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Repair Shop Advice


Monday, May 31, 2021

Before my time working at Repair Shop Websites, I conducted business research in the pharmaceutical industry.  I interviewed some very smart people along the way.  Some of the best bits of wisdom I received were the ones that seemed the most obvious.

One quote that stuck with me came from an executive who helped small companies that were being acquired by some of the biggest names in the industry.

“When you want something, just ask,” she said.  “The worst that can happen is that they’ll say no.”


The truth is that it can be uncomfortable to ask someone for something they might not want to give you.  People miss opportunities for first dates, salary increases and lower car and home purchase prices because they’re too scared of rejection to ask for them.

Whether it’s the shop owner, service advisor or another employee, this can happen a lot in auto repair shops too.  Here are three things repair shops want (or should want) but often don’t ask for.

#1 Online Reviews

It’s a well-established fact that people rely on online reviews to decide where to buy local services including auto repair.  And Repair Shop Websites’ own research has proven that customers are over three times more likely to leave a review if they’re asked to do so.  Despite this, many repair shops don’t ask for reviews from customers they know are happy with the service they received.

The reasons vary.  In some cases, the service manager frequently forgets to ask.  In others, shop staff don’t want to make the customer feel pressured into saying nice things about the shop.  But one of the biggest reasons shop staff don’t ask for reviews is that it feels awkward to ask a customer for a favor right after they paid for service.

It shouldn’t. For most customers, it’s a much smaller request than asking them to part with a few extra dollars for high-mileage oil or upgraded wiper blades.  And even if they don’t intend to leave you a review, they probably aren’t going to tell you that.

If you feel like a customer had a good experience (or if they tell you they’re happy with the shop), take the extra ten seconds to explain that great reviews help bring more people into the shop. Tell them it would help you out if they could post a review about what services were done to their vehicle and what the experience was like.  We’ve even put together this quick guide on how to ask!  And we provide a tool to our customers that makes it really easy to email their happy customers to ask for a review.

If just 10% of your customers give you positive reviews, there’s a good chance you’ll be the most-reviewed (and best-reviewed) shop in town within six months. That will have a major impact on your shop’s search results.

#2 New Employees

There are some places where it makes sense to be careful advertising your need for additional employees.  If a Help Wanted sign is the biggest one on your shop window (or on your website) customers might assume you’re too busy to handle their vehicle and take their business elsewhere.  Competitors could also try and use your staff shortage against you when talking with potential customers.

With that said, you shouldn’t miss any opportunities to let people know you’re hiring new technicians or service writers.  As you are probably well aware, there is a major shortage of auto repair technicians in particular – if someone can get the word out to an interested technician that your shop has an opening, it’s probably worth the risk you’re taking to advertise that information. So be sure to let friends, family, business associates and anybody else who might be able to help know that you are looking for somebody.

Don’t be afraid to ask your employees for referrals, either!  If your employees are having to work extra hours to keep the doors open, they’re not going to be upset that you’re trying to fix the problem.  In fact, offering a sizeable referral bonus to any employee who helps you find a technician is a great way to show them that you’re willing to put money towards solving the problem.  Over-worked employees will appreciate that fact – even if they don’t have anyone to refer at the time you ask.

#3 New Service Revenue

Nobody enjoys the dreaded upsell.

When you buy an electronic device at the store and the employee at the checkout has to offer you a 3 year “replacement plan”, you can tell they hate asking if you want it.  You can tell they know your answer, too; they already have their finger above the button to take them to the next screen.

If your shop offers a service that your employees loathe selling this much, don’t ever ask your employees to sell that service to your customers again.

But you probably don’t have a service like this.  If you run an independent shop, you offer services that you believe are a good value to your customers.  And if you’ve invested in training or equipment to offer a new service, it’s because you think it’s valuable, too.  Ideally, your service writers and technicians have been trained on that value, and they believe in the service as well.

So don’t upsell customers – educate them!  The best way to make those investments worthwhile is to make sure your customers know about your new services.  If you were excited enough about a new service to buy the equipment required to offer it, let that excitement come through when you tell your customers about it.

