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Breaker, Breaker… In my many years of repairing cars I’ve helped out a countless number of other shops with their electrical problems. Some shops I would see a few times a month, and others only once in awhile. This was years before the internet was around, and cell phones were only a fad and way to expensive to have. So, most everything was done by a land line or over the CB radio. Back in the mid 80’s and 90’s I had one shop that I talked with nearly every day. Great guys, but not so great as mechanics. The owners name was Joe. His shop was small and seemed to be a place for wayward towed vehicles and obscure customers looking for dirt cheap repairs. His main business was his tow service, and the repair shop seemed to be there just to fill in the gaps on those slow days. One afternoon I got a call from Joe about a car his crew had given up on. They threw the parts cannon at it, but couldn’t get this car to come back to life. Joe was with tows, and needed the mechanics he had to drive the other tow trucks. This particular car had been in his shop for quite some time and I don't think the customer was too happy about it. So, to speed things up a bit, he dropped it off at my shop. “I’ll be on the road all day. I've got to get back out there. I've got tows lined up all day. If you get it going, could ya run it back to my shop,” Joe said, as he made a dash for his tow truck. “No problem Joe, I’ll get right on it,” I said, just as he drove off. The car was an 80’s GM. I could see all kinds of shiny new components under the hood, and could tell they put a lot of effort into swapping parts to find out what was going on. The symptom was; if you flipped the key to the crank position it would immediately start, but die just as quickly. The parts they changed were the predictable parts cannon fodder that the typical parts slapper would try. Tune-up parts, an IAC, TPS, MAP, ECM, etc… etc… all of which might, could, should’ve, probably, maybe, and of course, eventually with enough darts thrown at it, could have hit the target and fixed it. But it didn’t. I wasn’t about to go that route. Time for some real diagnostics and not just shoot from the hip. Why not start with the basics- fuel, air, and fire. Spark was good, timing looked good, and the intake had a good air pull. I gave it a shot of carb. cleaner, and as long as I kept spraying… it kept running. Ok, time to check the fuel pressure. Interesting... there was pressure. Hmmm, now what to do? The next obvious thing (to me) was to check fuel volume. I disconnected a fuel line and gave the key a flick into start. The fuel shot out into the drainage bucket, but then trickled to a stop. I did it a second time. Not as much fuel made it out this time, but the scenario was basically the same. It was always a quick burst followed by a trickle. Maybe I should look at that gas gauge. Well, wouldn’t ya know it, the gauge is ready E. It had just enough in the tank to pressurize the fuel lines but not enough to keep it going. Might as well grab a gas can, and put some in the tank. I’ll try it again… vroom, vroom, vroom, alright! It’s running great! Looks to me as if the entire problem was that it was out of gas. However, with all the new parts they installed, I couldn’t be sure if this was the 'only' problem or an after affect of having the car in the shop so long while trying to solve another problem. It could have been any one of the other components (within reason) they changed that really 'did' need to be changed. Later that day I drove the car back to Joe’s shop. He wasn’t there, but his dispatcher was in the office sorting out tow tickets and monitoring the CB with the volume up full blast. In the background you could hear the CB chatter from all the area’s tow companies. About then I heard Joe’s voice over the CB, “Did Gonzo call yet? Need to check in on him, we need to get that car back to the owner.” “He just walked in Joe, over,” the dispatcher told him. “So what was wrong with it,” Joe asked between the squelch of the CB radio and all the other chatter from the other tow companies. The dispatcher turned to me and pointed at the mic. So, I told him . The dispatcher, with a stunned look on his face, said, “I can’t tell him that. He is going to be so pissed.” “I don’t think you should either. At least not until he gets back,” I said, while breaking into an ear to ear smile. The CB comes back to life with Joe’s voice again; “So what did he find out, over,” Joe's frustration was showing through as his voice barked out of the CB speaker. The dispatcher said to me, " Old Joe sounds pretty pissed." I don’t know whether it was the way his day was going or how much time and money he's spent on this car. Either way, he’s not going to like this answer. “Go ahead… tell him,” I said to the dispatcher, still sitting there hold the mic button, “He wants the answer, so let him have it.” “Alright, Joe, are ya ready for this, over?" the dispatcher said, then waited for a response from Joe. "Yea, go ahead, over." "It was out of gas.” A dead silence came over the CB. No chatter, nothing, not another sound for what seemed to be an eternity. Then, all hell broke loose. Tow drivers from all over the city were razing poor Joe. The CB was full of laughter and goof ball comments, but not a word from Joe. Poor Joe, you asked for it, and now you got it. “Tell Joe to stop by the shop, he can settle up with me then,” I said, while trying to hold back the laughter. As I walked out the door, the CB chatter could be heard all the way to the parking lot, and the comments were still flying. It was one of the funniest moments I’ve ever had for doing nothing more than putting gas in a car. When Joe came up to pay the bill I told him I had a little something for him. I handed him a little tiny gas can on a key chain. I figured it might be a good reminder for him to always check the basics before loading up the parts cannon again. After all these years I’m sure he hasn’t forgotten about it, and I’ll bet he doesn’t tell too many people where he got that little gas can key chain from… but now, it wouldn't be so much on the CB, but over the internet.
