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stowintegrity last won the day on April 9 2016

stowintegrity had the most liked content!

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About stowintegrity

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    Experienced Poster

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  • Business Name
    Integrity Auto Care
  • Type of Business
    Auto Repair
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    Shop Owner
  • Automotive Franchise
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  1. Mr. Marconi, you've been doing this job for a long time, and although I truly don't want to come across as rude, I must remind you all that you can't fix "stupid". My wife complains sometimes that she thinks I'm too cynical, and I always respond by telling her that I think I'm more of a realist. In any industry we're going to find that there are people who simply won't listen to reason, or be willing to open their minds to hear a kind word from an honest professional. This is largely because: 1. Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world, and it's full of some truly rotten people. 2. Our industry is riddled with unsavory types, while in the minority, they still make it difficult for the honest people. 3. EVERYONE operates from an unconscious sense of bias, and reacts based on past experiences. The woman in your lobby probably possessed the perfect mix of ignorance & bias, that's all. In the magazine article, although I'm also saddened by the editorial "slant" against our industry as a whole, there are likely SOME facts that unfortunately ring true. Does YOUR staff regularly scheme to try and sell service that's unnecessary? Mine doesn't, either. So what are we to do? In the quick, emotional moments that ensued in your lobby over such a simple, straightforward service recommendation, I would contend that the "lost" customer was the one most injured by the article, as you so poignantly referenced, she's still driving her vehicle with a compromised suspension. Eh. That's her choice, and all we can do is realize that regardless of whether we agree with their rationale, our customers ALWAYS have the right to say,"No." I would assure your service advisor by reminding her that no matter how effective we are at our job, we will never reach everyone we hope to be able to serve, and quickly move on toward taking the very best care of the next person in line. I would, of course, remove anything from your "customer experience" that distracts or takes away from your ability to be of sound, professional service, however. In this case, you're right again - try replacing that magazine with Redbook or Cosmopolitan. The next young woman might just be so engrossed in the new pie recipe, list of ways to satisfy her man, or decorating ideas that she'll be more clear-headed and not question the staff of professionals in front of her who've likely proven their value to her time and again in the past. Just my 2 cents.
  2. Things I am looking for - 1. Website design 2. Social media management (Facebook and Google+, mainly) 3. Customer reviews 4. Email campaigns 4. Optional - online advertising (Google/adwords, bing, yahoo, etc). We've been using Social CRM for nearly a year, and although we're very pleased with the results, you should understand what they're offering so your expectations are in line with their program. Their service doesn't include website design, or social media management, as you've indicated. They won't post content for you on Facebook or Google+, or keep up on a blog for your company, or the such. They don't design or consult & give advice on your website, either. Here's what they do: 1. I can be very straight with you, and make it very clear, but please know that doing so does take something away with the sophistication by which their service is valuable. Basically, they take YOUR supplied customer data, and process it, reaching out to your customers at pivotal points in the service/marketing process, because it's understood that as business owners, we just don't have the time. The key point is to make absolutely CERTAIN you get email addresses consistently, and at every visit, make sure you're asking for it, or updating it with your customer. 2. Within an hour or so after entering a new customer & their email address, the customer will get a predefined email, welcoming them as your customer, and inviting them to click a link that lets them register/claim their profile on a free service that gives them instant access to all their service history, digital copies of their invoices with you, and both automated maintenance recommendations as well as YOUR service recommendations. I should mention that at every step, your customers have the ability to click a link to set an appointment for service, confirm an existing appointment, leave a review for you, ask questions about recommendations, etc. 3. AFTER service has been provided at your shop, and an invoice is closed out, the SocialCRM service will (a day or so later I think) automatically send out a "Thank you" email for bringing in their car for service, and giving the the chance to click a link, and leave you some feedback. 