If they don’t take you up on the offer, that doesn’t reflect poorly on you for offering it!  You’re just doing your job, which is telling them what you think is best for their vehicle.  Even if they don’t take you up on the offer today, they could always come back and ask for it when the problem it addresses becomes more obvious or more significant.

If you really want to avoid the perception of an upsell, there are even more laid-back ways to educate customers.  You can tell them about the service after you’ve given them the receipt for today’s service, which makes it a nearly pressure-free interaction.  You can staple printed material about the service on their invoice, which lets customers read about it when they aren’t face-to-face with you.  But don’t be shy about letting customers know all about your new services. That’s the best way to earn a return on your investment – and to allow you to keep investing in new services, so your shop can keep up to date with fast-changing vehicle service requirements.

To learn how Repair Shop Websites can bring more business to your shop, call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com to learn more!


Thursday, May 27, 2021

After a year of crazy ups and downs, the US is finally turning the corner on COVID-19.  Case rates are declining throughout the country, schools and businesses are opening back up, and families are booking summer travel.  All of those things mean that once mostly-idle vehicles are being used more regularly and for longer drives. And that’s causing more customers to visit auto repair shops for repairs and maintenance.

Unfortunately, there can be too much of a good thing.  Most people received large checks from the US Treasury, and some are using that money to pay for major vehicle repairs.  An unprecedented processor shortage is idling vehicle manufacturing plants, driving up new and used car prices and causing people to repair vehicles they’d otherwise sell.  And home sales were at their highest levels in recent history at the end of 2020, meaning more people than ever are looking for a new shop in a new town.


For many shops, all of these factors are leading to too much of a good thing: business.

Of course, if your shop is in one of the many areas still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, then too much business is a problem you’d be happy to have.  But just because shops with too much business are in better shape than those with too little doesn’t mean that customer overflow can’t hurt you in the long run.  In fact, in many industries, a small business facing a sudden barrage of demand is a potential deathblow.

If you’re getting more repair requests than you can possibly handle, here’s what you can do to make the most of all those requests while protecting your shop’s reputation over the long term.

Be Thankful

When you’re overbooked, it’s tempting to let that call from an unknown number ring a couple extra times and hope the customer gives up and calls someone else.  The last thing you need is a customer giving you a minutes-long description of the squealing sound they’re hearing before you can even tell them how far you’re booked out.

The problem is that every caller considers themselves a customer – even if they never even talk to anyone in your shop.  If a caller can’t reach anyone, or if a staff member seems disinterested or rushed on the phone (or in person!), there’s a good chance that the “customer” will tell others about that experience.  They might even give you a negative review online.

It’s really important to meet or exceed customer expectations – and that means it’s really important to set them.  If you’re too busy to give customers the level or speed of service you’d typically provide, it’s better to tell them right away than to wait until it’s time to deliver the vehicle, or worse, when it’s time to pick it up.

Most important of all, be grateful!  Many businesses are struggling to keep the doors open right now. If the person on the other end of the line works at one of those businesses, they may be resentful if they feel like you don’t appreciate the fortune of “all the customers you could want and then some.”

Be Selective

The ideal repair job differs from shop to shop, based on technician expertise, available tools, facility layouts and shop processes.  But no shop should value every job equally.  Some jobs are simply worse than others.  Some jobs come with low margins.  Some jobs require variable labor hours that are difficult to estimate.  And some jobs (and customers) are just really demanding on your staff.

The easiest thing to do when you’re booking work is to say yes to more customers until you have to start saying no.  But it’s not the most profitable thing to do, it’s not a morale booster, and it doesn’t help you get the best customer base.

If you (and your technicians) are already working overtime and you’re still turning away work, there’s no need to put low-value, low-margin jobs on this week’s calendar unless it’s a customer you really want to impress.

That doesn’t mean you can’t help the customer at all. You can offer them a time slot some number of days or weeks in the future when there aren’t that many jobs already booked.  You can also refer them to another shop who would be happy to have that business (ideally, that shop will also refer customers who are better fits for your shop than theirs).

