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Repair Shop Advice


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.


Friday, March 19, 2021

Imagine this: you open up your shop one morning, turn on your computers, and a message pops up. It says someone stole all your data and if you don’t pay them thousands of dollars they’ll delete all of it for good.

It’s called ransomware, and it sounds like something that would happen to Wells Fargo or Wal-Mart – someone with a lot of money.  But businesses of all sizes are getting hit now, including auto repair shops.  Ratchet and Wrench is running stories on it.  One body shop consultant said late last year he personally knew of more than a dozen body shops that had already been hit by ransomware. If one person knows that many, there are probably hundreds or even thousands more.

To keep your shop out of this situation, it’s important to ask some questions about emails you get before you click on any links or files in them.  Most of these attacks come through an email sent by hackers and criminals. They need you to click on something in the email they send before they can take over your computer or network. To stay safe all you have to do is not click on it.

How Do I Know an Email Is Dangerous?

While criminals are getting better at writing these bogus emails, they still leave some pretty big clues behind that they aren’t what they claim to be.  Here are three signs that an email may be dangerous. You shouldn’t click on anything inside of emails containing these three things until you can talk to the email sender (on the phone) and confirm that they actually sent it.

  • The message in the email looks nothing like what the sender normally sends. That’s probably a good sign that they aren’t actually sending it.  They’re being impersonated.
  • The email has an attachment or link that the sender says is really urgent. It’s even more suspect if they give you a deadline, like “you won’t be able to log in after tomorrow”.
  • You don’t know what the email is talking about. The email is talking about an invoice you weren’t expecting or a delayed package you don’t remember ordering or software you never use.

Basically, hackers are relying on your curiosity to get the best of you. They’re hoping you click on the link or attachment just to figure out what they’re talking about.  Don’t do it!  Your wallet will thank you for your self-control.

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


Saturday, February 27, 2021

While the last 12 months have not been a great time for most local businesses, several factors have helped auto repair shops weather the storm better than many other industries. That’s true even while many people’s vehicles stayed parked in their driveways for months.  Some of these benefits were time-specific. Examples of this include the classification of repair shops as essential businesses, and repair requests from stimulus check recipients who could finally afford them. But one of the best things independent shops have going for them is the average age of a car.

The pandemic pushed some families without second cars to purchase one rather than relying on public transit or ridesharing – this reduced the supply of vehicles and increased their prices further.  And the industry’s current microchip shortage is forcing auto plants to shut down, bringing down new supply even further.

The bottom line is that the average odometer of an in-use vehicle has a higher reading than at any point in history, and that number is only rising.

This is good news and bad news.  One negative of vehicles becoming ever more reliable is that many of them continue to make it down the road for more than 100,000 miles with nothing more than the most essential of maintenance – oil changes, brake service and new tires.  Customers who wait until they get stranded on the side of the road to call you won’t be calling for a long while after they get their vehicle.

But the growing age of vehicles also means that the average driver spends more years than ever behind the wheel of a vehicle without warranty coverage.  Customers who commit to servicing their vehicles well before they start falling apart can expect to spend a decade or longer in them before it makes sense to leave their old vehicle behind.  Even if customers finance a vehicle for five years, that’s a lot of years without a car payment.

The challenge is that many people don’t prioritize maintenance unless they can see or hear a problem.  And because engines and transmissions last longer than ever before breaking down, a vehicle in need of maintenance is less likely to “ride rough” or provide direct feedback to the driver that it’s time for a peek under the hood.  So even as the vehicle is becoming less safe to drive, and maintenance left undone is turning into damage done, owners continue to put off maintenance until its convenient.  Which, of course, is never.

That’s not good for you – but it’s not good for vehicle owners either.  They’re trading a little bit of time and money for a lot of their vehicle’s lifespan.  It turns out that vehicles are a bit like teeth; you show me someone at the dentist with six cavities, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t get cleanings twice a year.

Three Ways to Help Auto Repair Customers See the Value in Maintenance

1. Don’t Make it an Upsell

Have you ever gone into a store to buy a $20 product and had an employee offer you a 3-year warranty for it?  Nobody is paying for that, and they know it.  That’s why they really don’t even bother trying to sell it.  They don’t even tell you what the warranty covers or how it works.  They already have their finger on whatever key takes them to the next screen, and they’re just waiting for your permission to press it.

