Management Tips

For maximum Success in auto repair…

All Systems Max

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For maximum Success in auto repair… Treat your customers right!

The customer that just walked into your repair shop is a repeat customer, an important member of your client base. You know her name, Jane. You know where her kids go to college, and that she still loves to bowl. If you don’t remember it all, your auto repair shop management software (should) remind you with pop-up notes. You estimate that Jane has brought in a crop of at least six more repeat customers to your auto repair shop over the years; people from her church, from her bowling team, and her daughter’s 7th grade teacher. Think a minute. You can probably remember their names too, because they’re still coming back. And if you can’t your repair shop management software (should) be there to help.

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Congratulations! You must really be treating your repair shop customers right! Because it’s a fact that Jane and the flock she brought in are just one example of the many repeat customers that keep coming back to your auto repair shop. What have you been doing to create such loyal customers?

I bet your list looks something like this: 1. You’ve made a personal connection When customers walk in the door of your auto repair shop they get a greeting that includes calling them by name, and maybe a handshake if your hands are clean. If you don’t know them yet, you’ve introduced yourself. You know that this customer is not just a passing moment, you want to lay the groundwork for a long term relationship. 2. You listen carefully You never rush your customer as they explain what they need. Trust and confidence are built from the very first moments of the repair shop interaction, even before the repair work begins.  For women, this is especially true, so you listen twice as hard, with genuine interest. 3. You establish transparency You always make sure the customer understands what to expect from the first moment of the transaction to the moment they drive away satisfied. You know that customer’s hate a surprise, and may experience it as a breach of trust. They will not come back to your repair shop if this happens. 4. You deliver quality repair work and dependability Once customers grow accustomed to the fact that your car repair shop will treat them as valued customers and always accomplish certain tasks for them, they will keep coming back. Not only is your reputation at stake, so is your bank balance. 5. You involve your associates in creating customer satisfaction As manager of your own car repair shop, you know that you aren’t the only one that should be alert and responsive to the needs of the customer. You empower your associates to make some decisions about the repair if they need to, rather than keeping the customer waiting for your approval. 5. You follow up You understand well that follow up with a customer can be as important as the repair work transaction. You make time to pick up the phone at least once a year and thank them for their business. After a difficult or lengthy repair, you check in a week or so later to see how things are going.   Remember that customers come back to your repair shop as much because of an emotionalconnection they have made with your business, as the quality of the work. Your job is to make them feel that they are truly the focus of your business. The easiest way for this to happen is to really mean it and treat them they way you would like to be treated. So use your auto repair shop management software to help you keep notes on all your customers, not only the good ones, because it’s also important to track the ones you don’t care to serve.

How to Improve Auto Repair Shop Efficiency

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How to Improve Auto Repair Shop Efficiency

There could be a major difference between efficient and effective!

We all know owners and managers in the automotive repair industry who make themselves some impressive business resolutions around the New Year’s Eve punchbowl. Resolutions like trimming the fat off administrative procedures, slimming down wait time, no shows and comebacks, and reducing the expense waistline — they are all noble goals!

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But how many of us in management look back in March (yes, we’re now finished with the 1st quarter, people!) to see if we’ve actually created a plan to accomplish those goals? Not to mention implementing it.

But don’t worry! You can take the advice of two top industrial analysts, James Womack and Daniel Jones from their landmark book “The Machine that Changed the World”, (link:http://www.abebooks.com/9780743299794/Machine-Changed-World-Story-Lean-0743299795/plp) about the steps that Toyota took to leave their competition behind. The principal they followed was called “lean production,” and they offered 10 rules managers can use to drop that extra weight.

  1. Eliminate all unnecessary waste.
  2. Minimize excess inventory.
  3. Maximize production flow.
  4. Prioritize production from customer order requests.
  5. Meet customer requirements.
  6. Always do it right the first time.
  7. Empower workers to find problems.
  8. Design for rapid changeover.
  9. Partner with suppliers.
  10. Create a system of continuous improvement.

OK, rules are nice. And we know that if we could somehow follow them, our lives would likely change dramatically. But knowing that isn’t quite enough to make our car repair shop tomorrows much, much better than today.

You can make these 10 rules apply very specifically to your business by probing below the surface of each one. Do this by asking yourself questions that will help you understand exactly how and where to start implementing these rules in your particular car repair shop.

For instance:

  1. Eliminate all unnecessary waste. Is there duplication of effort in tracking, recording, and verifying operations? Are their further steps we could take to reduce waste?
  2. Minimize excess inventory. Are quantity price breaks causing us to build up excess inventory?

The questions you come up with (and don’t hesitate to seek the input of your managers and employees) should be specific to your repair shop and the challenges it faces now, or will likely face in the foreseeable future.

And don’t be surprised if your initial questions lead to more questions down the line. It’s like a mining operation — you can’t get your fist around the pure ore without a little exploration.

Once you and your managers have a feel for what aspects of your car repair business need attention, you will need to prioritize and set goals. And you can take comfort in the fact that by the time you are standing around the next New Year’s Eve punch bowl, your auto repair shop will be a lean, mean profitable machine!