4. Once their vehicle is logged in the system, it begins a Manufacturer's Recommended Service clock, and keeps them notified of upcoming, scheduled services, each time, giving them the chance to click a link & schedule service. 5. For every job currently on your board, they'll get reminders for upcoming appts with you. You have some flexibility over how these are sent out, but basically, if it's set up in enough advance, they can get one a few days before their appt, and one the day before...each time letting you know that they'll be in, ask to reschedule, and even add additional service before the appt day. Of course, they can cancel the appt, too, but it helps keep your days accurately scheduled. 6. If they don't have an email address that you've entered in the system, SocialCRM makes consistent effort to track down valid emails for you, and although it's not entered automatically in your management software, it's used to email them as above, even though you didnt ever ask for one. (NOT a way to grow your email list independently, but a really nice support service. 7. The "Social" in SocialCRM is because they solicit, and manage reviews for you at SureCritic.com. If you post out 50 jobs in a given week, and only 40 have email addresses logged, they'll attempt to call (3 times, I think) the remaining people on the phone to solicit a review. There's more specific data available on how this is done, but you'll have to ask your SocialCRM rep. 8. They send out a monthly report email that shows & charts your company's performance in response to the emails/calls. It compares your #of visits, average invoice, overall sales, etc. to both state and national data. 9. You can all ANYTIME, and they'll send out an email blast to all your customers. A graphically pleasing, professionally constructed email. Just call or email your rep with what you want the message or offer to be, and they handle the rest. (This is included in the Social CRM subscription) 10. You can pay extra to have them design & mail actual postcards to your customers, but we do this in house, so I can't speak to this... Anyhow - we're happy with the service, and I think it MORE than pays for itself....but you MUST make it a priority to get email addresses. your staff will hesitate to do so. They'll forget. If you don't get email addresses...very little happens. If you do - then you get a "digital assistant" that will be there to thank your customers, remind them about appts, solicit reviews, drive them to your website, and even followup after service. Thats pretty cool. Just one man's humble opinion.
  3. A shop's maintenance profit center is one of our industry's unicorns. We chase it, continually, but are never quite able to catch it! Our shop's maintenance revenue consistently lands at right around 20% of our total sales, and our goal is 33%. It requires a commitment to ALWAYS be executing a plan that involves educating our customers on the importance of the maintenance their vehicle needs, to avoid the perception that they're being sold "work my car doesn't need". The great thing about building a maintenance program, and encouraging your SA to work the system constantly, is that once you successfully educate a customer on the need for regularly scheduled maintenance, you only need to focus on showing the ongoing value of the services you provide, and it will result not only in future sales, but higher margins, and more frequent visits. (As opposed to only calling you between breakdowns) So if you're only able to reach 1 out of 20 potential customers by convincing them that you're making your suggestions in their own interest long term, once that 5% gets on board...the sales derived from the repeat visits will go on auto pilot, so you can continue to focus on educating the next guest that stands in front of you. Just one man's 2 cents.
  4. We give out Christmas cards each year to our staff, and enclose some cash in each envelope. I realize it's subtle, but the understanding at our shop is that the Christmas cards & the money that goes with it isn't a bonus or a commission or an entitlement, but simply a gift. I generally take the time to personally write more than a few words in each card, and my staff is nearly always overwhelmed & willing to express their gratitude. It is, after all, a gift. (Not unlike anything else that they may receive from others on Christmas morning) We truly appreciate our staff, and have been careful to focus on the people we work with throughout the year, making a Christmas gift of cash just "icing on the cake". We don't, by the way, have a year-end bonus or profit-sharing type of program. We had another record sales year this year hich hasn't affected the gifts we give.
  5. Are you seeing "loss of pressure" above 40mph EVERY time, or only intermittently when braking at above that speed threshold?
