I recently bought an A/C recovery machine. I've heard plenty of horror stories of these machines being destroyed with stop leak. I spent the money on a "stop leak" detection kit. Just had a car come in my shop that is full of stop leak. Didn't even move the ball in the test kit. Asked customer about it and they have been putting in cans of freon from every source around for months. I'm sure some with stop leak. Obviously it's not working as the system is still leaking. My question is how do other shops handle customers that have tried this cheap do it yourself fix, failed... and then put my investment in equipment at risk? Replace everything in the A/C system? Is there some kind of flush that will remove that cr**p? Call the customer and tell them it's now a winter vehicle only? Not sure where to go in this situation and can't really seem to find an answer on the almighty google thing.
Hi! I'm looking to open a new automotive repair shop and I could use some help assessing a specific opportunity from the experts here. To put this in perspective, I would be a new owner without prior repair shop experience, however, I understand repair work and have done almost all of my own work on my personal vehicles for nearly 30 years. The scope of work I have personally performed included transmissions swaps, suspension, brakes, ignition systems, fuel systems, computer diagnostics and so on. My formal training is in science and management and I've been in corporate positions for 20+ years. I also have experience running my own real estate rental business. I've always been interested in auto repair and I believe this business would be a very good fit for my aptitude, skills and experience. I would plan to operate as the business owner and bring in skilled staff to handle repairs and customer engagement under my leadership.
Here is the scenario I could use help with. I found a 10,000 sq. ft. building which is split up between 6 existing bays (3 front and 3 rear), office space and retail area. The section with the bays has about 5000 sq. ft. , about 1000 sq. ft. of office space and another 4,000 sq. ft. of retail area. The property has not been used for auto repair in a long time but could be converted back very quickly along with opportunity to do something interesting in the retail area. I have many potential ideas for the property. I am running into two primary challenges in evaluating the opportunity. The first is the competitive landscape and the second is how quickly I could ramp up the business along with how much business I would likely do from the location after ramp up.
The property is located on a main road with 20-40k total vehicles/day depending on the day of week. About a mile up the road, in a cluster, there are 6 name brand auto dealerships. On the same road, within just a few miles from the site, there are three tire shops, one local and two name brand, along with a Midas and another local 6 bay garage. Think of this as 5 competitors, each with 6 bays plus the new car dealers. There are a handful of smaller local shops with 1-2 bays locally as well. Also, there is a State DMV location, with inspection services in the same zone. The overall geographic area is in a town that contains a Wal-Mart, Lowes, BJ's and a Costco plus restaurants, etc.. These stores are all within 10 minutes from the potential new location. The next closest big retail areas are 30 minutes north or 40 minutes south of the target area described. The demographics of the area skew affluent and population density is moderate - this is not a big city - however people are drawn in from at least a 30 minute drive time radius due to the shopping and other resources.
I have a few ideas to differentiate my business from the rest in the area although on Google, it appears that most of the competing businesses have decent reviews overall. My shop would do all types of repairs including the heavier stuff and the bays are very tall so we could potentially accommodate trucks too.
So, my questions are:
Is this an opportunity worth considering given the competitive landscape? If I were to open a shop, how quickly should I expect business to ramp up? I am really looking for solid feedback from folks with deep experience in this industry to help me evaluate if this is a business proposition worthy of consideration at this location.
By Mail Shark
Before approving your next database mailing, run down this checklist to ensure all of these steps have been taken to validate the quality and accuracy of your mailing.
Utilize the National Change of Address Service (NCOA)
Every year, millions of Americans move, and this undoubtedly includes some of the customers in your database. This can be a problem when you pull your database to use for sending out a direct mail campaign, as you may have customers that have moved and no longer live at the recorded address.
If these customers have moved outside of your trade area, and you were to send a direct mail piece to them, you would essentially be wasting your marketing dollars by sending direct mail to customers that are simply no longer there.
The good news is, there is a simple solution. You can have your direct mail partner run your database against the USPS National Change of Address (NCOA) service. The cost of doing so is very minimal and worth the small additional cost to ensure the quality and accuracy of your database.
NCOA is a database maintained by the U.S. Postal Service, and includes all of the individuals and companies who have completed a form to change their address in the previous four years.
Here are a few things you will find out by running your list through the NCOA process is:
Addressee has moved, and a new address could not be provided. New address information is provided. The recipient moved without providing a forwarding address to the USPS. From here, these previous customers that have moved can easily be removed from future mailings.
Remove Your Customers From New Acquisition Mailings
Most shop owners who are using direct mail to target their database of current customers are also sending out new customer acquisition mailers to target new prospects, either by carrier route or by specific make, model, fuel type, etc.
In doing so, it’s important that you request your direct mail partner to remove these current customers from your new customer acquisition mailers. It’s a waste of money to send your customers a new customer acquisition mailer when you are already targeting them by sending them a retention or lapsed customer mailer. It will also send your current/lapsed customers the wrong message. Your marketing and message to new customers should not be the same that it is to current or lapsed customers.
