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Repair Shop Advice


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

As we get ready to crossover into the fourth quarter, we turn to a time when many organizations start their annual planning process. There are lots of different ways to do this and it’s truly up to you to determine what process will work best for your auto repair shop. You don’t have to do it at this time of year either. What is important though is that you take the time to do it at least annually.

If you are a small business owner who is working in the business consistently it can be really difficult to rise up 15,000 feet and look at the business from that viewpoint. You are free to decide that you want to move forward with the same mix of services, products, vendors, etc. But that should be a conscious decision and not a default decision to just rinse and repeat because you didn’t make the time to plan or strategize.

How do you do it well and what should be considered? Here’s a list of steps and some of the things you want to pay attention to, the full list will depend on what type of shop you are now and what you aspire to be.

Calendar - October 2022

Schedule Time

This sounds obvious, but if you don’t do it, it’s not likely to happen. Choose a day or two on the calendar and block off the time specifically for strategic planning. Be sure that whoever you want to participate in the discussions can be available as well. Give yourself time to get input from customers and/or other team members, if you want their feedback. You may not want it and that’s okay. Just be sure that you and anybody else that will be involved has time to get any numbers and data, as well as to conduct necessary conversations, before the meeting.

Beige Business SWOT Analysis Graph

Choose a Process or Format

A simple SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis can be a great way to start your planning process. Just be sure your strengths and weaknesses are internally focused and that your opportunities and threats are externally focused. After you conduct your SWOT you can use that information to create your plan for next year.

The Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) is also a great tool. You can get the benefits of it without having to fully embrace every aspect of it. You can establish a 10-year target, 3-year picture and then 1-year plan. Or if you feel like 10 years is too far out, you can just cut that and build a 3-year picture and 1-year plan.

If you have time you can combine a SWOT with EOS tools to develop a very comprehensive plan. There are several others out there that may work best for you and your shop. The key thing is just that, find one that will work best for you.

Goal Board

Determine What You Will Focus On

You could spend a bunch of time on too many things and really not make any progress. You want to look at as much as you can that you will be able to act on. Some significant pieces to consider:

Goals – You should consider long-term and short-term goals. This is how you measure success. Where do you want the shop to be in 10 years, 5 years, 1 year? Even if you don’t want to utilize the EOS tools, you should establish these goals to help inform your choices on everything else.

Services – Should you continue to offer all the services you do now? Are there services that you should add to more broadly serve the market? Are there services that you should cut because the demand is not really there or you can’t provide them in a profitable way?

Products – Depending on what type of shop you run this may or may not apply to you. Of the “products” that you sell, which ones are most profitable and which ones provide you with very little benefit? Is there something else you could add to the mix that would be more profitable or open up the opportunity for profitable jobs?

Vendors – That’s a natural lead in to vendors. Who is giving you great service? Who isn’t? Do you have alternatives that would cost less or serve you much better?

Pricing – With inflation the way it is most auto repair shops have increased their prices. You should be looking at annual increases at least. What service prices do you need to increase because of your costs? What service prices should you increase because of the value it provides to customers? Especially now, you need to give your pricing a thorough look.

Efficiency/Workflow – Are things moving as efficiently as possible at your shop? Are you down a couple people and now your processes don’t work the way they used to? Is this hurting your profit margins or the customer experience? Is it negatively affecting employees? Determine what adjustments need to be made.

Marketing – Are the things you are currently doing to bring new customers into the door working? Do you need to increase your efforts? Change them up to attract a different type of customer? Are your efforts to bring customers back working? Are you planning to increase your capacity or do you want significant growth?

Customer Service – Without customers you have no business. How has customer feedback been recently? How have your reviews been looking? Are you serving customers well and making them a priority? Or are they being made to feel like they are a complication in the life of the shop?

These are just some of the areas you can examine. You should choose the ones that stand to have the biggest impact on your shop. Depending on the availability of resources at your shop you might pick five to 20 initiatives to accomplish over the next year.

The suggestions here should at least help you get a good start on your planning process. Your annual planning should go hand in hand with your budget planning. Many of the initiatives you choose will have dollar figures attached.

If you have questions, would like additional information on annual planning or are interested in how we can help you attract new customers, please call us at 866-665-1605 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.


Thursday, September 8, 2022

Have you heard a story about a large company suffering a cyber attack and thought to yourself, “I’m glad that we are too small to worry about that”? Well, I’m sorry to tell you that you absolutely do need to worry about cyber attacks on your auto repair shop.

Now that cyber attackers have gotten what they could from large companies they are targeting smaller businesses. They can much more easily get what they want from hitting 100 small companies with no security measures in place than they can from trying to hit a larger company with more mature security practices.