How to Improve Auto Repair Shop Efficiency – Part II

All Systems Max

How to Improve Auto Repair Shop Efficiency – Part II

Auto Repair Shop Management Efficiency Let’s take a quick look at how you can use AllsystemsMax Shop Management Software to create a smoother running, more profitable auto repair business. ‘Smoother running’ means not only more money at the end of the week but also more free time in the weeks to come for enjoying both your business and personal life. The first three tasks suggested in Part I for improving efficiency were:

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  1. Eliminate all unnecessary waste.
  2. Minimize excess inventory.
  3. Maximize production flow.

Minimizing excess inventory is the most straight forward. Let’s dispense with it first.  If you don’t already take advantage of quick delivery and availability from local suppliers, now’s the time!  In AllsystemsMax, click on the Report Generator tab, then in the Parts section, select ‘Stocked Parts List’.  Filter by ‘Last Sold is less than (your selected date)’  and return the resulting dead inventory where possible.  Then set the ReOrderQty for this stock to zero, so that it will not be restocked next time you reorder parts. To do this, use File-> Administrator Utilities-> Edit Inventory. Eliminating all unnecessary waste and maximizing production flow are closely related.  Get rid of all of the undesirables, and you are left with more time and energy to focus on your priorities and produce more of value .  You should reduce wasted time, materials and effort by examining how your shop does everything, from start to finish, that’s required to repair the cars and trucks you service.  The way you do business is unique so pay close attention to the details.   Here is just one tip on how to use AllsystemsMax to improve your shop workflow and thereby increase your profitability: In your AllsystemsMax Shop Management Software, go to the Schedule tab and locate the Job Status column. Click and drag the Job Status column header to the grouping bar, which is the area above the column headers in red with the label “Drag a column header here to group by that column”.  Do it! Your schedule is now grouped by the current status of each job, from, for example, ‘Not Yet Scheduled’, all the way to ‘Waiting for Pick Up’. You can use the progress milestones that come with the software or create your own from the Setup menu-> Step 2.-> WorkFlow. Now that you have created a new grid layout for the schedule that is grouped by job status, save it for future use by clicking on the ‘Select/Save Grid Layouts’ PLUS (+)  button found at the very top right corner of the screen. By using this new schedule view, everyone in your shop can know what they need to do and do it without wasting anyone else’s time. For example, the service writer, after taking in a job,  can set the job status to ‘Waiting (Parts)’.  The parts manager looks at all jobs with this status, orders the parts and when they arrive, changes the job status to ‘Waiting (Labor)’, which is then what the technicians look for. Grouping is multi-level, so technicians can quickly spot only those jobs that are ready and waiting for them, as they become available, and get right to work. This eliminates inefficiency by eliminating time standing around waiting for someone to answer questions that can be more quickly and easily answered by simply checking the job status in the schedule.  For example, maybe the parts manager is on the phone or went out to lunch. This shouldn’t leave the technician unable to do his job! Instead, eliminate unnecessary downtime, noise and chatter.  Improve efficiency and profit in your  auto repair business by using the management tools available in AllsystemsMax Shop Management Software.

Creating the Auto Repair Business of your Dreams – Part 1

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Creating the Auto Repair Business of your Dreams – Part 1

Auto repair shop managers are hard working people.  It would be hard to find anyone to disagree with that statement.  They work long hours in the auto shop, and even when they are off the clock they are often mulling over situations they need to take care of.  They are hard pressed to find time for a vacation.  After a decade or a few, they might understandably begin to feel burned out and frustrated.  Perhaps they are beginning to suspect that doing more of the same thing isn’t bringing them any closer to the quality of life they sought in the beginning, when they nailed the shiny new “Henry’s Auto Repair Shop” sign to the front of the newly purchased garage.

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  1. What happened to the dream?

    Diagnosing and fixing a car are skills that are hard won, and they can be applied to diagnosing and fixing functional problems in your repair shop.  That said, all of us have had the experience of making a faulty diagnosis and “fixing” the wrong problem.  So it’s important for the auto repair shop manager to step back from the business (literally!  –go find a quiet space away from the office!) and write down your thoughts and ideas.  Begin to pinpoint problem areas.

    But before you do this, remember the words of a very smart man, “The same level of thinking that created the problem is never sufficient for solving the problem.”

    Pencil ready?  Coffee brewed?  Let’s get started.

    1.  Where is your auto repair shop business right now?  Try to be objective and honest with yourself.  It’s a good idea to solicit the thoughts and opinions of your workers and managers, as well as auto repair shop clients and other business owners in your circle. If your managers feel they have been included in both the diagnosis and Rx of the problems, they will be more likely to share in the implementation process.

    2.  What got you to this point?  What circumstances may have led to certain decisions that may need to be re-evaluated?  What repair shop processes and procedures have been practiced for many years but may need to be examined in a new light?  Are you using effective software to streamline shop processes and reduce paperwork?  What assumptions about your auto repair shop business once held true but might need a second look?

    3.  Where do you want your auto repair business to be?  How will it look or feel if the problems you have identified were solved, or at least on their way to being corrected?