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We have a chat room back up, which you can navigate to by clicking on the CHAT link in the main menu. This is a temporary chat room while we look over permanent solutions for AutoShopOwner. We made an announcement last week that the old chat is no longer available due to the company who provides the server, shutting down.
By Joe Marconi
Below is a link to a Lang report about how repair shops compare to dealers, tire stores and chains. Interesting reading. It's not surprising that dealers are fighting hard to gain our market share...
Hello, I just had a question. How are you guys contacting customers that you have not seen in a while? Are you calling them, sending post cards? Or are you not contacting them at all ? I have a hand full of customers I haven't seen in a while, some have bought new cars but I am curious to what happened with the others. Thanks!
By Joe Marconi
At a recent local business EXPO, I had the opportunity to meet and speak to a lot of people. One of the questions I asked people is, “Where do you get your car serviced?” This is a question I often ask when doing these events. What surprised me was the increase in consumers going back to the dealer for routine service and repairs.
I followed up the first question with a second question, “Why do go to the new car dealer for service and repairs?”
Here are some of the answers I got:
· It’s a new car
· I have to go to the dealer, it’s under warranty
· My sales person said I had to
· My dealer uses original parts, I don’t want any problems
· It’s a lease car
· My dealer packaged a service plan for my car
· I got a discount book with services
· The dealer extended the warranty if I do all the services there
· My first year of services were free, after that I got used to going back
I have been in business a long time. Years back people bought new cars and maybe went back for a few oil changes, but that was it. Things have changed, and dealers are very aggressive with their marketing tactics. From what I am seeing, the dealers are winning back customers.
The fact is dealers want our customers. Between the shrinking margins on new car sales and the fierce competition, the new car dealer needs the income from service and parts.
We need to take this seriously. We, the independent aftermarket repair shops, are still the first choice with the motoring public, but for how long? Smart dealers are doing a great job at winning customers back after the sale is made. Dealers are also booking the vehicle’s first service and selling service packages. Many dealers are positioning themselves as “price competitive” too.
Thirty years ago dealers charged what they wanted in the service bays, and sold cars in spite of themselves. And we had an endless stream of broken cars lined up in front of our bays. All was good. It’s not that way anymore. Cars are built better, have less routine service items to replace, last longer and don’t breakdown the way cars did years ago. Add to the fact that every sector of the repair industry is a Total Car Care Center.
We can remain number one, and we should. But we cannot ignore the new battle field. The competitors you need to pay close attention to are the new car dealers in your market area.
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By Joe Marconi
Here's a tip I have posted before, but it's worth repeating.
One job that goes unnoticed most of the year is the job of the part's driver. You get part deliveries all day long, every day, all year long. Many times, these part's drivers take all the abuse due to wrong parts, the parts took too long to be delivered, on and on and on. Those drivers may not say anything, but they take it to heart.
So, here's what you are going to do. Buy small gifts, such as small boxes of candy or chocolate. Nothing expensive. During the holidays, give all the drivers one of these small gifts and say "Thank you, I appreciated what you do."
Two things will happen. First, the driver will be stunned and will not know what to say, and they will be very thankful that you thought of them.
The second thing that will happen is this: The very next time those part drivers have three delivers to make at three different shops, what shop do you think they will want to go to first? Yes...Yours!
By Joe Marconi
A few weeks back I had a problem with my refrigerator. I got a referral and called an appliance repair company. I called three times and each time I called this is what happened: "C and E appliance, please hold." I was put on hold three times for about 5 minutes. After being put on hold each time, a women would say, "What's the problem?" No engagement, no sign of interest for me the customer, no signs of caring. I gave the women a brief description of the problem and each time she told me someone would call me back. Well, no one did.
So, I called for the 4th time, and as the person answered the phone I said, "DO NOT PUT ME ON HOLD." There was silence, so I continued. I explained to her that she has spoken to me three times, I left messages three times and three times you told me that someone would call me back. She replied, "You are talking to the wrong person, if you have any complaints, write a letter to my boss, after all he won't listen to me anyway." I hung up the phone and called another company.
The lesson and takeaway here is simple: Who's answering your phone? The wrong people on the phone in your shop can kill your business. Have meetings with your people. Make sure you review your phone skills policy. If you don't have one, create one. Empower your people to people to handle issues. And make sure you log every phone call. If you feel you have a problem, start recording phone calls.
Your phone is your lifeline to future business. So, please ask yourself....Who's answering your phone?
By Stevens Automotive Service
You are a entrepreneur and your business is Automotive Repair. Run your business like a business and become more profitable.