What does this mean for your auto repair shop? You are much more likely to get targeted. The good news is that by implementing basic security policies and by practicing caution you can greatly reduce the chances that any attack will be effective.

Avoid these slip-ups to protect your business and your finances:

bad password

1. Using weak passwords

Don’t use passwords that you use elsewhere. Use one password one time. Don’t pick a password that someone might guess. Create passwords that include capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. If you violate these recommendations with any of your current passwords, please change them now, or at least tonight.

2. Storing passwords where they can be found

Be extremely careful about storing your passwords in your web browser or your personal device. If you do that, be sure that you lock your device (computers and phones) when you are not actively using it. Do not write passwords down and leave them in plain view.

A much better plan is to use a password manager. Bitwarden, LastPass, Dashlane and Keeper all offer free versions that are recommended. The paid versions include features that are even more important for business owners.

3. Posting answers to those “15 Things You Should Know About Me” threads on Facebook

Cyber attackers absolutely use those types of posts to get information about you that they can then use to try to figure out your passwords. Think about it, what types of things does your bank ask you to be sure it’s you…first pet name, mother’s maiden name, street you grew up on…

4. Leaving your computer unlocked when you step away from it

You may not realize it, but it would be pretty easy for somebody to pull all of the data they need to ruin your business off your shop’s main computer while you stepped away to check on a car or go to the bathroom. With all the people that come in and out of your shop during a regular day it wouldn’t be that hard for somebody who was neither a customer nor a vendor to wait for a time when your shop was busy, walk into it when you are distracted, and walk out of it with access to all of your accounts. Lock your computer every time you step away from it.

5. Clicking on links in suspicious emails

If you get an email that seems suspicious, don’t click on any links in it. If it seems to be from somebody you know or somebody that appears to be a potential customer, call them to verify. Think before you click!

6. Opening attachments in suspicious emails

Tell me if you’ve heard this before… if you get an email that seems suspicious, don’t click on any attachments. Many file types can hold malware, including PDFs and Microsoft Office documents.

7. Fulfilling requests from suspicious emails

We can all now laugh about the emails that we used to get from the Prince of Nigeria who needed our bank account info so he could wire us a million dollars. But there are similar modern schemes that are going around that are much trickier. If you know the sender, call them to verify the request. If you don’t know the sender, you should probably just delete the email. If something seems too good to be true it almost definitely is.

8. Throwing away documents that may have important information on them

You may take for granted that when you put paper in the garbage it ends up in a dumpster or recycling bin. But how often are you throwing paper in the trash that may have sensitive information on it, like that password you didn’t want to forget or a customer’s credit card number? All such paper should be shredded. In fact, it may be the best policy to shred all paper waste.

9. Not educating your team about these important security measures

While it’s very important for you to know these things as the business owner, your cyber security is only as strong as your weakest link. Be sure to share all these things with your employees. Make sure they understand the key points and how important they are. Tell them that if they see something they think might be suspicious they need to report it as soon as possible.

Treat all nine of these things as if your business depends on them…because it does.


Monday, August 15, 2022

In ideal circumstances, you will not find yourself in the position of needing to bring in more business to your auto repair shop quickly. But right now we are in unprecedented times as far as all the things that are happening in the American economy.

So whether you are in need now, or want to put a plan in place in case you need to bring in new business during a slowdown or dry spell, the following eight ideas can help. The ideas are mostly low cost, with the cost really going into the time for somebody to execute on them.

If you’ve got plenty of cash to spend to increase your car count, then you may also want to consider Google Ads. But I’m going to assume that if you are reading this article you probably don’t have a trunk of cash in the back room that you can put into additional marketing.

Here are eight ideas to help you get more business into your auto repair shop quickly without spending a lot of money, listed in order from what would likely produce the quickest results to those that we’d expect to take longer:

Call on customers, especially those who opted to not get work done that you recommended and those that should be due for maintenance services

Let’s get some appointments on the schedule! It’s always easier and less expensive to bring current customers back than to obtain a new customer. Leverage your shop management system to see who should be due for maintenance and who put off recommended work until their next appointment.

Call those customers and ask them if now is a good time for them to come into the shop for their next maintenance service or for the repair or service that they put off. If they scheduled an appointment previously that is still a month or so out, still call them and ask if it would be more convenient if they came this week or next week. People’s schedules change all the time and you may be able to give them a better alternative sooner.

Oil Change Special example

Post a special offer on social media

Utilize Facebook, Instagram and your Google Business Profile to post a special offer. And by special, I don’t mean deep discount, but a good offer that will attract customers. Again, make it expire in a couple weeks.

Don’t post a link to your website with the offer on Facebook though. If you do, it won’t show up your followers’ news feeds. Ask them to call you or Facebook Message you to set up an appointment.