    4.  What is your motivation for wanting to create the auto repair business of your dreams?  Taking on the ideas and opinions of others won’t help you here.  Once you are solid about why YOU want to move forward, nothing can stop you.

    5.  How are you going to create a road map to get your car repair shop to its destination with confidence?  Can you be open to learning new skills to innovate, to experiment, and implement needed changes? Do you have teachable managers and workers that can support your goals for the repair shop and take them on as their own?

    In an upcoming blog we will discuss how to organize the actual work of fixing the problems and renovating your auto repair business, getting your managers on board, and imagining a life beyond auto repair!

Motivating Auto Repair Shop Employees

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Motivating Auto Repair Shop Employees

Motivating your auto repair shop employees is an inside job that always starts with you. Why?  Because your employees’ relationship with their manager is the single most important factor influencing their motivational level.

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  1. Of course, the power of the shop manager can work in either direction, and can be as destructive as it is constructive.  But negative practices like lack of concern for employee welfare, showing anger or impatience, using threats, not giving full credit where it is due, or being stingy with words of encouragement can all be turned around.

    Here are some simple guidelines that auto shop managers can use to motivate repair shop employees.

    Communicate positive expectations — “I know you can do this,” not “don’t screw it up again,” and follow up with a public acknowledgement of a job well done – “See?  I knew you’d do a great job!”

    Give small, specific pieces of praise when a car repair specialist or administrative employee makes a good judgment, or goes the extra mile – “I like how you (specific thing they did)”.  What they did right will more likely stick in their mind if it is noticed and appreciated.

    Give car repair employees the support and resources they need to get the repair done right, everything from an organized shop workspace, to quality tools, to sharing helpful contacts and empowering them to make certain auto repair decisions if you are not available.

    Take a real interest in the future career path of your employees and in their work/personal life balance.  You can provide real value to your shop employees by offering mentorship programs, coaching, and by suggesting auto shop training programs or coursework that will increase the skill level in your car repair business.

    And lastly, see what you can do to line up the economic interests of your car repair specialists with the economic interests of the company.  What financial incentives can you offer your repair shop employees?  There is a range of options, from performance bonuses to profit sharing.

    Motivating your car repair shop employees is as important to your financial success as are return customers.  We know you can do it!

Systems to the Max

All Systems Max

Systems to the Max

The great Google tells us that a “System” is a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized scheme or method.

Any experienced auto repair service manager will tell you that “Kinda-Sorta Systems” have another name:  Disorder and Chaos.  There are no shortcuts, no loose ends, no stray hairs in truly bonafide systems, which in the auto repair industry are called Standard Operating Procedures. 

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SOP’s allow you to deliver your auto repair services consistently, using the same procedures for every step of the repair process.  SOP’s are not dead documents, they should be subject to updates as needed to bring them into line with changes in related systems or regulations, or to improve efficiency.

SOP’s reflect hard-won wisdom about the best and fastest way to accomplish a given task while remaining consistent with mandated requirements or laws.

Every employee in your auto repair shop should be well acquainted with every SOP that affects their job, and trained to carry out the procedures therein with virtually no error or wasted time.  This means an investment in training time, an investment that will justify itself time and again.  Repair shop employees should be familiar with SOPs up and down the line, from the ones used to initiate a job, to the ones that release it to the client with a final stamp of approval. 

SOPs should be written down and available in a binder and/or online for easy reference, and repair shop employees should be notified of any changes as soon as they occur.  Shop employees can be asked to read SOPs, and request clarification for all new or revised procedures.  Then you can ask them to sign that they have read and understand each procedure and what will be required of them.

Auto repair technicians especially should attend required training on the SOPs and be required to pass a certification test annually. This will allow you to hold them accountable for each auto repair and to ensure consistency.  Observance of SOP training sessions and certification tests will likely cause your auto repair shop to experience a gratifying reduction in the cost of rework and customer complaints.

The benefits are inestimable for having in place a complete set of SOPs and leaving a virtual/paper trail for auto repair estimates, customer approval and notification, ordering and receiving parts, tracking back orders, entering stocked material, returns and handling customer complaints.   You will eliminate or tremendously alleviate problems not only with clients, but with employees, insurance companies and vendors.  And what auto repair manager wouldn’t want that?

Your auto repair shop can also use this reliance on standardized procedures in your advertising.  Clients like to know that they will be able to depend on your auto shop for the quality and dependability they deserve.

AllsystemsMax Auto Repair Shop Management Software already has standardized service procedures and flexible recordkeeping systems in place to give you total control and the information you need at your fingertips.

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Natural Growth for your Car Repair Business

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Natural Growth for your Car Repair Business

Your auto repair shop, like most of us, will go through natural stages of growth and decline.  Recognizing and anticipating those stages, as well as being prepared to make the necessary adjustments, can make all the difference in the health and longevity of your shop.

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Stage 1:  Idea!

Having ideas is like being in a single’s bar on Saturday night.  That new car repair shop is all in your head, there’s no commitment, and it’s costing you nothing, comparatively speaking.  Consequently, many business ideas dry up in the idea stage, and that’s probably not a bad thing.  But your auto repair shop idea managed to endure, to jump out of your head, and turn into much more than just a pretty face.  It grew legs and started to attract attention.