This is also an easy fix, simply request that your direct mail partner suppress your customer database from your new customer acquisition mailers. The only caveat in doing so, is for general auto shops that are removing their database of customers from their carrier route mailing—there are guidelines that must be met for carrier route mailings in order to receive the maximum discounted postage rate. These guidelines are as follows:
Your mail must be sorted in walk sequence. This is the exact order that the postal carrier walks/drives on their carrier routes. In addition, your mailing must follow the 90/75 rule. The 90/75 rule stipulates that you must mail to at least 90 percent of the total residential addresses, or at least 75 percent of the total combined number of residential and business addresses in each carrier route. Since you, as an auto shop owner will never want to mail to businesses, this means that you must mail to 90 percent of the total addresses in a carrier route to maintain the lowest postage rate.
If your mailer falls below the 90 percent guideline, there are three different levels of postage that your mailer can potentially fall into. Each level represents an additional cost of per piece postage above and beyond the standard rates.
Additional Saturation Mail Postage Rates (*As of 1/1/2019)
High density plus: Mail at least 300 pieces in walk sequence order (additional postage would be .01 per piece).
High density: Mail at least 125 pieces in walk sequence order (additional postage would be.019 per piece).
Basic: Mail at least 10 pieces in walk sequence order (additional postage would be .104 per piece).
Make Use of the Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS)
In addition to running your database through the NCOA process, it’s important to ensure your direct mail partner is also certifying your database mailing list through the Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS). This process will standardize your mailing file, verify that each and every address in your mailing file is valid and complete, as well as update any addresses that have been changed and/or has become outdated.
Executive Vice President of Sales
Email: [email protected]
By Mail Shark
Tracking the return on your auto repair shop’s direct mail marketing can be a challenge. One tool that can give you a tremendous amount of transparency into your direct mail ROI and that I recommend almost 100% of the time is call tracking.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with what call tracking is and how it works, it involves putting a unique phone number on your direct mail that isn’t used anywhere else. When someone calls the number, it forwards immediately and seamlessly to your main phone line. This gives you the ability to track and record all phone calls from this special number, in turn giving you some transparency into how your direct mail marketing is performing.
There are of course many other nuances, capabilities, and uses for call tracking that you can learn about from companies like CallRail or Conversa, just to name a few.
That said, it’s critical you understand call tracking is NOT the be-all end-all when it comes to determining how well your direct mail marketing is working. If this were the case, you’d have to assume that 100% of every new repair order you get calls directly from your mailer. However, we all know this will never be the case. Here are a few reasons why.
Your Online Presence
Before they consider using you repair shop, many prospects will go online to check out your website. If a customer lands on your website – assuming you aren’t using a PURL (Personalized URL), which is almost never the case with most auto repair shops – they do their research and then call your shop from the phone number on your website. In this situation, you immediately lose insight on how they heard about you.
Customers are also reading your online reviews, whether on social media or review sites. Sites like Demandforce, SureCritic, Carfax, Repair Pal, Facebook, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc. all have your shop’s contact details, including your phone number. Any call from customers who used these sites removes transparency on how they heard about you.
Our auto repair shop clients consistently tell us customers will just stop by their shop with their direct mail piece in hand. I’m not just talking about quick lube shops that are based on walk-in traffic. I’m talking about general and specialty auto repair shops. It’s great when customers have your mailer with them, because you can attribute these customers to your direct mail marketing. However, this won’t be reflected in your call tracking, which is another reason call tracking isn’t the be-all end-all when determining ROI.
Online Appointment Scheduling
More and more auto repair shops are offering online appointment scheduling. We like to position these shops as being easy to work with, and part of that is promoting their online appointment scheduling. We include verbiage on our direct mail pieces to inform customers they can conveniently schedule online, and most times we accompany this with a QR code that brings them directly to the appointment scheduling page.
This is similar to my first point regarding your online presence and website. However, I also want to point out this specific example because in these cases, we’re actively pushing people to go online to schedule their repair or maintenance service, thus losing transparency from call tracking.
All that said, call tracking is an effective tool that gives you a lot of transparency into your direct mail marketing ROI. However, you should also be running matchback reports that compare new repair orders during (and in the trailing months following your campaign) to your direct mail list. This helps you identify customers who were missed on call tracking or by your service advisor. You can then use your call tracking data in conjunction with your matchback reporting to get a clearer picture of your direct mail ROI.
If you’re using EDDM® Retail or EDDM® BMEU, you won’t be able to execute matchback reporting because there’s no mailing list to compare your repair orders with.
Executive Vice President of Sales
Email: [email protected]
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By Joe Marconi
Most of you probably already know what I am about to say: The Service Advisor position is the most crucial position in the shop. I know, I know, what about the mechanical work done by the techs? Well, that's important too, of course.
For the most part, customers spend their hard-earned money and most of time don't really know or see what was done to their car. Let's face it, the customer can't see the water pump or T-belt. And most of the time, the customer does not feel any difference with the car as they drive out of your parking lot.
