The cost of entry to operate an automotive repair shop is simple, albeit expensive. But if expense is your main concern, auto repair may not be the business for you.
But I digress. Back to the cost of entry: With vehicles equipped with lane departure warning systems, active window displays and a slew of other mind-boggling technological advances, today’s shops must meet two basic criteria: they have to use state-of-the art tools and equipment, and employ highly skilled, certified technicians.
Well, before I’m accused of elitism, let me admit that I am talking about what it takes to be an elite shop that services late model vehicles with the latest technology. This view begs the question: Is there a lesser goal that you would set for your shop? Even if you’re serving a demographic of modest means and aged vehicles, your goal should be to provide no less than superior, extraordinary service. That means fixing your customers’ vehicles right the first time with quality parts.
Without question, the “fixed right the first time” philosophy is best met by hiring the best technicians. In order to do this, there are a couple operational criteria that your shop must meet — a professionally maintained workplace and sophisticated shop management tools. To the first point, the environment, which encompasses both the shop and customer waiting room, has to be conducive to keeping technicians motivated. Anything less than clean and organized is unacceptable. Plus, the latest tools and equipment must be on hand to make the technicians’ jobs easier and safer.
To the second point, the latest shop management tools help guarantee that the shop is marketed to the fullest extent, an efficient workflow is established and, perhaps most important, the necessary diagnostic data is immediately available to assist techs in their quest to get to the root of repair problems accurately and quickly.
For those of you who think that hiring only highly skilled technicians may be overkill or too expensive, ask yourself if you have reached your ultimate potential. In other words, do you have all the business you want? And just as important, are you keeping all the business you have?
Sure, you can write off this thought as an ideal, but before you do that, consider the true practicality of employing this level of experience across the board. Highly skilled techs who know what they are doing are going to spend less time conferring and more time doing. Moreover, they are going to do their repair work more thoroughly resulting in fewer comebacks, if any at all. The shop operation efficiency gained, as well as customer confidence earned, should more than offset the expense of employing more highly skilled techs.
However, having invested in highly skilled techs will only be a huge expense if nobody knows you have them. The strength — the very core of your shop — is your technicians, so tell everyone! Employing the best techs is a readymade advertising theme that should be pushed regularly via your choice of media.
Although your technicians’ years of experience should be played up in your marketing, it is just as important to talk about their level of certification and your commitment to their ongoing training. If your customers have to ask about your technicians’ qualifications, then they already have one foot out the door.
Instead of your technicians being mystery men (or women) in the bay, you should assign a specific technician to each customer. In fact, your goal should be for your technicians to build relationships with their customers much like a doctor has with his/her patients. Have your techs take their customers into the bay, show them their vehicle’s problem, advise them of the fix, then follow up with how the surgery, er, fix, went. All the while, the tech should communicate in laymen’s terms.
Bottom line is that you need a steady flow of customers with the goal of retaining all of them. More than anything else, they are likely to respond to a shop’s expertise that can only truly be had through the employment of highly trained techs. But for you to keep and retain techs who are at the top of their game, you have to treat them like their at the top of their game because, frankly, they are your best bet to keep you in the game.