Whether or not we realize it, each shop has a similar workflow process. Like many areas of life, we think that we are all unique in our business strategy. However, reality is we are all very similar, our differences lie in management styles. Our attitude and approach, from employees and customers, defines how we achieve success.
Check In Inspection Estimate Building Customer Authorization Work In Progress Completion Follow Up The process, is often hijacked by two elements. The first element is service center employee(s) and their attitude(s) and the second element is the software your business uses.
Your employees are your team, and that’s exactly the best way to approach your business. When you look at employees as team members and not as just “the new guy/girl” or “Jack the mechanic who never combs his hair”... everyone’s attitude begins to change.
Being a part of a team is a mindset that everyone ‘shares in the responsibility’, everyone is accountable for their role and if one person fails… everyone has failed. This mindset is used to build all types of companies, some of which end up being valued into the billions of dollars. Teams help each other pick up the slack and work with one another to get through personal and professional barriers.
The most important thing to remember about the team, is that everyone can have a bad day, week, month or even months. We are all human and too often we forget everyone is going through something. The team element opens the door to communication among the facility and if people are comfortable enough to communicate, they are open to moving past whatever ails them. We are all too quick to give up on someone we have invested an immense amount of time and energy training to our standards. With the right team, dedication is matched on all ends, resulting in happy customers that not only return... they refer. Which lowers acquisition costs and keeps business growth healthy.
You can read more about team building here and we also encourage you to search for ideas on team building and how to achieve the optimal team at your auto repair facility.
This article originally published in CAR's News Section
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By Joe Marconi
It was a busy Friday morning when Tom called me for an update on his vehicle. I let Tom know that his car would be ready at the end of the day. There was a pause, and then he blindsided me with this, “You know, Joe, I did a little research on that water pump you’re replacing on my car. I can get that same part for $30 less. Why does your part cost so much?” I fired back at him by saying, “That’s impossible; it can’t be.” I went on and on attempting to defend myself, but I could tell I wasn’t getting through to him. After a few more words back and forth, Tom finally said, “Look, you started the job, so you might as well just finish it.”
You’re probably thinking Tom went online to check the part. Well, this happened in 1980, my first year in business, and years before the Internet, as we know it today, even existed. Tom simply called a local part store. The parts store gave him a discounted price and then figured he would challenge me.
Consumers checking your prices is nothing new—it just got a whole lot easier these days with the world wide web. Now, let’s clarify one thing: I am not going to tell in this article that there is a foolproof way to train consumers not to go online to check your prices. However, what I can tell you with certainty is that if you continue to feature products and not the customer experience, you are telling people to please check your prices.
Consider this: You’re out to dinner and you ask the waiter for the wine list. As you scan the list, you recognize a brand and then look to the right at the price. Do you Google the bottle of wine to check what you could buy it in the store? We all know that a $10 bottle of wine in the store can cost well over $40 at the restaurant.
Here’s the bottom line: The restaurant is selling more than wine and food—it’s selling the customer experience. And if all goes the way it should, we pay for the meal and the bottle of wine, even when we know the wine is priced higher than we could purchase it at the store. And, we are OK with it.
Our business is no different. We need to focus on the experience, not the products. Yes, we install water pumps, control arms and radiators. But, that’s not our main focus. Our focus is on the value and the benefits of doing business with us. Now, with that said, there’s a delicate balance between being competitive and being profitable. But, as value goes up, price becomes less of an issue.
Here’s the difference between our business and a product-driven business. When you buy a product—let’s say a watch or a cell phone—the experience lives on long after the sale. Every time you put on the watch, or use your cell phone, you are continuing the experience. And if the product is high quality, the experience gets reinforced over and over every time you use it. With auto repair, in most cases, what we do, does not live on after the sale. Once a customer leaves with a new timing belt and water pump, there’s not much about that repair that lives on in the eyes of the consumer, except the customer experience. Your entire sales process—your marketing, the look of your shop, the people you employee and every aspect of your business that the customer sees—must tell the customer that what you sell is worth the price.
Let’s remember one thing: Your prices will be challenged from time to time. So, here are a few more tips. Get the right training for your service advisors, especially in the area of customer service. Make sure your marketing and advertising communicates your brand and your culture, and please be careful with discounting. Claims that you have the best price on tires or brakes only results in consumers checking online to see if that’s true. Highlight your warranty, which has a lasting impression on the customer. Above all, communicate the benefits of doing business with your company.