  6. CarER, Like everyone else has been mentioning already, it's difficult to pinpoint a singular "golden" nugget of advice to offer in this setting, but I think everyone here truly empathizes with your post....we've all been in that spot, so you couldn't have posted in a better place. I think everyone's response so far has been correct. I can only offer my own personal opinion, and I surely don't want to sound as though there's just one correct answer. This is simply what's worked for us in the last five years, and in our community. We carefully track what we refer to as our "10 Key Economic Indicators", and you've hit on some really important ones in your post. For the sake of trying to give you a picture of why this works for us, here are the ten metrics we record & compare on a weekly basis, and kept in a binder for our service advisors to refer to: 1. Total Sales (Revenue Dollars) 2. Last Year's Sales (Trending/Charted Sales History) 3. Established Sales Goal (Currently 40% over Last Year Same Week) 4. Gross Profit Margin (Our goal is 60%) 5. Average Repair Order (Our goal is $400) 6. Shop Efficiency (# of man hours spent compared to hours sold) 7. Average Hours/Repair Order (Currently averaging 2.25) 8. New Customers (30% of our repair orders) 9. Referrals (20-30% of our repair orders) 10. Comebacks (Anything above 1 out of 200 cars triggers an investigation into possible ways to improve our process) There are exciting benefits to having a smaller shop (where your costs & overhead are hopefully easier to manage), but some of these key numbers are still likely, CarER. For instance, set your goals at a level where they're quite challenging, but still attainable, such as ARO, GPM, and New Customers & Referrals, and DON'T SETTLE! These are the goals that work for us, but hopefully you can get a simple snapshot of our approach.
  7. Alfredauto, As usual, I appreciate your approach & thought process. I swear, one of these days, I'm going to make a personal introduction, and take you out for lunch! We've "had the softest year so far in average growth, but are still very much holding our own in the market we're in. My wife tries to convince me that our much more aggressive sales history "has to plateau" sometime, and has assumed that this year has been the year. As chief marketing/promotional guy at our company, I couldn't disagree with her more, and in spite of softer-than anticipated numbers, our 2016 marketing plan is reflecting higher than least year's growth expectancy. I can't tolerate the "running in quicksand" feel of working harder and getting same/less results, so I've pushed myself to a point of obsessing, at times to avoid it. Despite our positive finish on 2015, we're surely not immune to the downtrends I've been reading about here, as well as other places in the news. You have a good product - Your people are the best in the business, and your process is ever-improving. that's all. If I find myself in your neck of the woods, Alfredauto, how about lunch?
  8. Kudos to all of you on the implementation of an inspection process! We're currently in the midst of developing our own digital inspection app that'll allow us to get the very most out of the process, & the sales psychology behind what we do. In the meantime, the single most powerful element to the process as it pertains to ARO is what we call "Quick Notes" We've chosen 6 service items that are checked on every car that comes through our doors, and those items are checked "FIRST & FAST", giving our SA ample time to include them into the estimate we offer our customer once we've determined what they need. This simple step has allowed us to push our average repair order by 16-20% on a weekly basis...which is both exciting and powerful. The most powerful part of ANY inspection/service process is in the consistent EXECUTION of your program. The bottom line? Whatever you do, just do it 100% of the time, and you will absolutely see the results you're seeking.
  9. After a bit of research, we ended up taking a slightly different approach to utilizing a digital menu board by creating our own. As it turns out, most newer flat screen TVs have a USB port, and many (like ours) has a built-in Media Manager. All that means is that we sat down and planned out what we wanted it to look like, then created a series of "slides". I found out that we can even embed video clips into them, and play short videos periodically. (It's really no more complicated than creating very simple "web pages" with any commercially available software, then turning on the slideshow feature built into the TV) I figured out that if I create a menu template, of sorts, I can alternate the screenshot of the menu with other slides that inform, display monthly special offers, even photo testimonials from other customers. It's been really great keeping the slides fun. We've even added a monthly "Dinner & a movie" trivia contest. While customers are waiting, they see the slide, and they're instructed to ask for an official answer form if they want to be eligible to win. Of course, every month, we advertise a photo of the last month's winner, along with a brief testimonial. We're upgrading it to a "SmartHub" wireless web TV soon, so we'll be able to "email" our TV with updated slides from anywhere! This has been one of the most fun marketing/advertising tools we implemented this year.
