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Repair Shop Advice

Friday, May 18, 2018

The following article is a guest post from Bob Cooper of Elite.  It originally appeared in Elite’s Auto Shop Idea Center.

One of the single greatest challenges shop owners face today is finding and hiring the superstars. Regardless of whether you are looking to hire technicians or service advisors, here are some tips that will help you hire the stars.

  1. Accept the fact that with rare exception, the stars you are looking for are already working, and are reasonably satisfied. This doesn’t mean that they won’t be open to a conversation with you, because many of them will be. It’s your responsibility to identify those stars, and then reach out to them. Even if there is little or no interest on their part after speaking with you, you still win, because you have started a relationship. Not only may the time come when they reach back out to you, but I have learned over the years that the stars know the stars, so they may be able to provide you with the names of some other good candidates who would be interested in your offer.
  1. You should never offer someone a job, but should instead offer them an opportunity to join a company like yours. Beyond just a competitive wage, you will need to provide a compensation and incentive package that includes paid vacations and holidays, paid sick days, uniforms and ongoing training. In addition, you will need to provide the opportunity for growth and income advancement, security, rewards for tenure (such as retirement programs), and of course, leadership. Bear in mind that anyone can offer them a wage; what you need to offer is a package that shows that you really do care about the people who work with you. The rule that I have lived by for decades is that if you put out peanuts, you’ll get monkeys. The stars produce profits, whereas the monkeys produce debt.
  1. Whenever there is a shortage of skilled labor, you not only have to make the candidates an attractive offer, but you need to remove as many barriers as possible. Change is scary for most, especially if they have been with the same shop for years, so you need to be well aware of their fears. No matter how good a tech or an advisor is, one of the greatest concerns they’ll have is that you’ll be unable to deliver. A method I’ve used over the years is providing a really attractive guarantee for a number of months. Most shop owners are hesitant to do so because they fear that if the employee doesn’t produce, it will cost them a fortune. What they don’t realize is that if they do a better job of qualifying the candidates, and if they accept the fact that they can always terminate an underperformer, their concerns should diminish dramatically. As business owners, we need to both set our fears aside and reduce the fears of the candidates. At Elite we are open and upfront with all candidates by telling them that on a predetermined date the hefty guarantee will be reduced to $XXX, and that we have every expectation that by the predetermined date they will be earning well more than the guarantee.
  1. We should never forget the rule that says, “When we hire Larry, we get Mary.” Simply put, if the candidate has a significant other in their life, with rare exception, they will be involved in the decision making process. This is why we strongly encourage you (whenever possible) to meet with the significant other as well as with the candidate. If Mary is sold on you and your company, then there is a really good chance that she will sell Larry on joining your team.
  1. Last but not least, you should let the candidates know about the culture of your company. The stars you are looking for may have well-paying jobs, but there is a good probability there is a vacuum when it comes to the culture of the company they are working for. If you let them know that you are committed to ethics, and that you and your entire team live by a principle that you will never put money ahead of people, you will discover you are able to hire the superstar you’ve been looking for.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite (, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can contact Bob at, or at 800-204-3548.

Friday, May 11, 2018

It’s hard to set a quarter on fire.  But it’s not hard to set a quarter of your revenue on fire!  In fact – auto repair shops do it all the time.  According to an American Express survey conducted several years ago, each year 55% of people intend to make a purchase but then decide not to do it based on bad customer service.

How confident are you that poor customer service in your shop isn’t preventing your customers from coming back?  Maybe one of your techs was pleasant, but distracted.  Your service adviser may have put a customer on hold for too long, or not given a thorough answer when asked.  None of these are cardinal sins of customer service such as being rude or hanging up on customers. But they could be enough to scare a customer off from an oil change – or a transmission overhaul.

We’ve talked about the importance of phone skills before, and even provided some of the most important ones in an infographic.  But if you’re not making all of the calls yourself, there’s no way to know whether attention, focus and helpfulness are consistently shown over the phone except by listening to the calls yourself.  This is especially true if the person answering the phone is also responsible for customer service inside of the shop – it’s difficult to do two things at once, but that doesn’t stop the most well-intentioned service adviser from trying.

Take an hour in your shop to listen to your employees answering the phone and communicating with customers.  You may be able to do this from your office – if not, Repair Shop Websites offers a call-tracking service that will record inbound calls from  your website.  Ask yourself “If I had called about something I didn’t understand and asked for help, would I trust this shop to take care of me?”  If not, it might be time for some customer service training!

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

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Some companies try to make websites sound confusing so you’ll buy whatever they want to sell you. Simply put, great websites bring in business.  Click here to learn how they accomplish that goal.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Have you ever heard of upcycling?  Upcycling is a combination of recycling and upgrading – taking old items and turning them into something even more valuable or interesting than the original item.  RebornUK takes non-running sports car engines and uses them to build glass tables, for instance, and this Polish company turns vehicles into couches.

Successful shops upcycle their customers!  They work hard to upcycle their oil change and brake replacement customers into long-term, lifelong customers.  Of course, you know this isn’t as easy as it sounds – most customers have no interest in becoming a reliable, long term shop customer.  The ones that do are very valuable, and every shop is looking for them.  How do you build a business around upcycling customers?

  1. Identify High-Value Customers

When new customers come in, one of the most important things to determine is whether they have the potential to become high-value, repeat-visit customers.  This isn’t because you preferentially treat them better, because even one-time oil change customers can damage your reputation if you treat them poorly.  You want to know if a first-time customer can become a high-value customer for your shop because you need to make sure you work hard to earn their trust during that first visit.

