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So its been a little slow lately so I visited every garage around to see what I'm doing wrong. What I found got me thinking, just about everyone had the same empty parking lot as me. Made me feel better. Some places had million plus $$ renovations since the last time I had visited, they have shops and customer areas way nicer than I can afford without going into huge debt. To be honest it made me feel a little insecure. My waiting room is clean but dated, my shop is also clean and modern but the building is 70 yrs old, so its about as good as its going to be without spending big money. I resigned myself to keep offering the best customer service possible as that's what I feel really matters. I can't compete in the spend more money game, some of these guys can easily out do me every time.

 

What are your thoughts? Do you think customers are attracted to brand new facilities or can they be satisfied with just good service alone?

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You have to work with what you got. If you feel that the appearance is a real draw back then putting big money into reno is probably a solid idea. Otherwise marketing and building the right reputation is how you get business. Having a really visible and easily accessible location would probably pay dividends as well. I don't have first hand knowledge of that, I am off the beaten path.

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Just a thought.. Giving a fresh look to a waiting area isn't necessarily a big spend. A fresh coat of paint, and some other little details could go a long way. I would look for great condition office furniture on Craigslist if I wanted to furnish it better. Assuming you have internet at the shop, go ahead and turn on free WiFi for your customers, and if you don't have a beverage bar, maybe consider a Kuerig or similar. You can stock something like that pretty economically at CostCo or Sam's Club.

 

Just a couple ideas.

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I've felt the same way at times. When it gets slow we tend to second guess everything. We start to think it's slow because of something we are or are not doing. I have come to believe that it is not really about us. I believe that people will come in when they are good and ready no matter what kind of marketing and advertising you do.I sometimes doubt that it matters how nice your shop looks. During the summer I travel through Naples NY past a well known shop that's been there for decades. I stopped in one day because I was curious about why their parking lot was always full. The outside was average but the inside was a mess. Based on the dated ,dirty,disorganized mess I couldn't imagine why anyone would go there. One day a former customer of theirs came to my shop. I asked them why they chose them in the past and they said "because my grand parents and parents did so they did" So it really doesn't matter sometimes what your shop looks like. Stop doubting yourself. Fix up what you believe you need to and give great service.

Edited by Bob K
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I was also thinking that customers from rural areas like yours and mine, seem to care less about appearances than customers of bigger towns/ cities. I'm not saying appearance isn't important, It just seems interesting that rural clients may have different standards. The shop I mentioned earlier always has a full parking lot. If it were a restaurant, I bet nobody would go there.

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It's been our experience that having a nice clean waiting area is acceptable
to most customers. However, the biggest thing they're looking for is:
being confident that the shop is going to help them maintain one of their
most valuable possessions.

So, the question becomes...

Are your techs doing inspections when customers come in for regular services,
such as oil changes, tires, etc.?

Inspections are critical to keep your bays filled with work and keep your
schedule packed.

Think about this:
The average age of vehicles today is 11 1/2 years old. That's a lot of parts
wearing out and failing every single day.

Discovering these issues, along with selling scheduled maintenance, is what
keeps the pipeline filled with work.

As for marketing and advertising, that can be a double-edged sword because
almost all coupons, discounts and promotions are price-based, which only
reinforces to the public that everyone does the same exact thing and
therefore, it's all about price.

So, marketing needs to be strategic or it's going to be counter-productive.

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Appearance is one thing, working ethics is another. A coat of paint and unannounced inspections aren't the answer...everywhere. some people want to see ultra clean,modern waiting areas, some want that extra effort in checking out their car, but after 3 decades at this game it's reputation...fair prices...and less sarcasm when talking with new customers. And, yes I still have folks that just stop by for a cup of coffee. It's really what ever works for you. There's no golden single answer. When it's slow we all fret, when it's busy we all gtrdone. It is.. what is...a mechanics life

Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk

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I had a very wise shop owner who has far more knowledge and experience than I as well as makes great money and has AMAZING looking shops ask me a question once. He asked me, "do you want customers waiting around for their cars?" My answer was, "No absolutely not. I'd rather them get to where they want to be and out of our hair. Do you?" His response was, "Of course not!" I then asked him why he has these gorgeous amenities???? He just smiled at me and I said, "marketing..." and he said "Yes!"