Participate in a local event

Often times the cost to have a small table or some other role in connecting with the community at a local event is really low. This gives you an opportunity to talk to potential customers and share information about your shop. More than anything though, remember that people want to take their vehicles to somebody they trust. Build credibility and trust by building genuine connections. If you want to get people into your shop quickly, provide an offer that expires within a couple weeks.

Nextdoor feed

Ask a loyal, happy customer to recommend you on Nextdoor

Nextdoor is the online platform that many people get their hyper local news and recommendations from – everything from local road closures to home service businesses to new restaurants to auto repair shops. If there is a Nextdoor neighborhood forum in your area, ask a happy customer if they’d be willing to post a recommendation for you on there. It’s frowned on for businesses to make their own post to promote themselves but encouraged for individuals to post about a great experience they had at a business.

Give customers who come into the shop a flyer or card to hand to a referral with a special deal

This is a great way to keep your excellent service top of mind and to give a customer a chance to help out a family member, friend or neighbor. People like to make recommendations to others and if they can provide an incentive, then they are even more likely to talk about that auto repair shop that always takes good care of them. The deal you offer doesn’t even have to be huge savings for them, as long as you make a big deal out of it. And make sure you knock it out of the park when the referral comes in.

Partner with a complimentary business in town (or multiples)

An obvious one would be a car wash and detail facility. We also have customers who are strictly service that will work with strictly tire shops. By working together they can keep all the customer’s business within their two facilities. Roadside assistance or towing companies could also be a good partner. There are many other businesses that could work beyond this. The more you get involved with your community the more likely you are to find partners.

Join a local business/referral group

There are several different types of groups that may be operating in your area. Or perhaps there is an organically grown group. Join the group. Try to help out as many of the members as you can by providing leads to them. As soon as the group sees you are helping others, they’ll quickly do their best to feed you business too.

Partner with large businesses in the area to see if you can offer your services to their employees

Depending on the area you serve this may or may not apply to your shop. But if you have a few large businesses around you it wouldn’t hurt to ask them if they’d be willing to allow you to offer your services to their employees as a perk with free pick up and delivery of their vehicle. For most people there is nothing more important than time these days. Providing this service while they are working with minimal disruption to them is a great time saver.

The key to getting customers in the door quickly is to diversify the ways that you are trying to connect with the vehicle owners in your community. There are likely to be additional high touch, low cost opportunities beyond the eight mentioned here. It’s also important to provide an offer with a call to action and an expiration date.

To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help your business perform well in challenging times, call us at 866-665-1605 or schedule a meeting with us at a time that’s convenient for you.


Tuesday, August 2, 2022

For most industries, a recession is bad news.  During a recession, people make less and spend less.  That means fewer jobs and lower pay, which helps to feed a negative cycle.  While there are very few industries that are recession-proof, there are some that are recession-resistant.


Is auto repair one of those industries?

The answer is yes – but that doesn’t mean that the industry isn’t affected.  For every person who holds on to their vehicle longer (providing more revenue to the shops who maintain them) there’s another person who puts off a needed repair because they can’t afford it. 

Because even the economic experts can’t truly predict what’s going to happen under the current circumstances, we also can’t be sure how a pending recession will actually affect us. And it’s quite possible that the regional or local impacts could be much bigger than the overall national impact.

In short, auto repair shops that survive best during the recession are those that understand how the customers and community are being affected, and adjust their services to help them meet their current challenges.  This isn’t a wordy way of saying that you should lower your prices – if that’s necessary, it’s still only one component of an effective response.

Here are three things that happen during a recession, and what you can do to help address them.

  • Consumers are less able to handle large purchases. When recessions hit, many consumers are forced to dip into savings to handle large expenses – if they have any savings at all.  This is due to job losses and a reduction in hours worked for hourly workers.  Consumers are also less likely to have large lines of credit available, because credit standards tighten during recessions.  Selling maintenance plans and emphasizing warranties will help consumers have confidence that they’ll avoid an expense they can’t afford, and end up without a means of transportation.

  • People hold on to cars longer. People don’t want to make large purchases during a recession, so they hold on to cars instead of trading them in.  Remember “cash for clunkers”?  It was a vehicle trade-in program funded by the government during the late 2000s recession. The program was intended to boost the economy by encouraging people to trade in their old vehicles, in part because dealers were badly hurting for sales.

    People holding on to older vehicles is great news for independent shops, because those older vehicles will need maintenance to stay on the road.  To really benefit from this, however, you’ll need to put time into customer education.  Customers must believe that the trade-off between short-term maintenance and long-term reliability is real, or they may elect to delay maintenance, too.

