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Repair Shop Advice

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

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

As is true with the top techs, the top service advisors in America need a number of tools in order to succeed. Here’s a list of important tools you can provide to your advisors that will help them maximize sales, customer satisfaction and your shop’s profits.

  1. Clearly defined sales goals and car count goals that are broken down into daily goals. Not only will having such goals in place help your advisors stay focused, but they will encourage your advisors to further develop their skills. If you don’t have daily goals in place, how will you and your service advisors know if they were successful that day? Remember, the fact that they were busy doesn’t mean that they were successful. By having daily goals in place, not only will they feel good on the days when they reach the goals, but you will have ample opportunities to congratulate them on their success.
  2. Clearly defined systems and policies. As the shop owner, you need to ensure that every vehicle is properly inspected, and that all discoveries are documented, then provided to the advisor. These policies need to be strictly enforced to ensure ongoing compliance.
  3. The ability to make decisions. The top advisors in America are empowered by their shop owners to make many decisions on behalf of the company.  Not only does this prevent you as the owner from being drawn into every customer concern, but it shows your advisors that you trust their judgement.
  4. A budget for price adjustments. We all know that there are times when your advisors need to provide your customers with legitimate discounts, a rental car, etc., so what the top shop owners do is set a monthly budget of X dollars for each advisor, and they’ll tell their advisors that the money is there to be used in any way they would like to ensure customer satisfaction. Whatever is remaining in each advisor’s budget at the end of the month is then split with the advisor. With this approach it’s your advisors’ money to lose, so they’ll think twice before giving unwarranted discounts, refunds, etc.
  5. A pay plan that rewards productivity. Regardless of how their pay plan is designed, your advisors need to be rewarded for three things: The sales they are able to generate, the gross profit margins they are able to maintain, and happy customers. Remember, any behavior that isn’t rewarded will cease to exist.
  6. Ongoing training. The top shop owners in America realize that an advisor’s job is not an easy one, and that advisors need to keep their skills razor-sharp. This is why they not only enroll their advisors in sales courses at least once a year for a “tune-up”, but also help them develop their other job-related skills by enrolling them in management courses, and asking them to read books like How to Win Friends & Influence Peopleby Dale Carnegie, a great book on people skills.
  7. A quality control system that includes customer follow-up calls and the recording of sales calls. Advisors can only learn what they are doing right and where they need to improve by listening to recordings of their sales presentations, and hearing what their customers have to say about their services.
  8. Appropriate leadership. Simply put, advisors need employers that make a point of catching their employees doing things right and acknowledging their behavior, that constantly reinforce ethics, and that create a culture of never putting money ahead of people.

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 online and in-class sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can contact Elite at, or by calling 800-204-3548.

Friday, July 6, 2018

It takes far more than great mechanics to have a great repair shop. Click here to learn the four elements required for any business to be sustainably successful.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Have you ever had trouble with a product and tried to call customer service?  The phone only rings one time and the line is picked up – unfortunately, it’s a robot.  It presents a list of options, and none of them quite fit your problem, so you pick a number, and it gives you another menu.  None of those fit either, so you press 0 to speak to a customer service representative.  After 10 minutes of bad hold music, someone picks up, asks you a few questions, and tells you that you’ve called the wrong department.

What you’ve experienced is a company using technology to solve a problem (more customer calls than they can answer) that can’t be solved with technology.  Technology can help solve this problem when used properly, but technology can’t solve the problem by itself.

Many of the big dealership and franchise service centers try to do the same thing.  They invest tens of millions of dollars into technology to solve problems.  They buy televisions to advertise products in their waiting rooms, but don’t train their service writers on how to sell them.  They develop technician training videos but nobody watches them.  They use phone trees to reduce the time their employees spend routing calls, but don’t test the system to ensure that customers really get where they need to go.

Unfortunately, in the auto repair business, technology can’t fix much by itself.  That’s great for technicians and service writers, because it means their skills will be in demand for some time to come.  But if you’re trying to increase your close rate without increasing costs, technology alone isn’t going to fix your problem.  And if you’re hoping to reduce service costs without reducing service quality, the same holds true.