What the customer does see (or experience) is how she was treated. And that makes all the difference in the world.
Plus, great service advisors also motivate the technicians, because great advisors are also great leaders of people.
Think about this...Six months from now, your customer will not remember the fuel injection relay or the mass air sensor that was replaced....but she WILL remember how she was treated.
And trust me, that OE-quality fuel injection relay install by a certified A-level Master tech using Snap On tools and a Launch Scanner IS NOT the reason WHY your customers return to you....She returns because of the level of service your provide.
By Joe Marconi
I know it's not going to be Back to School as usual this year, but there will be increased traffic on the road as more people perform school-related errands. It's your obligation to your customers and the community to make sure the roads are safe.
Many people have neglected their cars the past few months, making a lot of opportunity for your shop.
Get your Fall/Back to School marketing plan in place today!
Want to share ideas? Even Better!
By Joe Marconi
As part of our debt reduction, I revamped all of our usual marketing and advertising and put those dollars into customer service and social media. For example, we ramped up our shuttle pickup and delivery service, extended our hours of service, made sure we spend a lot of time with each customer and made sure we called as many customers as possible. We also stepped up our meet and greet process and made sure will followed up with customer after the repair. Lastly, we increased our social media posts and increases ads and boosting. This has made a huge impact on our customer and already starting to pay dividends.
What changes have you made to your marketing strategy since the Virus Crisis hit?
By Joe Marconi
Got your attention? Good!
Take it from me, a shop owner for 40 years; before you invest a dime on advertising, get your internal marketing in order....in other words...get your house in order.
No amount of advertising or marketing means more than what you do each and every day. And that is creating an amazing customer experience that gives your customers a compelling reason to return.
Make sure that each customer contact point creates a positive experience. The phone call, the drive up to your shop, the parking lot, the customer write-up, the upsell, the car delivery and every other point of contact with the customer.
These things I speak of means more than any money you spend on advertising. So, before you spend that dime, get your house in order. And remember, everyone in your shop is an important part of your marketing strategy!
By Mail Shark
I hear a lot of auto repair shop owners say they don't want to offer a cheap oil change coupon on their direct mail marketing. They feel the cheap oil change coupon brings in the wrong clientele, and they don't want to devalue their brand and position themselves as the cheap oil change shop.
As a quick note, the concept behind the cheap oil change offer is that it is a loss leader and utilized to entice new customers. The key is getting new customers through the door, which the cheap oil change can be extremely effective at doing. Once you get them in your shop and you do a great job for them, you can build a great rapport with them and win them over as a loyal customer.
All that said, you will always know your business better than any marketing company. Therefore, we certainly can't argue with the fact that you would not like to use this strategy if in fact you have already executed a cheap oil change coupon campaign and it did bring in the wrong clientele.
However, having an oil change coupon as part of your shop's direct mail marketing strategy is critical. Here are a few reasons why.
An oil change is something that every non-electric vehicle owner will need at some point in time. Consequently, I would venture to say that most vehicle owners are familiar with what an oil change is more so than any other maintenance service. Compare that to a timing belt replacement coupon or a serpentine belt replacement, each of which the average consumer may not be familiar. When you have a coupon that is familiar and relevant to everyone that you are targeting, you have a much higher chance of increasing redemption rates.
Therefore, for those shop owners that are afraid of attracting the wrong clientele or devaluing their brand with a low-price point oil change, the simple fix is to increase your oil change price point to a number that you are comfortable with and that is still a value from a consumer perspective. An alternate option would be to offer a specific $ off discount that you are comfortable with — for example, $10 off any conventional oil change & 15 off any full synthetic.
My next recommendation, if you are a general auto repair shop, which is a non-negotiable one, in my opinion, is to structure your oil change coupon to offer both a conventional and full synthetic oil change offer. All too often, shop owners only offer a conventional oil change coupon. A conventional oil change coupon is fine. However, it will never appeal or be applicable to owners of vehicles that require full synthetic oil. There is no reason to limit your offer to only appeal to a specific set of vehicles. It's crucial you cast a wider net and appeal to as many vehicle owners as possible. The simple and quick solution is to offer both options.
PRO TIP: if you are concerned about coupons bringing in the wrong clientele, think again. Even the wealthiest consumers use coupons.
Here is a snippet from our blog post entitled "WHY YOU SHOULD BE SENDING DIRECT MAIL COUPONS:
It might seem surprising, but wealthy people love saving money with coupons. In fact, households with annual incomes of $100,000 or more are twice as likely to use coupons than households earning less than $35,000 a year.
Wealthy customers may be able to afford your most expensive products and services, but that doesn't mean they don't want a good deal. The majority of them are cautious about spending money and rarely make frivolous, unnecessary purchases. Rather than viewing your business as cheap, they'll appreciate your coupons and the opportunity to save money,
You can check out the entire blog post here.
Executive Vice President of Sales
Email: [email protected]
Oil Change Coupon Example.pdf