Innovative Solutions for Customers

The Leather Doctor

The story of the success of The Leather Doctor, a division of Mobile Services International, is an incredible tale of forethought and inspiration. The company effectively transformed a useful and in-demand service – and then offered it in a way that had never been done before.

Today, the company offers a diverse range of service through the Leather Doctor, Timber Doctor and Fabric Doctor brands to meet the needs of private and commercial customers across Australia.

Mobile Services International had its genesis more than twenty years ago as The Vinyl Doctor, a one-man show developed by Darryl Binch that focused on vinyl repair for automobile interiors. Vinyl welding was not an entirely new industry, but its secrets were closely guarded by the many independent practitioners careful to not share the techniques and create competition.

Darryl granted the first Vinyl Doctor franchise to his twin brother in 1995 and by 1998, the company grew to include two additional franchisees.

Dean Reid, partner and Director of Marketing and Information Technology with Mobile Services International, grew up in and around the company as his father was one of the first four franchisees. Before taking directorship of the company, Dean worked for a major corporation in Victoria but quickly realised he was looking for something more.

“After a few years, I realised it was not for me,” he explains. “And I had seen my father working in this little business, and it was amazing to me how magical the repairs looked; in ten or fifteen minutes, you could repair something so that the damage was invisible.”

With his background in marketing, it wasn’t long before Dean realised that there was an incredible opportunity for growth and expansion of the company’s services. At the time, technicians kept their secrets close to their chests but Dean saw another possibility. “Geoff, Darryl, and myself took the approach that we could do something totally different,” he says. These ideas, coupled with the desire to change his career direction, inspired Dean to get involved and promote the development of the brand.

By 2002, Dean operated his own franchise on Australia’s Gold Coast; quickly, he began to develop the Vinyl Doctor brand, developing consistent branding and operations manuals, building an online presence, and promoting franchising opportunities.

In 2005, the company was purchased from Binch and development began in earnest. “Between then and now, we have sixty techs to cover Australia, as well as twenty in Dubai, and are about to launch into New Zealand in January,” shares Dean.

Today, the company services major retail chains, some with as many as one hundred and sixty locations throughout the country. “We’ve met their needs to have consistent quality service. We solved that by having a national network and training our techs to solve all these problems.”

Dean describes the company’s organic growth from an original focus on vinyl repair to the much more diversified portfolio of services on offer today. “When it started, it was all about vinyl repair, but over the years leather became a lot more affordable in the furnishing industry due to a number of factors, and the demand for us to repair that kind of surface, which is similar to vinyl, was increasing.”

The company adapted the brand to address the changing market, first combining the two major market sectors under the branding The Leather and Vinyl Doctors, until eventually dropping “Vinyl” from the branding altogether.

The vast majority of work the company now does is for the furniture industry, repairing damage due to transport and offering warranty support services for major retailers and manufacturing facilities. The remainder of its services take place in the domestic market, repairing customers’ furniture in their homes, as well as car interiors, boats, clothing and handbag repair. “It’s a full restoration and care service now with the leather side of the business.”

The company has also developed a comprehensive line of care products, including leather cleaners and conditioners, which it supplies to private customers and furniture retailers. Responding to demand from the market, it offers timber and fabric care products as well. Today, the company is able to entirely meet the needs of its customers by servicing not only their leather needs, but addressing any furniture repair problem that might be encountered.

This ability to adapt, foresee customer needs and create new solutions has allowed the company to continually expand its services. “We’ve always tried to respond to the needs of our customers, and that’s what our growth has been directed by,” says Dean.

Today, Mobile Services International’s three brands – The Leather Doctor, The Fabric Doctor and The Timber Doctor – are well equipped to meet a variety of needs. The Leather Doctor offers support for all leather products, from lounge cleaning and conditioning to repairs to scratches, cuts and scuffs in addition to recolouring, stitching repairs and a host of other leather related services. The Fabric Doctor services many fabrics, while The Timber Doctor services wood products. Together, the three services allow the company to offer a full suite of repair services to customers.

The umbrella company was launched to alleviate the confusion of approaching new clients with what appears to be several different companies. “As we were adding the skills of timber and fabric care products to the Leather Doctor business, we found that, as we approached new customers, it was becoming a mouthful to say. We realised we would do better if we put everything under an umbrella company structure to say we are Mobile Services International, because everything we do is done on-site. Our technicians go to the customer’s home, which is a big feature for a customer.”

A major focus of Mobile Services International is being able to provide customers, both commercial and private, with as much information, data and feedback about the status of their repairs as possible to help them improve efficiency and reduce the costs associated with damaged furniture products. In order to do this effectively, the company took the innovative step of developing its own in-house online platform which provides technicians and clients an easy way to communicate and share data. Dean says that this job tracking service is critical technology and allows for greater transparency between customer and technician.

Indeed, the company’s System One platform is a revolutionary service in the industry, enabling efficient communication between clients and service agents as well as the collation of data for customers. “Our customers have personalised logins and can post a job request,” Dean explains. “Using post codes, the system deploys the closest technician; all the details are shared with the tech. The tech can also upload photos and reports via his phone or tablet.”

Moving forward, Mobile Services International is planning for continued organic growth, ongoing development of services to meet client needs, and the creation of novel, innovative systems. “We are starting to pitch our services to a number of new customers, and we’re looking to provide support for more of the retail industry.”

Dean explains that what the company offers the market is a real ‘first of its kind’ solution, providing all-encompassing support both before and after sale for the furniture industry in a well organised, centralised fashion. For national and international chains, this one stop shop solution offered by the company offers an incredible saving in both time and money for customers. “As we’ve grown we’re finding more customers are interested in our services… our sixty techs are completing two thousand job requests a month, and we see that growing month by month.” In fact, he projects that, in twelve months time, the company will process as many as three thousand job requests each month.

In order to meet this growing demand, the company is already implementing new ideas to ease the added pressure on the company’s technicians. This has resulted in an increase in technician recruitment and also the development of a centralised job processing centre in order to organise requests and communicate with customers so that technicians may focus on the job of repairing furniture. “This removes the biggest burden, which is answering the phone and organising repairs with the customer.” The new system has been launched and includes staff at head office acting as booking agents for technicians.

Since its inception as the Vinyl Doctor, the company has consistently demonstrated its ability to adapt and innovate to create new solutions for customers at all levels. In pioneering a new style of after sale support, Mobile Services International has created a new service for the retail furniture industry that has never been seen before on an international scale. The company is truly breaking new ground and helping customers get the best possible experience with their furniture.

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September 25, 2018, 8:16 AM AEST