But if you’re fairly certain that accepting a less profitable job now means deferring or rejecting a better one later, it’s probably best to take the small chance that the calendar slot won’t get filled.  The most likely worst case scenario is that you lose a low-margin job and give your team members a chance to catch their breath.

Be Strategic

There are plenty of reasons for auto repair shops not to specialize.  It shrinks the potential customer base.  It increases the risk that specific car makes fall out of favor or that specific services are needed less often in the future.  It may also require shops to purchase additional equipment to better serve the narrower market segment.

When you have too much work, however, the equation changes.  If you’re managing your calendar well, elevated profits should make it easier to afford new equipment.  Focusing on specific services can help you further grow the percentage of your jobs that result in more profit.  And shrinking your customer base a bit over the short term isn’t likely to present much of a risk when you’re turning away work anyway.

Greater specialization isn’t the only strategic shift that might make sense for shops.  Considering a larger shop (or an additional one), giving the shop a facelift to create a more “premium” image or adding new staff are all easier to do after a period of higher revenues and greater customer exposure.  Just don’t commit to any long-term expenses without considering whether the newly increased workflow is permanent or a short-term post-pandemic surge.

To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help you bring in more of your shop’s favorite work, call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com to learn more!


Friday, April 23, 2021

Nobody wants drama in the shop.  It’s bad for productivity, it’s bad for morale and it’s bad for business.  And conversations about an employee’s sub-par performance can absolutely create drama if they go south.  That’s why even shop managers who consider themselves straight shooters sometimes delay conversations about poor employee performance.


But once it’s clear poor performance isn’t due to a short-lived issue, it’s better to address it than to let the problems pile up. Otherwise, the problems end up falling on other employees (or customers), leading to all sorts of major problems.

While earlier is better, you can’t rush into conversations about employee performance without knowing how you want them to go.  It often takes only thirty minutes for a productivity conversation to lead to improvement and continued growth.  But an antagonistic conversation can just as easily lead to distrust, resentment and eventual termination.

Here are three tips to get a good outcome from a tough conversation.

Don’t Wait Too Long

Everybody has bad days.  If a high-performer gets to work a few minutes late one day and has a good explanation, there’s probably no need to make it a performance issue.

But when a pattern starts surfacing, it’s better to bring the issue up with the employee than to keep waiting for the behavior to go away.  This gives the employee an opportunity to recognize the issue and address it before it really blemishes their reputation among their co-workers (including you!).  If an employee learns that a behavior has been reflecting poorly on them for months, there’s a good chance they’ll be angry that they weren’t told earlier so they could have an opportunity to correct it.

Ask for What You Need

When managers have a performance conversation with someone they respect, they sometimes soften their points so they don’t seem harsh or personal.  For example, they might say “It seems like you’re having trouble getting to work on time.” or “Your productivity rate is down a good bit from what it was.”

The problem with these statements is that they don’t define failure and they don’t define success.  The employee will leave the conversation knowing that they need to do better to keep their job, but not knowing what ‘good enough’ looks like.  This is a frustrating and stressful place for anyone to be and it can lead to lower performance rather than higher performance.

If you really want to be kind to an underperforming employee, make sure they know what success looks like and that they have a plan to get there.  That means ensuring they leave the conversation with success metrics that you can both measure easily and regularly.

Provide them with specific metrics where they’re underperforming.  Tell them what their performance used to be, tell them when it started falling, and tell them how far it’s fallen.  Then tell them what level metrics need to reach in order for them to once again be performing acceptably.  And if it’s someone you really want to be successful, you can let them know that by asking them if there’s anything you can do to help them be successful and helping in the ways you can.

Revisit the Topic Frequently

If you’ve planned ahead for a conversation about performance, you probably know what you’re going to say and have thought about how the employee might respond to it.  You know how big of a problem their performance is for your shop, and how quickly it needs to get fixed.

Unfortunately, your employee hasn’t had time to think about any of this, and probably has no idea they’re going to be having a serious conversation about performance shortcomings until they’re already several minutes into the conversation.

