8 ways automotive repair shops can succeed in 2022

Jan. 19, 2022
Raise labor rates, over-communicate to customers, work with shops in your area among tips from PTEN advisory board.

The New Year is a great time to reflect upon your business and make some changes to ensure you thrive in 2022. It’s been a doozy these past couple of years, and 2022 won’t be without its challenges, but automotive shop owners are a scrappy, resilient bunch who are sure to face those challenges head-on.

Here are some tips to ensure continual success from members of the PTEN editorial advisory board.

1. Raise your labor rate. According to Pete Rudloff, CEO and president at Blue Collar Technologies and Pete's Garage in Newark, Delaware, the rule of thumb about labor rates is when times are slow, raise your rates and when times are booming, raise your rates!

“I don't care if they are already the most expensive in their area, it's a really booming time for auto repair right now which makes it an ideal time to thin out the shop's client base of clients that are price sensitive,” he says. “Higher labor rates will do this, the shop will net more profit even if they work on fewer cars.

2. Build relationships with other shops in your area. Having good relationships with other shops in your town can really come in handy, notes Lou Fort, lead tech at K.A.R.S. in Huntingburg, Indiana. Those relationships can save money on special equipment needed only once or twice a year.

“Loan, borrow, barter with them for it when possible,” he recommends.

3. Use marketing techniques to engage your customers. Flash sales through social media, contests, rewards programs, members only, online only specials and loss leading specials are just a few marketing ideas that are going to get them in the door and engaged with staff to make their experience pleasant, says Eric Moore, fleet manager of Griffin Pavement Striping in Columbus, Ohio.

“Today’s plugged in consumers need an almost constant barrage of media reminders or advertising to keep any business of interest to them,” he says.

4. Check in regularly with your technicians. Set a standing meeting each day at the same time with all the techs in your shop, advises Phil Fournier, owner of Phil’s Auto Clinic in Hemet, California. Ask the following questions of each tech: Are you missing any parts? Have you confirmed the parts that came in for X vehicle are actually correct? What time do you expect to have X vehicle diagnosed? Do you realize that Mrs. Y is expecting her car at 4 PM Make your own list (written, not in your head) of what you expect and a list of questions for each job so you can cover it all very quickly, he says.

“The 10 AM meeting solved huge problems in our shop,” Fournier says. “When guys make commitments in front of their fellow techs, they tend to try to get it done.”

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate. In today’s day and age, service advisors need to acquire as many contact options as possible for their customers: texting, emailing, social media, and phone calls. Be brutally honest with the customer about what repairs are needed, says Moore.

“That being says, honesty hurts peoples feelings in today’s market, because when they don’t understand what’s being told to them — it’s overwhelming.  For customer’s it’s like drinking from a fire hose and service personnel need to be able to break down repairs into manageable bits of information to explain the function of components involved rather than referencing the system failure as a whole,” he says.

6. Make no major expenses that you can't stroke a check for. While the automotive industry is currently in booming times, we all know that boom times come to an end, so it’s best to prepare for the next downturn by saving your pennies, not by extending the shop’s credit, Rudloff says.

“Buying $100k aligners on credit could be a shop's undoing when times suddenly turn lean,” he says.

7. Own your mistakes. Whether it’s a mistaken diagnosis or an incorrect charge, own up to it and apologize – it will be a refreshing change for your customers.

“People have become too accustomed to being mislead where businesses are concerned, and almost expect it to happen,” Moore says. “Being transparent in your interactions with your customers will benefit all involved.”

8. Value your people. Give your technicians and counter staff the training they need, tell them they are doing a good job, and also provide relevant and timely feedback, so they know what areas they can improve upon. Make sure they know this goes both ways in that you are open to feedback as well as the shop owner, says Edwin Hazzard, owner of South East Mobile Tech in Charleston, S.C.

Keeping the communication door open will not only improve the work environment but will give both the shop owner and the employee a sense of pride,” he says. “Having  a sense of pride in their job and knowing that they see that you as a shop owner who cares and listens will go along way to obtaining a productive and happy operation.”

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