In the absence of no new cars to review since lockdown, it has given me a momentary pause to extoll the virtues of why, alongside our hairdressers, every woman needs a great mechanic in their lives. If you can find one.
Earlier this year, whilst out test driving the Jaguar F-Pace, I was having supper in a pub with one of my best friends when a very tall and instantly recognisable (to me anyway) man walked in.
I rather rudely abandoned both friend and supper and went to greet him - grasping his huge hand in two of mine. My friend commented that they had never seem me look so animated. The man in question was Roy Williams, owner of Mann and Woodland Garage in Hove, SA AB & FIAT specialists, all-round top bloke and the best mechanic I have ever known. In fact, I was so pleased to see him I could have literally cried. It was not an over reaction.
To reassure Mrs Williams, who was also with him at the time, my animation was entirely to do with the amazing customer service experience I had enjoyed with Roy over 14 years. In 2018, I decided to change my Saab (too old, too much going wrong and they had stopped making them) to another car make, an experience that has proven to be in very sharp contrast to working with Roy.
To add context to this episode, I had a clear goal in my first year of business to save up for a Black Saab Convertible, which I had always coveted. I achieved that goal and that purchase felt as good as any I have ever had since and it exceeded expectations.
It was a car that made my heart sing - a top rule for any car you significantly invest in that is for you alone. I had 2 Saab’s during my time with Roy (I could rephrase that statement but my relationship with my car was akin to a love affair at times) and one of the reasons I held onto it probably longer than I should is that I wanted the customer care and expertise to continue with whoever I changed to. But Roy took exemplary care of something that I had worked incredibly hard for and loved. It was hard to leave.
I think this relationship is captured beautifully by the Advanced Technology Institute: “Good mechanics are a driver’s best friend, great mechanics are almost family.”
So what is it that makes Roy such a great mechanic and what should you look for?
• The Golden Rule - Roy was recommended by somebody I trust implicitly.
• Excellent communication skills – he talked me through and checked my understanding of all the work he proposed carrying out and never did anything without my agreement.
• First class technical and specialist diagnostic skills – Roy knows his stuff.
• No fancy showrooms but a very tidy workshop and great work ethic.
• Incredibly polite and respectful at all times – we continued on a Hello Miss Shafer/Hello Roy basis for 14 years.
• Fantastic customer care – too many occasions to mention here but one Christmas Eve when he was about to close for the holidays, Roy drove 10 miles north of Brighton
to fix my stuck convertible roof (having taken it down to get the Christmas Tree in)
• He was endlessly patient with me and did not treat me like an idiot but like a truly valued customer.
• Very honest and fair pricing.
And then the day I hoped would never come - he told me that I really should stop spending money on my SAAB and think about changing to another make.
At my last service before selling he told me he was retiring. I caught up with Roy to ask him firstly how he was faring during this time and if he was happy to be written about (he very humbly agreed).
It will come as no surprise I am sure for me to tell you that he has come back out of retirement and like the vastly experienced mechanic that he is, Roy has had to diversify into repairing most makes of cars now. His customer base is now grown to a healthy split 30% females to 70% male.
He was exceptionally busy when I rang but ‘always good to hear from you Miss Shafer’.
◗ Roy can be contacted on 01273 771807.
◗ Fiona Shafer is the MD of MDHub. www.mdhub.co.uk 01273 311220.