So while you’re laying out your case and telling an employee where they need to improve, that employee is probably doing a terrible job of listening to you.  They might be nodding their head and trying to engage in conversation with you, but their mind is racing: “Are these fair criticisms?  Why didn’t I notice myself falling short?  What do I need to say to keep my job?”  Just because your expectations are being stated clearly doesn’t mean the employee is hearing them.

This makes repetition more important in performance discussions than it is in most other conversations.  Before ending the conversation, make sure that both of you agree on which metrics have substandard results, how far those metrics need to rise, and how frequently they will be measured.  Finally, make sure to discuss these metrics with the employee frequently after the initial conversation – each discussion is another opportunity to emphasize their importance and the timeline for improvement.

To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help bring new business to your shop, call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The world’s first website celebrates its 30th birthday this summer.  Websites may have started out as a science project, but they have become an important part of small business success.  And despite there being many ways for an auto repair shop to reach potential customers on the web, a professional website is still needed to get the best results from your online presence.


Here’s why.

Most People Use Google To Search for Local Services

When people are looking for an auto repair shop near them, the first place they go is Google.  Most people have several repair shops nearby, so Google has to decide which shops get displayed first and which ones get displayed last.  That decision has a huge impact on what shop a customer chooses. If you don’t have a website, the decision isn’t likely to favor your repair shop.

That’s true even if somebody only looks at the Local Pack or on Google Maps. That’s because Google uses websites as a key indicator of quality and credibility. So even if you have maximized your Google My Business profile, your rankings in the Local Pack and Google Maps will suffer if you don’t have a website. Not having a website is like not having any reviews for your shop. It doesn’t prevent people from finding and choosing you, but it certainly makes it much less likely.

If you want your shop to be listed near the top of the search results, you’re going to need a great website.  That website needs plenty of content about the services you provide. It needs to have accurate information about your business hours and service area. It also needs to work well when people look at it on their smartphones.  These are still some of the most important factors Google uses to decide which shops land on the first page of search results.

Consumers Look at Websites to Confirm Credibility

Running an auto repair business is a tough job.  You’ve got to do more than be an excellent technician if you want your business to succeed while treating its customers right.  And unfortunately, shops with management that has set the wrong culture, hired the wrong people or gotten desperate for cash have cheated customers over the years, causing consumers to be cautious when visiting new shops.

While most customers don’t want to pay the outrageous prices of a dealership or big franchise, they also don’t want to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a faulty repair. So before they select a shop, they look for signals that a shop has the track record of financial success that comes from getting the job done right, time and time again.

A professional website is one of the main things people use to determine whether a business is “established.”  Shops more concerned about meeting payroll than their long-term success aren’t going to bother with a professional website to help build their business.  A shop that has invested in a modern, professional website on the other hand, isn’t likely to be the type of place that would risk their reputation on saving a few extra dollars with a subpar part or a rushed repair job. Just like Google, consumers see a website as a key indicator of quality and credibility.

Websites Are Still the Only Place Online Where You Control Your Image

There are dozens of businesses that make money by sitting between you and your customers.  Facebook, Google and Yelp have become billion dollar companies by selling ads to small businesses like yours.

These companies are happy to provide a place online for you to present your business.  But they’re also in control of how you look, and they use that fact to get more money from you.  They decide what customer reviews get placed next to your name.  They decide what you can say, how many words you have to say it and what contact information you’re allowed to provide.  And they’re going to make decisions that are in their best interest.

Your website is the one place where you’re in control of your image.  You get to choose what to emphasize on your website.  Nobody can pay extra to have their company listed above yours.  If someone posts a fake negative review on Google, it’s up to Google whether it gets deleted from their site – but nobody’s making you put it on your website.

When you list your online presence on business cards or flyers, it’s important for that to be a place that you control.  Otherwise, the first thing that people see when they visit that place might be something negative about your business!

To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help your business earn new customers, call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

If you had to choose between a day where half of your customers didn’t show up or a day where half of your staff didn’t show up, which one would you pick?

For most shops, the second scenario is much scarier.  Low volume days do happen, and a single low volume day doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have a bad month.  But if multiple employees don’t make it to work, the cars can back up quickly.  And if one or more of those employees was unexpectedly unable to return to work for a while (because of an accident or health issue, for example) it could take months to replace them.