  10. Mspec, Just keep doing what you've always been doing, first of all. If this incident is representative of only one issue in 5 or more years, for instance, it doesn't make good sense to upset your apple cart with the rest of your customers. However, I can share a simple, extra step we've taken with our customers that might help you out. Immediately before you pick up the phone to call and discuss your findings,create a text message (do not send it yet) that says: "Hi Bob! The service we're recommending based on our conversation today will bring your total to $xxx. Please reply with your approval, so I can get this taken care of for you." I have that text in a draft on my phone, and I just Copy/Paste it into a new text message, changing his first name, and the dollar amount. Takes about 5 seconds. I recommend sending it to all customers when the total is $xxx or above, whatever your comfort level is. Afterall....someone that says they didn't authorize the $12 gas cap....you're either going to eat it & fire the customer, or tell them to pound salt & pay you. On your phone call, when they're giving you the approval, tell them that as soon as they hang up, they'll receive a text from you, and that they need to reply with "ok". For the customers that dont have a cell phone (??) I have an email prepared, just the same... This has worked wonders for us, no one has complained or found the process cumbersome, and I eliminate the doh-doh heads. Just be sure to say, "As soon as you respond, we'll get to work on your vehicle." People appreciate the use of technology, and it's even uncovered folks who then later ask if we can communicate almost entirely by text when their car is with us. Win. Hope this helps!
  11. Lakeside, there is another thread here that talks about this, as well: Do you use a Digital Inspection Process? We still haven't chosen a process yet, and truthfully, we've begun talks with a company on the west coast to enlist the help of a development team to design one from scratch. I see the great value in using such a process, and I do believe that in the near enough future, it'll become a matter of staying competitive, even. (There are still shops that don't even have a computer in their building as a standard piece of business equipment) If a piece of equipment cost $10,000, but all evidence & research about it's use suggests that you can see a return on your investment in a relatively short time, isn't it worth buying? Wouldn't you wonder why everyone didn't get one? On the other hand, if the same equipment cost $100,000, and was just as likely to see the return over time, can you agree that there would be fewer people in the same control group to pull the trigger? Afterall...isn't $100,000 a lot of money to consider? I think that the "apps" that drive the software to perform digital inspections for us should offer more features than they do currently, and that it should be made possible, as an option, to purchase the software once for a fair price. There may be some legitimate reasons to need ongoing software support, etc....but these programs aren't exactly Microsoft Windows, or part of the Adobe Master Collection. $2400 a year forever is too much. If I manage to see this project to fruition, I'll surely share it with Joe & the rest of you. Digital inspections in auto repair is only costly because the authors know the street value of their implementation. If they want that much of my money, they should open their own repair shops. For the record, however, Autovitals has one of the most innovative platforms I've seen...if you want my opinion, Lakeside. Just one man's 2 cents.