That’s what happens when the person selling the product doesn’t believe in it – and you’re not going to sell much preventative maintenance if the person talking to the customer feels this way.  Maintenance isn’t an attempt to make a few extra high-margin dollars off of a customer before they can get out of the door.  It’s an opportunity to change your relationship with your customer (see bullet two for more on this).

Before anyone goes into a conversation about the value of preventative maintenance, make sure they have whatever information they need to truly believe it’s in the customer’s best interest to say yes.  Service writers need to feel better, not worse, about how well you’re serving the customer after convincing them to schedule preventative maintenance.

2. Explain How Vehicle Maintenance Makes You the Good Guy

After you’ve dealt with the customer’s repair, tell them you’re always happy to help them however you can, and that you’d appreciate the opportunity to do the scheduled maintenance on their vehicle because it makes you the good guy instead of the bad guy.

When customers don’t let you do preventative maintenance, shops make their money when vehicles break.  The more work required to fix the problem, the more money shops make.  That makes you seem like the bad guy – and because many customers don’t get around to coming in for vehicle maintenance, you have to deliver a lot of bad news.

Scheduled maintenance turns this relationship around.  When customers let you do scheduled maintenance, you make money by keeping their vehicle safe, extending its life and preventing expensive surprises.  You and the customer benefit from the same thing – a reliable vehicle.  That makes for happier customers and it makes your job more enjoyable, too.

3. Show Customers You Care About Your Relationship with Them

Another way to show customers you’re trying to build a relationship with them and not just upsell them is to offer perks and benefits for customers who bring their vehicle in for preventative maintenance checkups at regular intervals.  The benefits to offer depend on your shop’s size, location and equipment, but could include a free car wash or mini-detail with service, discounted labor, priority scheduling, or free or discounted towing if the car is disabled nearby.

It’s also a nice gesture to send regular customers a hand-written note one to two times a year thanking them for their business.  It’s a gesture that they’re not likely to get from the big franchise down the street, and a reminder that their business really does matter to your shop.

To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help you bring more cars into your shop, call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.


Friday, February 26, 2021

A recent study of consumer perception of online reviews shows that reviews continue to grow in importance when it comes to how consumers make decisions. Consider these key points from the survey of more than 1,000 people:

  • 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses
  • Automotive was the #4 industry for which consumers are most likely to read reviews
  • Star rating was the #1 most important review factor
  • Only 48% of consumers would consider using a business with fewer than 4 stars
  • 73% of consumers only pay attention to reviews written in the last month

Those numbers reinforce the importance of review quality, frequency and recency. If you want to bring more business to your shop, here are three things you can do to keep your online reviews working for you in 2021.

Ask for Reviews

This may seem obvious but we still hear from many shop owners who are hesitant to ask their customers for reviews. Asking customers for reviews is the single most important thing you can do if you want to improve your online ratings. Years ago, customers may have viewed this as an unusual or awkward request, but it’s much more common now.  Most consumers have been asked to leave an online review for a product or service by at least one business and probably many more than that at this point.

Happy customers are also far more likely to leave an online review if they’re asked to do it. Asking for reviews from customers who you believe are happy with your service is one big way to have some influence on who leaves online reviews for your shop.

Otherwise, people are more likely to leave a review when their experience is terrible than they are to leave a review when their experience is great. That’s how a good shop gets a bad reputation.

Ask for Details

A key point to consider is that when potential customers look at reviews they like to see themselves in the review. That means they like to see reviews for the service they need and for the experience they expect to have. 

When you ask customers for a review, encourage them to include specific details in the review.  Who did they work with?  What did they have done to their vehicle?  They don’t need to write a book, but people like to see enough details in a review to imagine that they will have the same experience as that person who left the great review. This is a significant factor in leveraging your reviews to get more business.

There’s another benefit to this: Google likes details too, and if customers mention locations or services in their reviews, your business is more likely to show up when people search for those terms.

Respond Well to Criticism

A study from four years ago showed that people believed five stars was too good to be true. Customers were more likely to buy a product or service with 4.7 stars than with 5 stars.

