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Repair Shop Advice

Sunday, October 14, 2018

In many parts of the country, winter is fast approaching.  While the coldest days in most states are December and January, November brings sub-freezing temperatures in dozens of US states.

Freezing weather isn’t great for vehicles, of course.  If they aren’t properly maintained, fluids can freeze, tires can go flat and batteries can go dead.  All of that salt on the road doesn’t help the condition of the vehicle’s body, either.  All of these problems are on top of the maintenance issues that vehicles can have during any time of the year.

When vehicles do face challenges during the winter, it’s far more dangerous for drivers.  If vehicles stall during a snowstorm, it can take far longer for roadside assistance to get to them.  The temperature will drop quickly once the engine is turned off, and visibility may be impaired due to snow.

As a shop manager, you already know all of these things, but your customers might not think about them.  Reminding them is not only an opportunity to increase your maintenance business, but also an opportunity to keep them safe.  After all, many of the things you’d likely recommend as a seasoned technician won’t lead to sales for your shop – such as keeping blankets, an emergency kit, and snacks and drinks in the vehicle.

There’s nothing wrong with offering a winterization coupon to attract maintenance customers.  But reaching out to your customers with information that’s mostly educational can also lead to sales. In addition, it will lead to your customers’ appreciation as you show that you care more about their well-being than you do about their money.  A reference to a vehicle winterization special in the article may be all it takes to generate some phone calls to your shop!

To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help bring more customers to your shop, call us at 866-665-1605 or email us at

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Why do people start businesses?  It seems like everyone has a different answer to the question.  Do most of them hate their bosses?  Do they want control of their own schedule?  Do they want to make more money?

One recent study makes an interesting point. Successful business owners need several traits that don’t show up on a resume – they need to be willing to do whatever task is required, for instance, and to keep focused and motivated even during tough times.

Employers, auto repair shops included, don’t have any way to see these traits on a resume. Even if they did, they don’t have an easy way to measure them.  Because of that, people with these traits may be underpaid and given jobs that don’t allow them to use these abilities.  When this happens, they quickly realize they could do better on their own.

If you think about it, this is the same challenge that great auto repair shops face when marketing and selling their services.

Anyone can brag about how great their technicians are, how they always meet their timelines, or how great their customer service is.  But if you don’t have a quick way to prove all of those things, customers will just use the one measuring stick they have for any shop – their price.

Fortunately, businesses have one option that job-seekers don’t – a web presence.  When you have an up-to-date, visually appealing website, customers can quickly gain a favorable impression of your shop.  Because dozens of customers can leave great reviews, you can get an idea of how happy a shop’s customers are, and how uncommon bad experiences are.  And because these things can be made available to anyone who’s looking for them, you don’t have to go find customers – they can find you.

That’s why a web presence is so important for any repair shop. With a powerful web presence, your customers can determine a fair price for your quality work.  Without one, they can only determine whether your price is the lowest one they can find.

To learn more about how Repair Shop Websites can help you build a great web presence, call us at 866-665-1605 or email us at

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

One of the definitions of traditional is habitually done.  Based on that, we may soon need to change the definition of traditional media.

Traditional media was once just print media, but has more recently been defined as newspapers, radio and television – all of the places that businesses used to advertise twenty years ago.  In the case of businesses, the yellow pages also fell into the traditional media advertising category – after all, those books are still printed on the same newsprint they used before the internet existed.

The problem is that every day, fewer and fewer people are engaging in traditional media.

In 1990, there were 62 million newspaper subscriptions in the United States – today, it’s 34 million.

In 2010, the average household watched 10 hours of TV.  That’s down to under 8 hours now.

AM/FM Radio listening has been flat for the past several years, but people born after 1995 are showing little interest in it, and advertising spending is declining because it’s difficult to target specific segments.

The yellow pages, meanwhile, has been rendered obsolete by the internet.  Some of these companies have gone bankrupt multiple times each in the past decade.

According to the results of Repair Shop Websites’ recent auto repair shop marketing study, repair shop owners have noticed, and they’re moving their money elsewhere.  When asked if shops were happy with the return on investment of traditional media activities (including TV, radio, newspapers, yellow pages, or billboards) only 26% responded favorably.  That’s not only because of the high numbers of dissatisfied users – it’s because 46% of shop owners said they used none of the traditional media for marketing!

Compare this to online search, where only 6% report not using it for marketing purposes.  The reality is that nearly every business is listed online now – even those without a website – and that they receive at least some business from the internet.  In fact, 48% of all surveyed shops found online search to be the most effective source of leads.  Traditional media, meanwhile, was rated the best ROI marketing activity by only 10% of shops.

In short, online advertising is fast becoming the traditional form of shop advertising.  Traditional media, meanwhile, is fast approaching an unwelcome designation – old media.

To learn how Repair Shop Websites can bring you a great return on your investment, call us at 866-665-1605 or email us at

Monday, September 24, 2018

Running a repair shop is time consuming.  After dealing with repairs, parts orders, customer questions, marketing, employee issues, and bills, there’s sometimes not enough time or mental energy left to dedicate to high-level business management.  But if you can’t regularly find the time to work on your business, you might not be working in your business for long, either.

