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Repair Shop Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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