Stage 2: Toddler/Start-up

And you’re off!  Your start-up auto repair shop can be compared to a toddler because you both have the same intention – to endear yourself to as many people as possible in a short period of time.  Start-ups are all about establishing a customer base and broadcasting their market presence.  Where the toddler analogy falls short, is that toddlers don’t have to worry about tracking and conserving cash flow.  In this respect, start-up auto repair shops are a lot more sophisticated and worldly.  But they can still trip over their own feet if they are not careful.

Stage 3: Adolescence/Growth

The growth stage of your car repair shop reveals itself as a period of tremendous learning, focused on understanding and satisfying customer needs and selling repair shop services.  Revenues are strong, your customers are increasing (in line with your growing reputation) and opportunities seem to open up.  The challenges in the midst of this exhilaration are to 1) strengthen the skill base of your car repair employees with technical and systems training; 2) establish more formal business practices to deal with the increased business; 3) delegate authority to streamline operations, and 4) tighten up accounting and management systems.

Stage 4: Adult/Established

Your auto repair business has now matured into a thriving shop that has secured its place in the market and developed a loyal customer base. Your auto shop growth is not explosive, but comfortable and manageable. You and your employees have discovered that the ebb and flow of your auto shop has become more routine.  Time to relax?  Not exactly.  You might be able to finally take that family ski vacation, but it’s not time to rest on your laurels.  There are bigger, less obvious challenges that could still shorten the life span of your auto repair shop – like new competitors, new customer demands, or changes in the economy.  You need to focus on 1) car shop productivity, 2) automation, 3) improved business practices, and 4) possible outsourcing to reduce costs or to streamline repair shop systems.  This might be a good time to put forward some incentives for your repair shop employees and managers, who may have drifted off into routine-land.

Stage 5: Middle Age/Expansion

This part of your auto shop’s life cycle is marked by a new period of growth, and I’m not just referring to the waistline!  All of your hard work and dedication has produced fruit and you feel ready to dip into new markets and profit channels.  You hanker for a larger market share and may find yourself considering a new start up.  If this is true, make sure you stick with what you know and don’t move into an unrelated business.  Maybe you can add new services and products to your existing auto repair shop, or extend your market appeal to a new kind of customer.  Just be aware that if you get too far afield, your auto repair shop might start to suffer from neglect.  Your lack of focus or even interest will start to affect your managers and employees.  Keep them close and up to date so they can get behind your new ideas.

6.  Mature Adult / In your Prime

Though your auto repair shop profits and sales may be reasonably stable as you enter this stage, eventually you may be challenged with negative cash flow resulting from dropping sales and profits. The biggest decision facing you at this stage of your repair shop life cycle, is whether you should start a new expansion stage, or make preparations for the last stage in the natural life cycle, Exit.  This may take some soul searching on your part.  You’ll need to ask yourself if you have the motivation and energy to revision your repair shop.  Are you ready to look at new business models, bring on new ideas and possibly hire on some new blood?  Or do you want to start laying the groundwork for a dignified retirement, selling the repair shop at a good profit, or passing it on to a talented and ambitious offspring?  There are many roads available to you, both high and low.  If you want to take a high road, now is not the time to fall asleep at the wheel or lose focus.  You must find ways to sustain your cash flow, continue to cut costs, keep your customers happy, challenge and engage your auto repair shop employees – and do all this while engineering a stable transition into the future you have identified as your goal.

7.  Exit / Moving into the Future

Everything has a natural life cycle.  As I hinted above, the future you move into can be the one you chose, or the one you are forced into unwillingly by circumstance or lack of attention.  Some auto repair shop owners find it difficult to deal with the financial and emotional dimensions of closing, selling, or passing on a business.  They find themselves procrastinating or avoiding decisions.  But think of all the hard work that has gone into making your auto repair shop a success!  You and your family deserve to reap every hard-earned penny at the end of the line. 

Steps to take at this point include getting an official valuation of your company.  You can make the car repair shop more valuable to the buyer by identifying changes in operations and management suggested by an outside expert.  It might be possible to lower competitive barriers by making a few adjustments.  And lastly, you can set up a business transition plan including legal buy-sell agreements.

Your car repair shop is a constantly evolving entity that will keep you involved in coaching it through its natural cycles.  It is at times exciting, challenging, stressful, always rewarding and NEVER the same!  When in doubt, just pay attention to the needs of the customer right in front of you.   

How You Can Profit from your Customer Database

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How You Can Profit from your Customer Database

You already know that your auto repair shop’s customer database is your most precious virtual asset.  You may not be able to kick its tires, but you can definitely schedule regular maintenance and learn how to increase your bottom line performance with regular tune-ups.  Your shop software management system should help you get the most out of the data you collect on your customers with every transaction.