This is why it’s important to have a few quick metrics that can help you quickly figure out what parts of your business need the most attention.  If you track these metrics monthly, you’ll be able to see if specific parts of your business are calling out for help.

Quick Ratio

The Quick Ratio measures how well you can cover your liabilities.  First, add up the assets that you could turn into cash within a month or so if you needed to do so – cash, investments, unpaid customer bills.  Now divide this amount by the total cost of all bills you have due within the year.

Any number over one means you can cover a years’ worth of bills.  As this number sinks further towards zero, it means that an unexpected expense could leave your business in dangerous territory.  Whatever your quick ratio is, tracking it monthly ensures that your business doesn’t slowly creep towards insolvency without you noticing.

New Customers to Total Customers

As we’ve discussed many times on this blog, returning customers are generally better customers – they’re less likely to be coupon-clippers, more likely to trust your recommendations and more likely to refer you to other customers.  A repair shop that can convert a high number of their first-time customers into returning customers will likely generate a healthy profit over time.

For well-established shops, however, it can become easy to coast.  If nearly all of your customers are returning customers, you might not be marketing enough to continue to grow – or even to maintain the same revenue level.  You want to make sure that at least some of the customers you see each month are new customers, so you can offset the existing customers that stop visiting your shop for one reason or another.

That’s why it’s a good idea to know what percentage of your customers are new customers.  There’s no magic ratio – that depends on your shop age, growth goals and types of service you provide.  But if it’s trending in either direction unexpectedly, it’s time to stop and consider whether you’re satisfied with that transition or you need to take some corrective action.

Hours Billed to Hours Paid

No shop is perfectly scheduled.  And even if it was, no technician can work jobs 100% of the time – workstations need to be cleaned up, information needs to move from your service writer to your technicians, and sometimes you just need a cup of coffee to crank out another hour of work.

One thing is certain, though – if you’re paying your technicians for multiple hours per day that they’re not working on a billable project, then you’re going to lose money.  That’s why it’s important to measure what percentage of each of your employees’ work hours are billable.

If that number is much below 80%, it’s probably worth your attention.  There are plenty of causes.  You might not have enough customers to keep your technicians busy.  You might have plenty of customers, but schedule them badly.  Your technicians also might not be thinking about this number – and if you start paying attention to it, it’s like they will too.

If you can get this number in the 80 to 90 percent range without compromising a positive shop culture, your shop will increase its profit in a major way.  Other than the marketing expense to attract a few new customers (if that’s even necessary), this extra efficiency is pure profit.

To learn how Repair Shop Websites helps its customers succeed, call us at 866.665.1605 or email us at

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

In our recent survey of independent auto shops, we asked what the most cost-effective tools were to bring existing customers into a shop.  The most popular tool wasn’t online search or social media (although they did place second and third, respectively).  It was customer loyalty or referral programs.  If your shop doesn’t have a formal program to reward your most loyal customers, you may be missing a great opportunity for sales growth.  Here are three reasons why.

  1. You don’t pay for them until the customer buys from you

Most marketing requires money upfront.  Whether it’s buying AdWords, paying for website services or sending postcards all over the city, you’re paying for “eyeballs” (customer attention) rather than sales.  Some providers and some services do a better job of converting that attention into visits to your shop.

With a loyalty program, however, you don’t have to provide a discount until they’re loyal – meaning they’ve visited you again.  This is a major advantage – since you don’t have to pay to advertise to a large number of people who will never visit your shop, you can afford to give a better loyalty bonus away, which inspires more loyalty.

Similarly, customers don’t receive referral bonuses unless they’ve visited your shop and they refer someone else who also needs work done.  The cost of customer acquisition, therefore, is only what you give away as a referral or loyalty bonus.

  1. They are more likely to be your best customers

Customers that are only interested in the best deal aren’t likely to visit your shop again unless you really do have the best deal in town.  That means that the customers most likely to appreciate a loyalty bonus or referral bonus are customers who are visiting you again for your service or their belief that you do high-quality work – exactly the kind of customer most shops prefer.

By providing these customers with a ‘thank you’ for their loyalty, you’ll inspire even greater loyalty.  On the other hand, continually sending out postcard coupons will attract the worst kind of customer – those who will visit whoever gives them the best deal.

  1. Loyal customers provide referrals and reviews

Because these customers are your best customers, and because you’re acknowledging their loyalty with a special benefit, they’re the ones that are most likely to leave positive reviews and refer friends and family to your shop.  And because their referrals are likely to be people who think similarly to them, their referrals will likely be valuable customers as well.  This is how a referral program not only increases sales, but increases the average repair order value for your shop.

One other note – a loyalty or referral program doesn’t have to provide a cash incentive.  There are plenty of ways you can thank great customers – whether its tickets to a local theater, free ice cream cones from a locally owned dessert shop, or even a mini-detail, unexpected gifts inspire more loyalty than discounts.

To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help your business get new customers to your shop, call us at 919-779-0954 or email us at

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