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Repair Shop Advice


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Big businesses use something called “bus factor” to make sure they aren’t set up for failure down the road.  The bus factor is a funny, yet morbid, way of referencing how prepared you are for employee emergencies.  The bus factor is defined as:

How many people would have to be hit by a bus before this project falls apart because there aren’t enough people who know how to run it?

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The good news is that none of your employees are likely to get hit by a bus.  But unfortunately, every day there are auto repair shops that unexpectedly have to deal with an employee who suddenly can’t come to work for months; some employees never make it back to work.  This often happens during bad circumstances, like a sudden illness or injury, or a death in the family.  Referencing an uncommon event such as being hit by a bus is a way to avoid having to discuss planning for unfortunate events that lead to team members being at the shop one day and suddenly gone the next.

Although many independent auto repair shops have a small, tight-knit team, that doesn’t make the bus factor any less important.  In fact, it makes it more important.  If you’ve had the same staff for years, the odds are high that everyone has been performing their own unique tasks for years.  That means there’s very little knowledge overlap on certain tasks – and if one person was suddenly not at your shop, there would be a steep learning curve to make up for that employee’s absence.

To avoid this fate, at least two people need to be cross-trained on any critical shop task or service.  The “back-up” should also have an opportunity to practice the task or service from time-to-time, to make sure they remember how to do it and that no major changes have arisen since they were last trained.

Documentation is also important.  People do forget processes that they don’t get to use regularly, and it’s a terrible time to realize you’ve forgotten a process after the primary task owner isn’t around to remind you.  Documentation is extremely important for tasks that have a single point of failure for security reasons, such as maintaining shop books or paying staff.  Without training or documentation, a shop can easily go bankrupt while family and staff scramble to learn how to accomplish the most basic elements of business management.

Cross-training also has the major side effect of lowering stress levels.  When employees do need to be out of the office unexpectedly, it’s often because of a stressful event that has happened in their lives.  Knowing that someone is able to take over their duties at work and execute them well allows the employee to focus on getting through whatever personal curveballs life may have thrown their way without feeling like anyone is being let down by their absence.

Would your shop survive the absence of any one employee?  If not, your shop and the families that depend on it would benefit from a plan to execute in the absence of any one of your key employees. That list should include you.

To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help your shop earn more business, call us at 866-665-1605 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

After ten years of economic growth, things may finally be starting to change.  Some economic indicators are trending negative, and a recent survey of CFOs across the US found that half of them expect to be in a recession within a year.

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.  For each dealership that closes, there’s another one that’s trying to boost service center revenue to offset reduced vehicle sales.  For every customer that leaves for a cheaper shop, there’s another who can’t afford the dealership or franchise upcharge and might make your shop their new home.

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 last 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.  There are certainly plenty of threats out there that could lead to high-value repair shops being bankrupted by cheap shops.  For instance, if a company like Amazon launched a price-based system where people could buy services like brake and tire replacements, it would quickly lead to a race-to-the-bottom mentality for shops racing to get that business.  While customers might not appreciate the cut-rate quality of the parts and service they’d get in normal times, 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 your shop as a cost or a

    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 fee-for-service alternative in town.  Take advantage of the opportunities you get, 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 boost your business, call us at 866-665-1605 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Nine out of ten people read online reviews, and only a quarter of them would do business with a company rated 1 or 2 stars. Click here for a process to boost the reputation of your auto repair shop with almost no added work on your part.

 


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Repair Shop Websites surveyed nearly 600 U.S. auto repair shop customers to determine what shops could be doing to increase their business and make customers happier. This infographic highlights some of the key findings of this research, which include:

  • Independent repair shop customers are happier
  • Convenience and service quality attract customers
  • Trustworthy technicians and service quality create customer loyalty
  • Customers really hate bad reviews
  • And they don’t mind leaving good ones when asked

Click or tap the image below to see the full infographic!

Auto Repair Shop Customer Survey


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The short answer is yes, but there’s more to it than just posting a quick response. 

We talked about this in some detail during episode five of our Busy Bays Podcast – “What are your Google Reviews doing for you?”.   It’s probably most helpful if we address this question by breaking reviews into three different groups – excellent reviews, bad reviews and false reviews.

The Garage Google review

Responding to excellent reviews

This is the easiest type of review to respond to and by going a step or two beyond just saying thanks, you can help your auto repair shop in a couple of different ways.  A good way to do this is to mention something personal about the customer who left the review and to reference the service that you provided for them. 

First and foremost, you should respond to thank them for taking the time to post a review for your shop.  We all lead busy lives these days, so it’s important to show appreciation to a customer who is willing to take the time to help your auto repair shop. 

Second, by including something personal about the customer, you are showing that you really care about them as a customer.  This helps keep the relationship with the customer strong and also shows potential customers who will be looking at the reviews how much you care about your customers.

Finally, including something about the service you provided will help your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  This will help you show up in the Local Pack (the list of 3-4 businesses that shows up just below the map in a results page from Google) when somebody searches for that service in your area and it will also help your website search better as long as it is linked to your Google My Business profile.

Responding to bad reviews

It can be very difficult to hold your tongue when somebody blasts you in a review, especially if you feel strongly that they are wrong.  But the important point to remember is that potential customers who read the review will have no way of knowing who is right and who is wrong.  If you respond in a non-professional way, you are demonstrating to potential customers that you are not professional.  As unfair as that may be, that’s the way it works.

Your best move is to respond very respectfully, with something along the lines of “we are sorry you feel that way about your visit to our shop.”  Mention something about how “we strive to provide the best service in town to all our customers.”  And follow that up with “I’d be happy to talk to you personally about your experience.”

In a case where you know that something went wrong with their service, it’s a good idea to be more apologetic.  Almost all customers are forgiving and know that nobody gets it right 100% of the time.  People reading the review and seeing your response will respect you more and be more likely to choose you if they see that type of response. 

Responding with “our goal is 100% customer satisfaction and unfortunately we missed the mark in this instance.  I’d really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you and discuss how we can make it right,” is a great way to demonstrate your care for your customers in the face of a mistake.

Responding to false reviews

Occasionally, we’ll see a review pop up for one of our customers that is either mistaken or blatantly false.  An example would be if somebody writes that they visited your auto repair shop on a Saturday but you are not open on Saturdays.

In these examples it is totally appropriate to point out that they must be mistaken.  Writing something like “we are sorry you had a bad experience, but you clearly didn’t go to our shop.  We haven’t been open on Saturday in 20 years,” is a good way to address it.  Asking them to remove the review because of the mistake is also totally appropriate.  Feel free to also encourage them to stop by your shop for a much different experience.

Like with almost anything, there are some nuances to how you will want to respond to any review.  But, if you use the recommendations above as a guide, and remember it will not be just the person who wrote the review that reads your response but many potential customers, you can further utilize reviews as a way to help you gain more customers.

You may also want to read: Should I Ask Customers to Post Reviews for My Auto Repair Shop?

If you’d like help getting more reviews and responding to them, please contact us at 866-665-1605 or Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.

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