Driving Profits Through the Customer Experience

Client-Centric Strategies for Auto Repair Shops

Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Winter 2023


IN AN AUTOMOTIVE SHOP, no single employee can have more of an effect on your sales and profits than your service advisor. Yet too many times we place people in jobs with little or no training and expect them to deliver superior results. At its core, the service advisor job is straightforward. Every day, service advisors are expected to separate clients from their money. This task is more difficult than it seems because many clients have emotional ties. To effectively and effi- ciently perform this task, advisors need to better understand what’s important to their clients and recognize their needs.

The first thing I ask shop owners is: "What is it that you are really selling?" In my opinion, you aren’t selling repairs or services, you’re selling an experience. Does your current client experience live up to the hype? Is that experience met every single time? With over 280,000 shops across the country, client experience is one of the most important factors in determining success.

Standardizing Operations

Service advisors are typically the first line of communication between the client and the shop. First impressions are critical, especially for new clients, and it’s important that shop owners deliver a consistent and memorable experience every single time. To do this, they need to make sure their business has a standard set of systems, operations, and procedures (SOPs). When creating and implementing SOPs, shop owners must make sure they are consistent and repeatable, so the shop can achieve the results wanted. Unfortunately, there is no one-size- fits-all book on SOPs. Shop owners have the final say and need to be the agents of change. However, it is critical that shop owners also get team members involved and create processes that fit specifically to their organization. Once processes are in place, shop owners should be comfortable knowing that their clients will be getting consistent and valuable experiences every time they visit the shop.

Selling an Experience

As I travel across the country visiting shops, the first thing I think of when I pull into the parking lot is, “Why would a client choose to do business at this repair shop?” It may sound harsh, but we know clients have many options, so why are they choosing you? Within the first 30 seconds of walking into the shop, I can normally tell how my experience is going to be. Was I greeted promptly and positively? Is the lobby clean and inviting? Is the facility utilizing modern technology to enhance the experience (digital menu boards, free Wi-Fi, etc.)?

Now, here is my challenge to you. As a shop owner, try taking my approach the next time you pull into your shop and analyze the experience your clients receive when they walk through the door. That initial client experience can make or break your shop. To ensure a positive client experience, it is important your service advisors follow these steps:

  1. Acknowledge the client within the first 30 seconds.
  2. Listen intently to their concerns (they are already anxious, and not paying attention to them only makes it worse).
  3. Explain your process in detail and gather their preferred method of contact (Don’t let the client train you; you train the client).

The 300% Rule

If these three basic steps are followed every single time, your shop will be able to drive higher profits through the service counter.

After shops have mastered the initial client experience, it is important to not lose focus and continue to provide superior service during the rest of a client’s visit. One of the most important processes that needs to be implemented is a robust digital vehicle inspection (DVI) program. Your DVI process needs to follow the 300% rule:

  1. 100% of the vehicles are inspected using your DVI.
  2. 100% of the services found are estimated and priced out using your Shop Management System (SMS)
  3. 100% of the services are presented to the client in this order:
    1. What the car came in for
    2. Any safety needs
    3. Any preventative maintenance that needs to be performed

The purpose of the 300% rule is to build value and provide a maintenance program for a client’s vehicle. Work on transforming the shop from a reactive “fix what’s broken” facility to a proactive maintenance style facility.

Just like the initial experience, the experience that the client receives when they are picking up their car needs to be exceptional. It’s important that shops are organized, have flawless execution, review the work that was done, identify any exit schedule opportunities, and thank clients for their business. At the end of the day, the client is expecting that, when they take their vehicle to an automotive shop, it will be fixed right the first time, and at a fair price. If your shop is just like the shop down the street, and not adding value to the experience, shop owners take the risk of blending in and being just another auto- motive shop. Shop owners should constantly be asking themselves: What does my shop do to stand out from the crowd and does my shop deliver an experience that customers want to repeat?

Jaron Kleber, national sales manager for Repair Shop Of Tomorrow and fitness trainer for the aftermarket, is an industry veteran with over 13 years of experience. Jaron has helped hundreds of shops implement best practices to improve employee retention, workflow management, efficiency, and productivity.