Software Management Systems

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Using a software management company is central to the success of any auto repair shop, and many of those systems include customer database software. Before you purchase a system you should check to make sure the software management company’s “protection” of your data doesn’t include making it impossible for you to export data to other systems.  Some companies will actually make the veiled threat that your data may become corrupted if you try to export it to another software system.  Remember, you own this data and you are entitled to full access and retrieval.

Once you are assured of this full access, check with other managers in the auto repair business who are actually using the software you are considering purchasing.  How do they take advantage of the customer database portion of the software?  Is it easy to export customer data to an outside vendor so that they can send out mailings?  How easy and responsive is the company’s support line?  You should feel assured that the software management system you choose is going to have your back whenever you need it, and that they will follow through until all your questions or problems are fully resolved.

Regular maintenance of your database

If you want to reap the full rewards of a well set up and maintained customer database, you have to make sure it’s kept clean, consistent, and up to date.  If you are going to send out mailings, customer addresses must be kept current.  If e-mail service reminders will be sent out, you must know customer e-mail addresses and have their permission to use them.  If you call customers to give them estimates, or to thank them for their business, you must have current home or cell numbers at your fingertips. Recording actual auto or truck service and repair frequency for each customer will help you separate regular from sporadic customers and show you where you need to focus on increasing sales.

Remember that in order for the data to be useful increasing profit, it has to be entered consistently and correctly.  All employees who are responsible for entering data should be trained to enter it exactly the same way, or you will have headaches later on.

Using your database to increase profits

The reason your database is so essential is that it represents every customer and every auto or truck that has come through your shop door.  The data you collect about each auto repair customer, from the frequency of their visits, the age and condition of their vehicle, their credit history with you (do you have to chase them for payment?), number and type of complaints or problems, average customer expenditure per year, etc., will give you the ability to do target mailings or phone calls.  If a truck or auto repair customer comes in twice or three times a year, how can you encourage them to come in once per quarter?  If a customer makes a valid complaint, how soon is it resolved?  Often the way a problem is resolved can create a lifelong customer, and you should be collecting data to prove that to yourself, and to your auto shop employees.  Responsiveness is everything.

The purpose of a database is not just to sit there and collect information.  It is a tool for reaching out to your customers in different ways.  Customers who are reminded of their positive relationship with their auto repair shop, will keep coming back.  Here is a list of ways you can use your customer database make sure they do:

Reminder cards – to notify your customers exactly when they need a tune-up, replacement, or other services.

E-mail reminders – a less expensive and paperless way to remind customers when they need services.  Remember that you can send images, as well as links to your blog or related sites.

Telephone calls – can be used to make personal holiday greetings or to show your appreciation for customer loyalty with a “thanks so much for your auto and truck repair business – we really appreciate it.”

Prospecting – You can buy a prospecting list and add it to your database.  Keep track of how many times you have contacted a prospect and give yourself a gold star every time you move a prospect over to the customer list!

Postcards – to announce new services, products, and specials.

Newsletters – A quarterly newsletter reminds customers about the progress of your shop, introduces new staff and educates them about the importance of regular vehicle maintenance.

How AllSystemsMax can help

AllsystemsMax has many built-in features to help facilitate effective customer retention management from your customer database.  We provide “telephone follow-up” reports that include lists of money spent by customer within a selected time frame.  We provide a way to track maintenance service reminders, and to notify customers when periodic service is due.  In addition, our system also provides “customer notes,” that can be used to politely decline an appointment to problem customers, or to pass along information to the service writer that will indicate ways to provide an improved customer experience. For example: “Make sure vehicle floor mats are spotless. Customer is a clean freak. If the job value warrants it, exceed customer expectation by providing a free carwash voucher.”  AllSystems Max automatically calculates reminder date for any service or part, based on either days since last service or actual miles driven, whichever comes first.

AllsystemsMax automotive repair software also integrates with both CustomerLink and DemandForce for CRM (Customer Retention Management), for services such as mailing out color postcards, social networking, and end-user rating systems.

For new customers, AllSystemsMax can convert your customer list and other items such as vehicles, inventory and vendors from most other auto repair management software programs and databases. This will save you lots of time and money, and let you put your attention where it is needed the most – in maintaining and growing your customer base and profit margin.

Remember, a well-managed and fully utilized customer database will bring order and increased profit to your auto repair shop business.

5 Powerful Ways to Market your Auto Repair Shop to the Max

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5 Powerful Ways to Market your Auto Repair Shop to the Max

Does your auto repair shop marketing strategy need a transfusion?  Is it sitting listlessly on the shelf remembering the successes of yesteryear, when word of mouth around the neighborhood was enough?  When a block listing in the Yellow Pages was proof enough that you were an established presence, all the more so if the type face was large and the ad illustrated with a photo of your shop?

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Those happy days, sadly, are gone.  The electric trolley of our ambition has been replaced by a high-speed bullet train, and the landscape of our competition is but a blur rushing by outside the sleek, Plexiglas window.

But wait!  If you flip on the slow-motion switch, you will discover that there aren’t that many changes to the landscape.  It’s just that some of the new tools you’ll be using to stake out your marketing territory are way more effective than the old ones.  And they are much more cost effective.  All you have to do is get smart.

