 26 years ago, and we moved to the current premises just over 12 years ago.”

Larne Coachworks offers a full repair process all the way through from initial estimate to the full repair, and prides itself as being “one of the premier customer-focused vehicle bodyshops in the province.”  A key for Larne Coachworks and for Alistair has been not just maintaining the highest possible levels of technical skill, but also ensuring that their customers are looked after and feel special, an approach that is more important than ever in these troubled economic times.

Customer Care is Key

Alistair says: “The challenge is to keep up with the advancing technology. For example, we recently had an Austin A35 in and had to fit a new radio aerial. That was a 10 minute job to get to the back of the radio whereas nowadays you would pretty much have to take the dashboard apart to do it.  We get a lot of repeat business because we put a lot of focus on customer service and customer care. We call customers once we have done work on their car, as we like to check that everything is OK and to follow up on our work.  Accident repair is by far the biggest portion of our work though we do some other bits and pieces like restoration and we do have a 1963 Beetle and a Frogeye Sprite in at the minute, though that is very specialist work.”

Investing in the future for Larne CoachworksWhile not looking too far ahead, Alistair nevertheless feels quietly confident for 2012 and to that end has just taken on two extra staff in the office, taking the total workforce to 15, and says: “With the economy as it is now and business up and down, nobody wants to take the risk of employing more staff, but we hope 2012 will be a better year and we are looking for new approvals.  In fact we secured another insurance company’s approval in the past few days.  We have very good relations with all theinsurance engineers both private and company, and have built that up over the years. We cover a big area going down as far as Dublin even though our main area is Antrim and County Down.”

As for the Kitemark, Alistair sums it up nicely: “We pride ourselves in providing our customers with the very best quality service so that our customers are assured of a level of service unmatched by many others in the industry. In this competitive market, we must keep ahead and Kitemark certification – because of its independence, integrity and trust – gives our products and company a real competitive advantage.”

A combination of a quality based system, such as BS EN ISO 9000, with advanced product/service testing provide the basis for a Kitemark scheme offering trust, integrity and quality. The key offerings are aimed at the development and sale of private, national and international standards and supporting information that promote and share best practice, assured by second and third-party management systems assessment and certification in all critical areas of management disciplines.

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