You have a tool box just like your techs in the shop do and the ones with the correct tools , good work ethics and knowledge are the best at what they do. So can you in the shop management area just use your TOOL BOX!
A few things to get cleared up. I have read a lot of post , forums etc, dealing with car count, advertising, us against the dealerships etc. WELL ! First you have to concentrate on your business not what someone else is doing, what works for you and makes you money should be what matters to you and your business.
1) Concentrate on what your doing right if it needs refined ..REFINE IT.. DIAL IT IN... GET THE PERCENTAGES CORRECT.
2) Do you have enough work flow and are you getting the max out of what you already have ?
3) IF you don't have a good even flow of car count, advertise, but do it in a way that it comes back to you to show what your business has to offer that the others don't.
4) REPUTATION, CUSTOMER SERVICE, FIXING THE CONCERN and BEING A SMART BUSINESS OWNER are the only steps to winning.
5) Last but not least .. PEOPLE BUY GOODS AND SERVICES FROM PEOPLE PERIOD !!
Look at it in this perspective for a moment. Your advisors are problem solvers, customer comes in with a problem or just for a service and they let them know what it will take to repair it or what the car may be in need of if not now then soon. They are solving problems if not right now then later, building trust and reputation for your business. I always say if you solve there problem the rest SELLS itself. And for those of you that think and have been programmed to think that getting new customers, keeping the good ones you have to spend crazy money to get them and keep them is just that "crazy".
I will be glad to speak with anyone that wants to have less stress and make there shop profitable. Send me a message, email, phone call and we will go over what you have and what you are wanting to achieve and the consultation is always free. IT COST NOTHING TO ASK BUT IT COULD COST A LOT IF YOU DON'T !!
"LOAD YOUR TOOL BOX WITH THE RIGHT TOOLS"
By Joe Marconi
This is not new topic for me, but I need to revisit it again. And I will keep revisiting this topic for the sake of our industry.
For independent repair shops to "thrive" today, you must take a proactive approach with regard to business. If you only want to "survive" you can stop reading now.
Waiting for the phone to ring, or for cars to breakdown, or for a customer to drive into your shop asking for a repair or service is business suicide. The days of broken cars lining up in front of your bays are over. Sure, cars still breakdown, but you cannot thrive with a wait-and-see strategy.
Make sure you perform multipoint inspections on all cars in for any type of service. Yes, any type of service or repair. Look up vehicle history on all vehicles. Let the customer know of needed services, missed services and services due. And lastly, book the next appointment. Yes, I know....Joe's been preaching this over and over and it does not work in your shop. Fine, then let me focus on those shops that do book the next appointment. Because those are the shops that are adopting a proactive approach...and I will see those shops in the future.
By Ron Ipach
Somebody recently sent an email to me asking the same question that I get dozens of times every single month. Basically, it says, "Ron, how much should I budget for my marketing?"
I have a very simple answer to that. One that actually a lot of people are gonna totally disagree with me...
My answer is, throw out the marketing budget. You do not need a marketing budget, and here's the reason why: A lot of times, I've heard five, six, or even three percent of your growth sales should be used towards advertising.
Now, that might be a good number for some months, but it's a horrible number for other months. But if you're budgeting and you're only gonna have a certain amount of money for marketing every single month, your business is gonna be going to be heading on a downward slope.
For a lot of our clients, the summer months tend to be their busiest month. They don't need to be spending a lot of money on marketing at all during those months because they're just naturally busy. But then when the kids go back to school in August and September, everything screeches to a halt.
So I'm gonna say throw out the marketing budget and spend it where and if you need it. You don't need to spend a lot of money on marketing if you're naturally busy. You do need to spend a lot of money on marketing if you're gonna be slow.
Now, this goes to ... I guess I should mention, it's not a matter of just throwing a bunch of money out there on marketing. You have to do good quality marketing. You have to have the right message sent to the right market at the right time using the right media. In other words, a way that they're actually gonna see your marketing. You have to get all of those things straight.
So I'm going to probably guess that if you follow me and participate in my Car Count Daily campaign by watching my videos, you're getting a good idea, a good sense of what good quality marketing is. I'll assume that you're doing good quality marketing.
Now, if you're spending money on good quality marketing, you're gonna get good results. If you don't need it during the summer months, slow it down. If you're gonna need it in the fall, you need to raise it up. I don't like marketing budgets for that reason, because everybody gets used to spending the same amount of money every single month, whether they need to or not.
Pay attention to your numbers. Pay attention to what your shop is telling you. Pay attention to what your car count's telling you and spend the money when needed.
Also, if you're running short of your numbers, you may need to spend a lot more money and put in a lot more effort on your marketing for those specific months. Don't look at marketing as an expense. Look at it as an investment. A marketing budget is something to be spent. Marketing investment, your marketing dollars if it's done right, is actually an investment. It's not taking money, it's actually attracting more money to your shop.