High-value customers prefer to keep their vehicle in good working condition.  They may not ask questions about what this entails, but they’re going to be interested in what you have to say about it.  They value their mechanic, so they’re going to want to know that you’re knowledgeable, easy to work with, and appreciate them and their business.  Finally, high-value customers are interested in what’s working now, but might need some attention in the future.  They have a desire for a relationship that’s more than transactional, so it’s important to provide that in order to satisfy them.

  1. Re-market to High-Value Customers

You also want to make sure to continue to market to them after they leave your shop.

It’s expensive to use marketing to bring a customer into your shop for the first time.  If you spend $500 on mailing out flyers, and it doesn’t result in a customer who comes back again and again, it’s very hard to make that money back.  The reason you spend on marketing is that you want to attract customers who you can bring back into your shop over and over again.

It’s much less expensive to bring a high-value customer into your shop a second time – because you can target previous customers without marketing to thousands of people who would never even consider visiting your shop.  If you believe a customer who has visited you recently is a high-value customer, it’s worth your time to give them a level of attention that sets your shop apart.

One way to do this is a personal thank-you call to follow-up and make sure they’re happy with their service.  A hand-addressed letter also grabs people’s attention – especially if you include a small service with no purchase required, such as a vacuum and wash.  The important thing here is to make them feel like you’re telling them that their business was appreciated, not that they’ve been added to a marketing list.

  1. Turn Your Fans Into Advocates

Customers who come to really trust your shop will turn into fans.  Some of them will go a step beyond this, and become advocates.

Big companies have a name for people who won’t stop talking about their products: brand advocates.  They’re different from “fans”.  You probably have plenty of customers who are fans of their favorite car brand – but only a few of them are dedicated enough to walk in with that manufacturer’s logo on their T-shirt.

If a marketing activity yields a single customer who becomes an advocate, it was worth the money.  They provide word-of-mouth referrals everywhere they go.  They give you the online five star reviews that attract people they’ve never even met.  Advocates of your shop take pride in providing you free advertising.

Learn who your advocates are.  If someone leaves your shop an online review, see if you can figure out who it is.  When someone comes into your shop, ask where they found you.  And most importantly, make sure you never give these people or their referrals a reason to look elsewhere for their repairs.  They’ve staked their own reputations on recommending your shop, and they’ll continue to do so as long as it makes them look good!

To learn more about how Repair Shop Websites helps your shop attract high-value customers, call us at 866-665-1605 or email us at

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Vehicles are lasting longer than ever without requiring a major, unjustifiable repair, which is great news for independent repair shops.  It’s not great news for new vehicle dealers, which are having to work harder than ever to convince people to buy a new vehicle to keep their vehicle sales up.  Since they can’t rely on old vehicles falling apart as easily as they used to, they’re having to lure customers who have old (but functional) cars with new technology that improves the driving experience.

Here are two technologies which are picking up rapidly in the new vehicle market – and one that isn’t.

Phone-Focused Technology

The average smartphone user is on their phone for more than 4 hours a day – one out of every four minutes they’re awake. The problem is that driving a vehicle and operating a phone don’t go together well.  Anything that new vehicle manufacturers can do to provide safer functionality from a driver’s phone will not only make their experience better, it will also keep people on the road alive.

Many newer vehicles have Apple CarPlay and/or Android Auto, which makes it far easier to communicate with your phone using your vehicle.  You can use voice commands along with buttons on the steering wheel to get directions, make calls, listen to music stored on the phone or even send and receive messages.

With more and more phones supporting wireless charging, some of the newest vehicles have a location near the armrest where a phone can be laid to charge wirelessly.  Pairing a phone is also being made easier.  While most cars require any unrecognized phone to go through a pairing process, the 2018 Accord has a place on the dashboard where you can tap your phone against to pair it automatically.  Anything that makes it easier to use a smartphone’s services without having to touch the smartphone itself will be a selling point for new vehicles.

Assisted Driving

Arizona’s recent order allowing fully autonomous driving was quickly followed by one of Uber’s vehicles hitting and killing a pedestrian.  Uber’s rights to test in Arizona were suspended, but Google and others are still testing vehicles both in Arizona and in California, with Texas tests coming soon.  All of these companies are aiming for fully autonomous vehicles, but there’s plenty of debate about when they’ll get there.

That debate isn’t beside the point – but it’s close.  Vehicle manufacturers don’t have to wait for fully autonomous driving to implement the self-driving technology.  Since the advent of cruise control, cars have come a long way in driving themselves.  Even mid-range cars now have lane assist, which prevents vehicles from switching lanes into a vehicle.  Some vehicles will automatically break if the vehicle in front of them slams on breaks, avoiding a wreck before the driver has even had time to react.  The most recent news is that Cadillac’s 2018 CT6 will include Super Cruise, which advertises hands-free driving but requires you to keep your eyes on the road (and in-vehicle cameras will make sure you do).

All of these systems are appealing to customers who want to stay safer.  As they become more hands-off, they’ll become more appealing to customers who want to relax while they’re in the vehicle.  And all of these are very complex, high tech systems that rely on LIDAR hardware and processors from companies like NVIDIA who have their roots in computers and data centers.  Shops that want to serve customers with these vehicles in the coming years will need technicians with plenty of training in systems that aren’t even fully developed as of 2018.

Electric Vehicles

One area that’s received more press than it probably deserves is electric vehicles.  While they’re certainly becoming more prominent, they’re still a relative rarity, and they will continue to be for the next several years.  These vehicles aren’t projected to see an exponential uptick in sales until after 2025 – and even then, they’re most likely to be prominent in countries with very strict pollution rules due to smog, such as China and India.  They’ll likely continue to represent fewer than 10% of all vehicles sold through at least 2025, and possibly through the end of that decade.  Still, if you’re in an urban area and are able to position your shop as the independent shop of choice for this niche market in the next few years, your profit margins will probably thank you.

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

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