The good news is that independent repair shops are perfectly positioned to capitalize on this corporate deficiency.  So why give up the advantage?   When customers call, don’t let a robot pick up the call – let a human answer it.  If you’re advertising anything in your shop, make sure that your customer-facing employees can impress the customer with their knowledge about that product.  And if the customer does have a problem with their service, address it with a human touch.

That’s not to say that technology isn’t a part of the equation – we happen to be big fans of lead-generating websites.  But while technology is great at helping your shop find new customers, it’s ultimately your customer service that’s going to help close the sale.  So if you’ve got employees that believe that human interaction is more important to customer satisfaction than new technology, you can tell them that this technology company agrees with them.  In fact, we practice it ourselves; our websites deliver results, but it’s our customer service that separates us from our competitors.

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

Friday, June 22, 2018

Your waiting room is the public face of your shop.  Just as the condition of your shop floor indicates how much you care about your mechanics or the vehicles you service, the condition of your waiting room indicates how much you care about your customers.  And you always want to care more about your customers than their vehicles.

This might seem counter-intuitive – you probably spend a lot of time talking about fixing customers’ cars, and very little about fixing their lives. But as a service provider, an auto repair shop’s most important job is to improve the customer’s life – it just so happens that maintaining and repairing cars is a huge part of how shops improve lives.

If you don’t believe this, answer this question.  Which shop is going to earn a better review: the one who is rude and demeaning to the customer but fixes the vehicle, or the one who makes a mistake on the repair but apologizes profusely and goes way out of the their way to make the customer happy?  The second one wins every time.

Your waiting area is going to be the environment customers are in when you ask them for a review and send them a link to their email or smartphone to complete.  What can you provide in that environment that will really help you stand out from the rest of the independent auto repair shops in the area?  Here are three ideas:

Food or drinks through a local business partnership

If you have a local bakery or sweet shop nearby, offer their snacks in your waiting area.  If you have a coffee or tea shop nearby, offer their blends in a hot drink area stocked with cream, sugar, and a nice coffee or teapot.  The business providing the snacks will likely appreciate the opportunity to advertise their goods as much as they enjoy your business, and you may be able to negotiate a significant discount for daily deliveries.  Customers will be surprised to find high-quality snacks in the waiting room.

A comfortable place to get some work done

Most auto repair shop waiting rooms have a TV, some chairs, and maybe some magazines.  But these days, most people are going to be glued to a screen of their own while they’re in your waiting room – either their laptop or their cell phone.  What they really need to do is to get some work done in a comfortable environment.  If you can provide comfortable, wide seats, WiFi access, and an environment that isn’t excessively loud, you’ll earn more goodwill than the best cable package or magazine subscriptions could ever get you.

Great Communication

Inside every waiting area is a service writer – the person responsible for the customer relationship.  That person needs, at a minimum, the same level of customer service skills as you’d expect from a waiter at a nice restaurant.  They should focus on the customer when talking with them.  They should get an understanding of what the customer wants – the services to be performed, and the expected timeline – and quickly let the customer know if anything is going to impact the shop’s ability to meet those needs, even if it’s just an extra 10 minutes.  They should also be able to determine whether the customer wants something or is content being left alone, and interact with them accordingly.

If this seems easy, it isn’t – especially at a busy shop.  In addition to taking care of customers in the lobby, a service writer is also taking phone calls, relaying information from technicians to customers, scheduling part deliveries, and handling whoever comes through the front door.  A service writer that can juggle all of this while convincing customers that they truly care about their experience is a very talented one, indeed.

Does Your Shop Pass the Test?

Of course, it’s difficult to be price competitive and offer every possible waiting room perk.  The main question is, when your customer receives that request for a review while you’re handing back their keys, and they’re still in your waiting area, does anything they’ve experienced prompt them to leave an especially positive review?  If so, your waiting room has accomplished its objective – improving the customer experience!

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

Friday, June 15, 2018

It takes hard work to run an auto repair shop. While you’re focused on getting cars in and out of the shop, other major issues can drag you down. Here are three of them, along with suggestions on how to deal with them. 

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