Here’s some cutting-edge stuff you can do to revitalize your marketing strategy.

1.  Go after the Women!!  We thought we’d put dessert first.  This strategy is really all about personal attention and using social media.  One tried and true way of attracting the gentler sex to your auto repair shop is to treat them right.  That means you need to take the time to explain her auto repair job thoroughly, encourage her questions, check for understanding, and do all that without a whiff of condescencion.  This is a winning strategy, but it only works one woman at a time.  Social media allows you to reach out to scores, possibly hundreds of women at the same time.  One auto repair shop that we know of has managed successfully to reach women on a much larger scale with their Facebook page.  There are a lot of profitable ideas here on these links – happy hunting!

2.  Strategic Alliances Another effective marketing strategy is to find a few businesses that don’t compete directly with you, such as windshield replacement or towing establishments, but that have the same target market.  Some auto repair shops estimate that around eighty percent of their revenue comes from local clients, and twenty percent comes from local and freeway traffic tow-ins. Strategic alliances can represent a significant revenue stream that costs you nothing but goodwill.

3. Virtual Location-Based Marketing

Drivers who carry smartphone devices or iPhones are now potential customers for your auto or truck repair shop if they live in your service area, or if they break down on local roads or freeways.  They can instantly find local car repair service providers, including you, with apps like RepairPal and RepairJungle, which provide customer reviews and the ability to locate a shop nearby. These apps can even break down estimates by parts and labor costs and connect the client with towing assistance.

Around Me is a smartphone device app that allows users in any location to search for services nearest to them, though “auto repair shops” are not yet one of the highlighted categories on the front page.  The major online review app Yelp is becoming ever more popular for guiding consumers to businesses that have garnered favorable reviews (or steering them away from ones with bad reviews).

Android (smartphone) and iPhone apps allow auto repair shops like yours to promote their services through a virtual marketing medium a.k.a. “word of mouth.”  The difference between the virtual mouth and the literal mouth, is that you can reach many more people in a virtual marketplace where people can compare prices, services and reviews.  An unexpected benefit is that smaller shops in less expensive neighborhoods are suddenly competing with repair shops in adjacent upscale districts that may charge significantly more for labor.  A local customer may chose to drive a few blocks out of their posh neighborhood to pay $50 per hour, instead of the $90 per hour charged closer to home.

4. Social Media – The new “Word of Mouth” Social media has become the fastest expansion of word of mouth marketing.  While one of your happy car repair shop customers has the potential of spreading the good news about your shop to somewhere between 7 and 25 people, your online efforts can reach from a few hundred to a few thousand people. A friendly and informative post on Facebook or a tweet can help spread your name and drive real business to your door. And you build up more credibility, exposure, and following by participating in these sites and engaging regularly with your audience.  One shot won’t do it.  You need to have a dependable presence.

5.  Mailings and Phone Calls

Never underestimate the power of your car repair customer database!  The better your auto repair shop software management system is at organizing and presenting customer data, the more profitable your marketing efforts. AllSystemsMax software has many built-in features to help facilitate effective customer retention management, including telephone follow-up reports, maintenance service reminders, a “customer notes” input, and customer notification when periodic service is due.  The ultimate in personal contact can be made by your voice on the phone to thank customers for their business.  It’s a good way to ring in a New Year of doing business together!

Marketing your Auto Repair Shop to Women

All Systems Max

Marketing your Auto Repair Shop to Women

“Ad Sense” recently reported that women are spending around $300 billion on auto repairs each year, and that they are buying significantly more new cars than men — 65 percent.  We can infer from this that women might be gobbling up an even greater percentage of used cars.

Let those numbers sink in for a moment. 

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What’s more, according to multiple sources, the number of licensed female drivers has been trending higher than male drivers since 2005.  The higher numbers of female drivers and the spending power they wield, means that your car repair shop cannot afford to be behind this trend.  Maybe it’s time to focus on maintaining and expanding your targeted marketing strategy for women.

Let’s say you’re participating in a focus group of female car repair shop clients to learn what they want and need from a repair shop manager.  You are there as a representative of the industry to hear what they have to say.  Here’s the kind of thing you might hear from the women who are eager to speak up.

1.  Above all, I want you to keep my vehicle safe and dependable.  I have kids that need to be picked up and dropped off at different locations every day, and it makes me very nervous to think that they might some day be left stranded on a street corner.  I don’t just want to be reminded of my scheduled maintenance plan.  I want you to do a free safety check – brakes, head and tail lights, fan belt, tires – whatever you think my car needs to keep it running reliably, and keep it safe.

2.  It would be nice if you could be a little more personal with me – remember my name, and where we left it last visit.  Sometimes when I am explaining the problem my car is having you seem a little distracted, and I’m not sure I’m being heard.  I guess I am asking for your full attention just for that brief period of your day when I am handing over my precious vehicle to your able hands.  I want you to understand how much I depend on my car!

3.  I’d like you to be really respectful of my time.  I want to know that you are going to get my repair work done as fast as possible, that it will be done right, and done on time.  Please inform me immediately if there is any change in plan or in the written estimate you gave me.  My children, my family, and my employer depend on me, and I need to depend on you. 