When shop managers are asked directly, most shops will point to technician recruitment as a bigger issue than customer volume. IMR surveyed independent repair shops in late 2019 on their biggest challenges.  The second most cited challenge was a lack of availability of good technicians.  Losing customers to dealerships and losing customers to repair chains were both way down the list, at #6 and #8. (It’s off-topic, but I know you’re wondering: The top challenge was staying up to date with diagnostics, which are fast becoming a sinkhole for general repair shops.)

For many shops, finding motivated technicians isn’t any easier than it was two years ago.  The reality is that a good technician’s services are in high demand.  And if you don’t have enough technicians to make use of the space and equipment you’re paying for, it’s hard to make a shop profitable even if your customers all love you.

The Importance of Long-Term Thinking

Despite the financial dangers of an understaffed shop, many shop managers focus more on bringing in a steady stream of customers than they do on attracting a steady stream of interest from qualified technicians.  Part of this may be due to urgency. A low-volume week is felt immediately and boosting advertising or outreach to customers who haven’t visited in a while can have some short-term impact. Making a shop more attractive to technicians can take months or years of hard work without any obvious payback. That investment of time and/or money is especially hard to justify if you aren’t short staffed yet.

But you can’t assume staffing won’t be a problem tomorrow just because it wasn’t today.  Even if your employees have every intention of giving you notice before they leave you empty-handed, life doesn’t always cooperate.  People face unexpected circumstances, health issues can appear suddenly and new opportunities can’t always wait for two weeks’ notice.  If you haven’t invested in building a culture with the types of things that new employees want to see – growth opportunities, positive attitudes and co-workers who enjoy each other’s presence – you’re going to need way more than two weeks’ notice anyway.

Being a sought-after employer isn’t just about hourly pay, reliable hours and benefits anymore.  Gartner surveyed 3,000 US employees last month and two-thirds of them said they’d quit their current job to work somewhere with a stronger viewpoint on the social issues they cared about.  Potential employees want to know about co-workers and the work culture, which have a bigger impact on job satisfaction than whether employees enjoy the work itself.  

Even job interviews have changed. Especially when it comes to the market for technicians, you have to sell your shop as a great place to work to the candidate just as much as they have to sell their skills and fit to you. Skilled techs have lots of options and candidates are more than willing to walk away from an offer if they don’t like the interviewer, the company or the work environment.

Get a Head Start

Have you considered what you would need to do to attract new talent to your shop?  How is your work environment?  Do you contribute to your community in ways employees would be proud of?  And if an employee unexpectedly left today, do you have any resumes in hand already?  The most competitive employers have candidates who have expressed interest lined up before a job is even on offer.

If you’d like to bolster your shop’s ability to attract technicians and service writers, here are some resources to help you do just that!

Busy Bays Podcast: Recruiting and Hiring Technicians with a Successful Shop Owner.  While other shops have struggled to recruit and hire technicians, Arizona Auto owner Annmarie Aristigue has successfully recruited great technicians time and time again.  In this podcast, she describes her hiring process, which allows both the job candidate and the shop’s employees to spend some good time together before an offer is made.

The Ultimate Job Post.  Ratchet and Wrench interviewed 35-year industry veteran, shop owner and consultant Gerry Frank on what it takes to put together a great job description.  His tips help you provide enough information to get good candidates excited about the position, while weeding out unproductive techs.  Gerry’s most important point: job postings are marketing pieces, and there’s plenty of competition, so you’ll need to work hard to get candidates’ attention!

The Technicians You Need: Keeping Your Team Together.  While it would be great to have an experienced candidate join the shop ready to get to work on anything that comes through the door, the reality is that job skills can be taught.  But if a person’s personality is challenging or they lack character, you’re probably not going to be able to fix that at this point in their life. This blog focuses on how to hire people with drive and integrity. And whatever you do, don’t hire a jerk. Hiring is hard enough without having to do it over and over again – don’t let one new employee send two existing ones on a job hunt!

To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help you bring more business (and top talent) to your shop, call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.

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