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Appearance is one thing, working ethics is another. A coat of paint and unannounced inspections aren't the answer...everywhere. some people want to see ultra clean,modern waiting areas, some want that extra effort in checking out their car, but after 3 decades at this game it's reputation...fair prices...and less sarcasm when talking with new customers. And, yes I still have folks that just stop by for a cup of coffee. It's really what ever works for you. There's no golden single answer. When it's slow we all fret, when it's busy we all gtrdone. It is.. what is...a mechanics life

 

Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk

 

Gonzo,

 

I agree with you. I am deadset against unannounced inspections also.

 

Inspections normally fall into two categories:

 

1) Customers are often told, "this is our company policy.

We do an inspection on every vehicle when it comes in."

 

What that means is: every vehicle gets an inspection

whether the customer likes it or not.

 

2) Inspections are being done without any prior discussion

and then, the service advisor comes out and says, "Oh,

by the way, Mrs. Jones, when the tech was doing your LOF,

he just happened to notice your rear brakes are low."

 

Thousands of customers have told us, in waiting areas

and at the counters of shops all across the country...

 

That they know these inspections are a way for the shop

to sell them more services.

 

As a result, they are rebelling against inspections when

they're done in either of the above manners.

 

Now, the problem is: vehicles today are older than they've

ever been in the history of automobiles. They are 11 1/2

years old, on average.

 

That's a lot of parts wearing out and failing every day.

 

If no one is looking at the customer's vehicles, the

only services that are getting done are oil changes.

Or if the customer happens to notice themselves that

there is something wrong with the vehicle, or there's

a breakdown.

 

So, the solution is: To offer an inspection, in a

manner that has the customer say, "yes" because it's

presented, as a benefit to them.

 

That way, the inspection can be done, completely,

with no hidden agenda, which means the service

advisor can go to the customer and say:

 

"Mrs. Jones, we are wrapping up your oil change and

we have completed the inspection as you requested.

Here are the results. Etc., etc."

 

Shops that are using this approach are experiencing

bays full of profitable work, increased sales (and

happy customers!)

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  • 3 years later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I have 2 questions/comments; inspections and waiting customers.

First, I don’t understand all the fuss over inspections.

I recall an editorial a few years ago about what to do in the slow times: (better) inspections. I remember saying, “No, you do those to EVERY car, EVERY day.” How the heck is that news? That’s our job!

I tell brand new customers who come in with a problem, “I’ll give your car a check over while it’s here.” No selling, not pushy. And it’s not thrown at them at the end. When I call them to explain the work needed to fix their car (again, not selling … this is what their car needs), I say, “Here’s what we found when we checked out your car; let’s come up with a plan.” Notice the “let’s” part of that. It’s a team thing. I advise, coach, and gently persuade; they decide. By now they trust me; I tell them what they need now, what can wait a few months and what can wait longer. It’s an easy decision for them. Besides, they usually say yes to the stuff due in a few months – the car is already here.

It amazes me that there has to be an article on inspections in the first place, not to mention that it seems to appear every other month in some trade magazine.

RE: “Thousands of customers have told us, in waiting areas and at the counters of shops all across the country...”

“That they know these inspections are a way for the shop to sell them more services.”

That’s because you are bringing up the additional work the old-school way. I recall a customer from around 1980 after we did an oil change on his Porsche. He said: “So everything else on my car is ok?” My first thought: hey jerk, you only wanted an oil change. Then I realized, everyone wants to know about their car, they just don’t care to hear the bad news. But too bad; that’s life. And like a customer told me: “That‘s part of owning a car.” Plus they want to know ahead time so there are no surprises.

Personally, I don’t use the word “inspection.” That sounds like you are going over their car with a magnifying glass, trying to find EVERYTHING wrong. Inspection reminds people of a teacher going over a student’s homework/test with a red pen.

---------------------

Second, I don’t understand all the effort put into waiting customers. How do you work in the additional work you find from the inspections? Do they stay another 2 or more hours? Reschedule?

Maybe that‘s why I hear shops not doing inspections: they can’t be done in a reasonable amount of time, so they have to quote it. Then the customer can take that quote to another shop who will GLADLY do it for less to get a new customer.

How do shops get their ARO (average repair order) up if the customer is waiting? Do they wait 4 hours?

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

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      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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