4.  Could I help spruce up your waiting room?  No disrespect, but your decorator sucks!  How about some carpeting?  How long has it been since you cleaned the windows, eh?  Some nice plants to suck up all these exhaust fumes?  Pleasing pictures on the wall – not cars, but landscapes maybe?  Could you brew some stronger coffee and maybe have some beverage options?  A selection of teas?  And hey!  What about internet access?  I could actually get some work done while I wait!

5.  Please be crystal clear with the work that needs to be done on my repairs.  Explain your price structure, what parts are needed, and when my car will be ready for pick-up.  Do I need to rent a car?  Can you arrange for the rental place to pick me up?  [Do you have a strategic alliance with a rental car company?] Can you take me home?

6.  I want you to know that finding a dependable and friendly car repair shop is an important event in any woman’s life, almost as important as finding a doctor we can trust!  Once we find the car repair shop of our dreams, we will tell our girlfriends, our work mates, the lady at the day care, anyone we know that needs work done on their car.  My husband won’t do that for you!  Men don’t spread the word the way women do.  So it’s worth your spending a little extra time and attention on me!

7.  I want you to educate me about my car, while not treating me as if I were clueless.  The more I know about my vehicle, the better customer I will be.  I will feel more secure.  I might even bother you less with questions!   And by the way, I am no bump on a log when it comes to educating myself.  I’ve discovered a few sites, this one, and this one, to go for information and support.

8.  Consider changing your recorded message.  Have you listened to it lately?  I think that special you were talking about expired in 1989.  And when I pressed “1” I got your fax machine, not your voice mail.

9.  Unless there’s an emergency, you won’t normally find me looking for a repair shop.  But if you advertise where we women go — daycare centers, produce stores, the butcher shop, the gym, the local coffee shop – we’d probably get used to seeing your name around the neighborhood and give you a call when it’s time for a tune-up.  After we check out your rep on Yelp or Angie’s List, of course!

P.S:  If we women get that you get how essential it is to our sense of security and confidence to have a happy car that is up to date with all of its safety checks, mechanical repairs, and tune-ups, we will keep coming back.  Women are loyal customers.  On the other hand, if we feel, even for a moment, that we need to convince you to treat us right, you can say goodbye to our business and all the friends we might have brought in.  Remember, if you’ve got our back, we’ve got yours!

It Pays to Keep your Car Longer

All Systems Max

It Pays to Keep your Car Longer

I have a friend (and no, Doug, I’m not talking about you).   This friend just finally nailed the promotion he’s been seeking for years.  He got a pay hike, of course, but what set him on the wrong course was his change in status.  They gave him a gym membership, a new company iPhone, and worst of all, they gave him his own parking spot with his name on it.  D. Barnes.  His spot was nestled right between a spanking new midnight black Ford F-150 King Ranch, and an equally spanking silver Honda RAM, both with all the bells and whistles.  So our hero didn’t even consider parking his adorable little red 2006 Toyota Corolla in between them. 

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Doug (oops!) got his promotion last Friday and on Saturday morning he showed up at the Toyota dealership looking at a new Tundra.  Not wanting to outshine his colleagues and thus project undue ambition, he noted that the vehicle was a respectful thousand dollars or so below the sticker price of the Ford and the Honda…once he had added on all the bells and whistles.

Now, Doug’s meticulous reasoning was this:  I just got a fantastic new job, I’m still in my forties, my future has a pot of gold at the end of it, it’s worth the investment in my new image at the company, and I’ll look like a homeless piece of jailbait if I park this old wreck between those two glistening status-machines.  Unfortunately, Doug’s reasoning didn’t take into consideration the impacts this decision would have on his wallet:

His new Tundra, valued at about $45,000 when he bought it last week, was going to be worth around $22,500 in only three years.  Another way he could have chosen to lose $22,500 in three years was to throw $600 out of his car window once a month on his way way to work.   But that would be stupid.

His vehicle insurance was six or seven times as much as it was before … Doug won’t tell me which.  His wife told me it was eight times as much, but who’s counting?  Not Doug.

Gasoline.  I don’t think Doug was thinking about gas costs when he replaced the thrifty little Toyota Corolla engine that got him 30 mpg, with the monster Tundra machine that will hurl him from 0 to 60 in just 6.2 seconds, while getting him only 14 mpg.  He’s hoping the deal Russia made with Shell Oil will somehow filter down, maybe by tomorrow.

Maintenance costs on Doug’s Corolla were never much of a strain on Doug’s bank account because he had the car serviced and repaired regularly.  And the tires didn’t cost as much as Costa Rica.  His Tundra is going to dig way further into his bank account to keep up with the warranty.  In fact Doug has opened a new savings account just to try and cover the new financial commitments to his gorgeous new vehicle (which is red, by the way) that he will be proud to pull in beside the other cars on Executive Row.

So Doug didn’t get a raise, after all.  It’s all going to go into the new car.  He could have put that $600 he’s going to throw out the window every month into a savings account to buy a 3-year old Tundra down the line, letting the first owner eat the depreciation.  But he didn’t do that. 