Let’s get back to Tom. After 39 years, Tom and his family are still customers. I have to believe it’s because Tom appreciates the level of service we have given him throughout the years and the relationship we’ve built. Tom has learned what Warren Buffet has often said, “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.”
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on May 1st, 2019
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My name is Karla, I had previously owned a 3-bay mechanical repair shop in Burlington, VT for 6 years and built it to maintain an outstanding reputation and provide a comfortable income. I had the opportunity to sell my half of the business and finalized that deal this past fall. I have worked in all areas of the auto repair industry over the past 15 years, graduated from a two-year ASE certified auto tech program and went on to earn my Bachelor’s in business and a masters degree in executive leadership.
I have some capital I will be contributing to the planning and opening of a new shop and am very open to meeting potential partners/investors in all areas of the country. I greatly look forward to building something new in a location new to me.
Anyway, I’d like to welcome all /any interest and to answer any questions about joining forces in shop planning and management. Please do not hesitate to contact me, thanks for considering!
By Jay Huh
I started out cheap, I price things cheap, and I used cheap labor.... until now. Hired an ASE master tech whom I thought was out of my ability to pay.
Last week was his first week and he knocked out 63.5 hours of work!!!!!!! Previous record to that was like 43 hours? Had the highest grossing week in 2 years of business. I didn't give him 63 hours of work.. HE FOUND IT. My car count wasn't different, still the same customers, just a different attitude.
He brought his prodigy so I took 2 of my old guys to my new shop and hired these 2. We open at 8:30 am and expect techs to get there around 8:20, they show up at the shop at 6:45 am.... I had to give them a key lol
Haven't been excited about my business in a while. I pay him flat rate- he was making $28 before but I got him at $25 and promised him $28 in 2 months. I think a big factor was me being able to hire his friend as well. So far so good. Looking back, cheap labor ended up costing me more money with comebacks and inexperience.
I've been talking about opening a shop on and off with my former boss/friend.
I use to manage my friend's shop (then, former boss) + other businesses. He specialized in European repairs. I used to run diagnostics for the Mercedes via laptop. We closed his shop down. Reason being, he's more of a shop foreman, than a business-minded guy. I'm an IT and business guy. I build out networks and computers for clients.
He works at a big name dealership and he got me a job with him. He's a journeyman and I was a service advisor. This was over a year ago. I quit the job, due to terrible pay (practically slave labor) and terrible hours (65+ hours/week).
I now do mobile programming. What got me into it was, my last 2 weeks at the dealer, we had a car that came in. Brand new 2016 with 1000 miles. Had a check engine light. Dispatched it and the tech came back to me telling me it needed a software update. P Code was regarding low fuel pressure (generally a fuel pump). It got me thinking and I did a lot of research and 2 months later, I started to program cars.
I program cars on the side and I work another job so I'm always staying busy.
My friend and I got in talks again. He still has all his tools + more from his old shop. I have the IT stuff (laptops, computer hardware and more) + a ton of scan tools and subscriptions. I can program GM, BMW, Mercedes, Nissan, Kia, Toyota and much more.
I handle the business side + do programming/computer diagnostics and he handles the shop side + whatever techs we hire.
Stuff we will need:
Smoke machine (not sure if he still has his old one or not)
TPMS tool (Been reading a lot about Autel's TPMS tool)
Mitchell POS system (I used to use and loved it)
Stuff we have:
Scan tools / Programming subscriptions
All Data / Identifix subscription
Waiting room furniture (from the old shop. Still like new)
MPI Sheet (Multi-Point Inspection)
Stuff we'd like to do:
Carry common parts (air filters/cabin filters, etc)
Structure a streamlined hiring process.
Do book time and use Mitchell to keep track of book time. If not, create an excel formula to keep track.
Stuff I'd like to know more about:
What do you offer for benefits / What company do you go through for benefits?
Employee handbooks / how to come up with them?
What insurance do you have for the shop?
Alignment rack (Very expensive, but curious to what brand/model people have)
Possible hourly rate for shops that work on European + Asian/Domestic.
Do you start off a diagnostic charge at 1 hour and if a customer accepts the job, do you still charge them the diag fee + job fee or is diag fee discounted?
Do you use an outside payroll company/accountant or do you use Quickbooks or something similar?
I do a lot of research and ask a lot of questions to further learn and prep myself.
Thank you for taking the time in reading this.