So don’t panic about a four-star review – or even a one-star review. In addition to making your reviews look more realistic, it’s also an opportunity to respond – and show potential customers how you treat unhappy customers.  For some customers, the way that you respond to an unhappy customer is more important than how many happy customers you have. No matter how frustrated you may be with a bad review, respond in a very professional matter. Remember, from a distance people can’t tell who is right and who is wrong so getting into a war of words in a review leaves you with very little to gain and a lot to lose.

To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help your auto repair shop get more reviews, call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Some business owners really love running a business.  They love making customers happy and having a great place to work, but they also enjoy everything that comes with it – financial management, sales, competitive strategy, mentoring employees and putting out fires every day.

Other business owners started their business because they wanted to do things right and give their customers what they deserve.  They accepted the logistics and paperwork that comes along with the job, but they really took the plunge because they just couldn’t continue to work for someone else who treated their employees badly and told them to do things that weren’t in the customer’s best interest.

Owners in either of these categories can find marketing distasteful.  But if you’re in the second category, the odds are especially high that you don’t enjoy advertising.  Sure, you have a website. And you especially love seeing great reviews come in for your shop online.  But does the thought of putting together a marketing slick about how great you are and sending it to every mailbox in town make you a little nauseous?

There’s a Reason Marketing Gets a Bad Rap

If it does make you nauseous, you aren’t alone.  There are plenty of people who associate marketing with vanity and hype.  In a study commissioned by the advertising industry’s own trade association in 2015, 4% of people believed that marketers behaved with integrity.  Whoever those 4% were, if they’re still around after this past year’s onslaught of political ads, they’ve probably changed their minds.

One reason people hate marketing is that many companies don’t use it to tell their customers who they are and what they represent.  Instead, they use it to convince customers that they’re something that they really aren’t.  These companies don’t use marketing to emphasize facts – they use it to sell lies.

USA Today compiled a list of the worst product claims of all time.  Did you know that 5 Hour Energy is recommended by doctors?  It isn’t – but they didn’t let that stop them from saying it was.  A TV ad showed a Nissan Frontier pushing a dune buggy up a sand dune, which it can’t even do.  The Cheerios box used to say they lowered cholesterol, which they don’t. Now the box says they “can help” lower cholesterol.  And the list is full of cigarette and weight loss product claims that were all bogus.

It only got worse when things moved online.  Now, advertising doesn’t just lie to you, it tracks your every move to figure out which lies you’ll believe.  Companies can (and do) show you completely different ads based on your demographics, beliefs or location.

Take It Back to Basics

Consumers have been sick of false claims for some time now. And marketing has already started to change as a result.  But it’s not going to disappear.

Sure, if your company gets as much press as Tesla, you can fire your entire PR department and still be the richest man in the world.  But small businesses still need to get the message out about who they are and what they do.

That’s what marketing should be – telling customers who you are and what you do.  Not trying to tell every possible customer what they want to hear.  Not trying to be everything to everybody.  Marketing should be about making a few big commitments that you intend to keep.

So if your repair shop could handle more business, don’t let your stomach turn over the thought of marketing.  Effective marketing doesn’t require anything that shouldn’t make you proud of why you started your business in the first place.  Tell customers about your shop.  Tell them about the type of people you hire.  Tell them about the types of problems you fix.

And then make one to three commitments that you intend to keep.  Most importantly, whatever it is that you come in to work every day and try to do better than any other shop in town, tell people about that.  It could be personalized service, or fixing the problem the first time, or never making a recommendation you wouldn’t follow yourself.  Tell them what you want to be held accountable for.

Since your principles aren’t likely to change, you won’t have to come up with a new marketing message every quarter.  Since your customers will see the same message over and over again, they should have a pretty good idea of what to expect when they visit your shop.  And if you and your staff stay focused on those few commitments, you’re probably going to do a good job of delivering them.

When you deliver on your commitments, you’re going to get referrals and great reviews.  And when you read reviews that state “They do exactly what they say they’re going to do,” you’ll know that your marketing worked.

Marketing like this is marketing to be proud of.  Making commitments and following through on them is a key element of integrity. And when potential customers see or hear the word integrity truthfully attached to your shop’s name, you’ll have a major advantage on all the other businesses making false claims.

To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help your auto repair shop get its message out with integrity, call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.

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