A fifth-generation family-owned business, Pickering’s Auto Service boasts a 40-year legacy of quality, customer service-oriented repairs in Lakewood and Arvada, CO. But even with that heritage, Marketing Director Taylor Pickering explains that they are always looking for ways to improve, whether it’s a new customer service program, new technician training or updating the shop’s website.
“Pickering’s is committed to improving the quality of service and value in the independent automotive repair industry,” Taylor said. “With all of the competition out there and continually evolving technology, it is necessary to strive to be an industry leader. Staying ahead of the curve and being service-ready will make your business much more proactive than reactive.”
Owner and founder Randy Pickering echoes his daughter’s sentiments, focusing on the fact that the shops’ successes hinge on maintaining dedicated teams of employees.
“Without the best technician and service advisor teams around, we’d fall short of this commitment,” Randy said. “As owners of shops that have always been family-owned and operated, we work hard to treat our team just like we do our own family.
“It’s important to us that our team knows that their role is more than just a job,” he continued. “We always say that Pickering’s isn’t in the car-fixing business, but rather in the business of building relationships — whether that be with our customers, our community, or especially, our team.”
Pickering’s employs 12 team members at the Lakewood location and five at the Arvada shop, including four ASE Master-certified and three ASE-certified technicians. Both location managers are C1 certified, and the remaining service advisors and technicians are working toward their certifications as well. Facilitating an environment that’s conducive to continuing education has always been a top priority at Pickering’s.
“We ensure we take care of those who work so diligently for us, both monetarily and civilly,” said Operations Manager, Brandon. “All of our team receives paid benefits, including health insurance, vacation, holiday and wellness days, training, ASE-registration and test fees, and a retirement plan with percentage match.
“In addition, we continually invest in updated technologies and equipment needed to remain current, share the cost of our technicians’ personal scan tool updates, and we spiff our employees on their ASE certifications,” Brandon continued.
Randy said that the mandated 32 hours of training for technicians includes hands-on education through various vocational and automotive institutes, as well as partner vendors such as ATG, AMI, ASA, ATA, NAPA, O’Reilly and CARQUEST. He’s also a business development coach for Bob Cooper’s Elite Worldwide, which gives Pickering’s team access to their training services as well.
“We’re always looking to improve our team and grow our family to continue our legacy in our communities,” he said. “We work and train hard to ensure that during each interaction a customer has with us, they experience the best customer service around.”
Typically, a trip to the auto repair shop isn’t anyone’s favorite thing to do. That’s why Taylor said they try to make the repair process as painless as possible. They have an after-hours key drop, a complimentary shuttle drop-off and pickup service within a 5-mile radius and even rental vehicles available for $20 a day.
As a NAPA AutoCare Center, Pickering’s takes advantage of many offerings the status affords, including the NAPA’s Digital Vehicle Inspection software. Using this complimentary 40-plus-point safety inspection on nearly every customer vehicle has helped overcome many of the objections customers may have had with a traditional inspection.
“Having gone digital has allowed us to minimize the amount of hesitation for commitment to perform recommendations and increases the ease of selling necessary services,” said Service Manager Trent. “The addition of images of the condition of parts has made the process much more transparent. Now, our customers can see what needs to be done and why, partially eliminating the fear of being taken advantage of.”
An added bonus of these digital inspections has been increased productivity, something Trent said is always top-of-mind. AutoText.Me cloud-based software also saves time and allows for more convenient communication with customers.
“This program allows us to text customers throughout their service experience to ask questions or give updates, reducing unnecessary phone calls and allowing the customer to get back to us at their convenience,” Trent said. “It also helps us track and control workflow through the configurable dashboard.”
Taylor said they know people have a choice in where they take their vehicle for service, and a new customer gift bag goes a long way in showing their appreciation.
“All of our new customers receive a new customer gift bag at the end of their visit,” Taylor said. “This bag includes a branded water bottle, tire pressure gauge, travel-size pen, key chain, pamphlet on Car Care 1 NAPA EasyPay financing, and a brochure with a coupon for their next visit and information about our services. It’s all just to show our appreciation for them choosing to give our family the opportunity to earn their trust.”
Today’s business environment requires a mix of marketing tactics, and Taylor said they try to make the most impact possible with each piece of communication they send out.
“We want to be in their mailbox, inbox, search results and all over their social and community media, so that when the need arises, they know that there is a trustworthy shop they can count on that has their best interest and safety at heart,” Taylor said.
The business’s direct mail and email reminder programs have been successful, and building a strong Web presence has been invaluable in reaching new clients and keeping Pickering’s top-of-mind.
“We’ve worked hard to maintain visibility at the top of all major local search queries for auto repair,” she explained. “This has included optimizing our website, directories and listings, social media platforms and advertising through Google AdWords.
“Our goal is that for all major revenue-driving auto repair keywords, we are listed at the top of Google’s paid results, local results and organic results so that no matter where a potential customer looks in the SERPs (search engine results pages), they continually see our brand, enticing them to check us out further and hopefully convert.”
Shop Image & Productivity
Walking into a Pickering’s Auto Service location brings to mind the 1950s, from the décor to the personalized service each customer receives.
“This era represents to us a time when a service advisor or technician was more than just the person who fixed your vehicle and sent you on your way,” Randy explained, “but rather the people who knew what was going on in your life and cared about you and your individual situation.”
Randy said that it’s important to present a clean, comfortable environment, especially in an industry plagued with a reputation of offering unpleasant surroundings.
“We have intentionally worked to break the stigmas associated with your typical auto repair shop,” Brandon said. “We’re your one-stop, clean, friendly, trustworthy, community and family auto shop. And people actually recognize us as such.”
Buy-in from employees is critical to overall shop performance, and Brandon said actively including team members in operational decisions and having an open-door policy has gone a long way in developing committed employees.
“We have an open-door policy to encourage our team to bring any concerns or opportunities to our attention at any time they feel necessary,” he explained. “This has allowed us to be proactively productive opposed to reactively scrambling to catch up.
“Our team seems to feel more involved and informed, and ultimately buy in to our mission and vision of our company, making our operations more efficient and effective,” Randy added.
Secrets of Success
Randy said establishing trust and honesty is at the heart of everything they do at Pickering’s Auto Service, and it’s truly what keeps people coming back for service on their vehicles time and again.
• “Why” you are in busines matters even more than what you do or how you manage it.
• To be a true leader, you must have a servant mentality.
• Building a culture to serve with a greater purpose or higher calling lifts us up and inspires us.
• If you play for something bigger than yourself, you play much harder and smarter, and people can get behind that.
That kind of philosophy has seen Pickering’s Auto Service through 40 years of service to the Lakewood and Arvada communities, and is sure to see it through many more.