  12. Let's face it - we make money supplying parts to our customers, and anyone that's not making a healthy margin on parts needs to re-evaluate why. For the record, we've stopped accepting customer-supplied parts on any job, regardless of who they are to us. The reason is simply that despite their "explanation" as to why they have their own parts, they're doing it to save a few dollars. They can always take them back to the parts store, and get a full refund. It's a non-issue. This is an emotional (or psychological) challenge, not a financial one. Anyone that is still compelled to find someone to install their supplied parts is still operating under the belief that they can make the transaction less costly, less painful, or they think they'll be left feeling "better" about the visit, because they feel they can rest assured they weren't overcharged for the parts. When someone asks me about installing their supplied parts anymore, we try to find out the real reason why, not give credit to the story that "I was going to have my brother do it, but he doesn't have the time, so I guess I already have the parts" When we USED to install customer supplied parts, I removed the discount I give on ALL my customers' estimates, telling people that the "Discount Labor Rate" is only eligible when we provide the parts. It was a 20% bump on the labor dollars at the time. Now, the stated "Standard Labor Rate" is 50% higher than the normal rate we offer. I won't install customer-supplied parts for the very real liability it brings, but usually if I'm given the chance to ask some questions, I'm able to appease their concerns. "Ma'am, the comparable quote for service at my shop has your parts costing about $18 more than what you paid for them at a discount parts store, but your service is backed by a 2 year/24k mile nationwide (parts & labor) warranty, not to mention that the brand caliber, relative quality of the parts I install has proven over the years to give thousands of our customers the greatest comfort & assurance of long-life & use. No more inconvenient break-downs, no more excuses....just enjoy that it'll do what it's designed to do, and for a LONG time. I'm sure if you make enough phone calls, you'll find someone willing to help you save that $18 by putting on your supplied parts, but it is really worth not having someone look you in the eye and tell you they're willing to be on your side, and stand behind every bit of the service?" I'm really all about doing what I think is in their best interest, but all too often, the customer is either asking the wrong question, getting the answer they didn't want to hear, or they have some "head knowledge" they read on the internet that leaves them wondering. Give them someone they can always count on to stand behind them, and fight for their right to fair, competitive service that lasts.
  13. Whoah. I love my staff, I really do. They are some of the most dependable men & women in the industry, highly skilled, with a generally positive attitude, and with a reasonably healthy pride about the manner in which they complete their tasks. There's not a single member on the team that I would "cherish" losing, and each one of them would create a unique vacuum of lost talent if I lost one of them. That being said... When we add an addendum to our employee handbook that requires the staff to read/sign off on the policy, I do the best I can to educate them all on the rationale behind the change or newly implemented policy, and frankly, the understanding is always clear....there is no room for debate at that point, nor is there even the slightest possibility that any one them think that they have the lattitude to tell me they refuse to sign the document. Once I had a gentleman ask (during a meeting) if he could speak to me immediately afterward regarding some of the meeting's topic material. He withheld the signature on the policy update, until after we had the chance to talk, which I respected. All he wanted was clarification on a few of the details he didn't understand, and although he admitted that he wasn't entirely happy with the new procedure, he wrapped up our talk with an affirming tone, and reitterated how much he appreciated the company he worked for, and the relationships with his coworkers. If I decide that the new uniform standard makes it mandatory to wear purple socks to work...everybody better be ready to go Plum Crazy. Just one man's tale of a mutaully respectful, happy team.
  14. Well, offering full disclosure, I certainly couldn't honestly say that my staff has never used "the devil" for a quick lookup on something. I sat in on a meeting with some of the execs from Mitchell1 when I learned that ProDemand offers data/answers from sources outside of OEM data sources. The general line of thinking is that it shouldn't matter where the information comes from...if it helps to fix a car right the first time, then I'd sure like access to that information. On the other hand, however, the times that I know our guys are reading anything & everything they can on a lookup for a head-scratching issue we run into, I can assure you that w're not using Google's response as anything but a 2nd or 3rd confirmation of answers found from much more credible sources. I used to consult with other automtive professionals before I opened my own shop, and had the responsibility to dealing with a customer who had recently had a wheel bearing installed on his vehicle, where the tech used Google to lookup the axle nut torque spec. It was incorrect, and they ended up having to warranty the work, and rent a car for the customer. That was an expensive enough lesson, that I decided if I was ever in charge, I would avoid those easy mistakes. So - I respect you guys too much to make it seem like I never peruse Google. I guess a better statement would be that we need to "consider the source", especially if it can't be corroborated. BTW.....have any of you ever watched Eric the Car Guy? I find his videos to be both entertaining and educational at times. Best wishes, guys!
  15. Hilarious, Alfredauto. My wife does this for us, too...and for the exact same reason. I'm not sure I understand why the government cares one bit if I want to reimburse my people a little something towards what they are paying into the "Marketplace" Obamacare benefits. No, really...I feel dumb here...I don't get it. It's like flacvabeach once said, "Good point. It's utterly incomprehensible."

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