Was it worth it?  Well, I was sitting in Doug’s kitchen earlier this evening, after he called to cancel the romantic vacation cruise he and his wife planned to rekindle the passion in their marriage.  Barbara was standing at the sink, throwing plates down the garbage disposal.  On the other hand, Doug reports that he feels like a million bucks every morning when he pulls that fire-engine-red Tundra into his reserved parking space on Executive Row.

The fact is, Doug would not have been bucking a trend if he had kept his Corolla for a few more years.  Most people are keeping their cars longer, about 10 years on average, and they are getting better at taking them in for regular repairs and maintenance to increase the vehicle’s lifespan.  According to an article in Time Magazine, “…it’s assumed that any decent car can hit 100K without requiring major repairs, and reliable, well-maintained vehicles can easily be driven 200K miles or more.”

So, what’s the hurry?  Vehicles represent many things to different people.  Some give their car a name and hang special charms and love bunnies around the neck of the rear view mirror.  Some take the old buggy to a day spa at the local repair shop every six months.  Some cruise their beauty slowly down the main drag of town after a good wash and polish.  And some wear their expensive new vehicles around their necks like a ball and chain.  Which will it be?

It Pays to Keep your Car Longer

I have a friend (and no, Doug, I’m not talking about you).   This friend just finally nailed the promotion he’s been seeking for years.  He got a pay hike, of course, but what set him on the wrong course was his change in status.  They gave him a gym membership, a new company iPhone, and worst of all, they gave him his own parking spot with his name on it.  D. Barnes.  His spot was nestled right between a spanking new midnight black Ford F-150 King Ranch, and an equally spanking silver Honda RAM, both with all the bells and whistles.  So our hero didn’t even consider parking his adorable little red 2006 Toyota Corolla in between them. 

Doug (oops!) got his promotion last Friday and on Saturday morning he showed up at the Toyota dealership looking at a new Tundra.  Not wanting to outshine his colleagues and thus project undue ambition, he noted that the vehicle was a respectful thousand dollars or so below the sticker price of the Ford and the Honda…once he had added on all the bells and whistles.

Now, Doug’s meticulous reasoning was this:  I just got a fantastic new job, I’m still in my forties, my future has a pot of gold at the end of it, it’s worth the investment in my new image at the company, and I’ll look like a homeless piece of jailbait if I park this old wreck between those two glistening status-machines.  Unfortunately, Doug’s reasoning didn’t take into consideration the impacts this decision would have on his wallet:

His new Tundra, valued at about $45,000 when he bought it last week, was going to be worth around $22,500 in only three years.  Another way he could have chosen to lose $22,500 in three years was to throw $600 out of his car window once a month on his way way to work.   But that would be stupid.

His vehicle insurance was six or seven times as much as it was before … Doug won’t tell me which.  His wife told me it was eight times as much, but who’s counting?  Not Doug.

Gasoline.  I don’t think Doug was thinking about gas costs when he replaced the thrifty little Toyota Corolla engine that got him 30 mpg, with the monster Tundra machine that will hurl him from 0 to 60 in just 6.2 seconds, while getting him only 14 mpg.  He’s hoping the deal Russia made with Shell Oil will somehow filter down, maybe by tomorrow.

Maintenance costs on Doug’s Corolla were never much of a strain on Doug’s bank account because he had the car serviced and repaired regularly.  And the tires didn’t cost as much as Costa Rica.  His Tundra is going to dig way further into his bank account to keep up with the warranty.  In fact Doug has opened a new savings account just to try and cover the new financial commitments to his gorgeous new vehicle (which is red, by the way) that he will be proud to pull in beside the other cars on Executive Row.

So Doug didn’t get a raise, after all.  It’s all going to go into the new car.  He could have put that $600 he’s going to throw out the window every month into a savings account to buy a 3-year old Tundra down the line, letting the first owner eat the depreciation.  But he didn’t do that. 

Was it worth it?  Well, I was sitting in Doug’s kitchen earlier this evening, after he called to cancel the romantic vacation cruise he and his wife planned to rekindle the passion in their marriage.  Barbara was standing at the sink, throwing plates down the garbage disposal.  On the other hand, Doug reports that he feels like a million bucks every morning when he pulls that fire-engine-red Tundra into his reserved parking space on Executive Row.

The fact is, Doug would not have been bucking a trend if he had kept his Corolla for a few more years.  Most people are keeping their cars longer, about 10 years on average, and they are getting better at taking them in for regular repairs and maintenance to increase the vehicle’s lifespan.  According to an article in Time Magazine, “…it’s assumed that any decent car can hit 100K without requiring major repairs, and reliable, well-maintained vehicles can easily be driven 200K miles or more.”

So, what’s the hurry?  Vehicles represent many things to different people.  Some give their car a name and hang special charms and love bunnies around the neck of the rear view mirror.  Some take the old buggy to a day spa at the local repair shop every six months.  Some cruise their beauty slowly down the main drag of town after a good wash and polish.  And some wear their expensive new vehicles around their necks like a ball and chain.  Which will it be?