    If there’s wear on a part, make sure to show the customer what a worn part looks like and what a new part looks like.  Provide customers with an honest explanation of what might reasonably happen if they don’t take a preventative step, and leave the choice to them – once they understand the consequences, they might reconsider their decision to wait.

  • Consumers start to cut costs. It’s often during recessions that new business models overtake old ones.  Some shops may be tempted to start a race to the bottom by cutting their prices to try to get customers in the door.  While customers might not appreciate the cut-rate quality of the parts and service they’d get for the cheaper price, a product like this is primed to take off during a recession, where people are looking for easy ways to cut costs.

    As your customers go down their bank statement looking for monthly transactions to cut, will your shop stand out as a cost-cutting opportunity?  That may depend on whether they view the service your shop provides as a cost or an investment.

    Do your customers understand and appreciate all the value they get from having a home for their car that’s staffed by technicians they trust?  Every time you present customers with information about their car that will help them make good decisions in the future, you’re reminding them of what they’re going to lose if they move to the cheapest alternative in town. 

    Take advantage of the opportunities you get to influence and connect with customers, because you’re not likely to be a part of the conversation when they decide whether price-shopping for cheaper shops is worth it when they’re in a financial pinch!

To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help your business perform well in challenging times, call us at 866-665-1605 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.


Thursday, July 28, 2022

If your efforts to leverage Facebook to connect with potential customers and grow the awareness of your auto repair shop have fallen flat, read on for tips on how to nurse it back to health and help it thrive.

Unfortunately, many repair shops have heard the message that Facebook is critical for their business…without understanding how to successfully utilize it. If you are approaching Facebook with a “sell, sell, sell” philosophy then you’ve likely done more harm than good and you’d be better off buying Facebook ads. Followers who see that approach will either turn you off or ignore you.

You have to earn the right to get your followers’ attention. We recommend that you use the 80/20 rule, which we outlined in our post from two years ago – 4 Great Facebook Posts for Auto Repair Shops. If you haven’t read that, I encourage you to.

The way to earn your followers’ attention is to Educate, Engage and Entertain!

Educate

Help people understand as much about their vehicle as possible. Teach them how to take care of their car or truck, and how to prolong its life. Help them understand how the way they drive affects their vehicle.

A lot of these things may seem very basic to you as an expert, but the average car owner doesn’t live in your world. Also, don’t be afraid that you are giving away too much information that would allow a DIYer to make repairs or conduct maintenance on their own. The right audience will greatly appreciate your efforts to help them understand their vehicle, will see you as the expert and will reach out to you any time they need service.

Here are a handful of categories of potential educational Facebook posts:

  • How do the different parts of a vehicle work and/or what’s their purpose?
  • What do certain sounds mean from their vehicle?
  • How to prepare for and deal with emergencies
  • What is truly an emergency
  • How to clean specific parts of their vehicle
  • Safe driving tips

Engage

To truly connect with your followers and help them remember your shop, you want to get them involved. You want to try to get them to respond to your post, whether that be likes, or better yet, actual typed responses. Ask them about things they will care about. They don’t have to be things that are automotive-related. Try to make it personal.

Our post from two years ago – 11 Ways to Boost Your Auto Repair Shop’s Facebook Engagement – includes some great ideas for specific posts, and here are some additional ideas:

  • First car
  • Favorite car
  • Favorite road trip
  • Tie-ins to local events
  • Tie-ins to current events

Entertain

If all you do is focus on Educating and Engaging, that is absolutely fine. You will still be using Facebook better than 90% of all the auto repair shops out there. BUT, if you are willing to take the plunge and make the effort to entertain your followers, you can drive the connection to a whole new level.

Right now, entertaining videos are all the rage and the quickest way to go viral. Think of the popularity of TikTok. You don’t have to try to be the next TikTok superstar, but if you can easily shoot some videos with some comedy on your phone, you could make your shop more memorable in your potential customers’ minds. And you can also boost your chances of them sharing those videos with their friends, further expanding your memorability.

Again, this is optional, but great if you are willing to do it.

Earn the opportunity to promote

These three e’s lead us to a bonus e, which is Earning the opportunity to promote. If you use the vast majority of your Facebook posts to Educate, Engage and Entertain your followers, you will Earn the opportunity to promote your business. That enables you to post your promotions and your calls-to-action if somebody needs maintenance or repair, without them getting the impression that all you do is sell, sell, sell.

Facebook is a place people go to connect with friends, family and community. By seeking to connect with them first in that way, you will be able to multiply the value of your efforts on the platform.

If you’d like to learn more about how we help our customers Educate and Engage their audience, call us at 855-294-6397 or schedule a meeting with us at a time that’s convenient for you!

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