3A Automotive Service: Where Friendly, Honest Auto Repair Equals Profitability, Customer Satisfaction -

3A Automotive Service: Where Friendly, Honest Auto Repair Equals Profitability, Customer Satisfaction

Let’s face it: No one likes working weekends. Saturdays and Sundays are a chance to catch up on chores, visit with friends and, most importantly, spend quality time with family. It’s why 3A Automotive Service is closed on the weekends, and it just might be one of the reasons President Jimmy Alauria doesn’t have much trouble staffing the facility in Phoenix, AZ.

AUTO1“My dad started closing on weekends back in 1998, and we have never seen a decline in weekly production as a ­result,” Jimmy explains. “Plus, that gives us a huge advantage when hiring. I’d say that 90% of the techs I interview are looking because they are tired of working weekends.”

Jim and Earlene Alauria, owners of 3A Automotive ­Service and Jimmy’s parents, have been providing “Friendly, Honest Auto Repair Since 1975,” as their tagline accurately states. By focusing on both employee morale and the customer experience, the family-owned shop has remained profitable throughout its 39 years of ­operation.

“I believe that my No. 1 job as the president of 3A Automotive Service is to create an environment where everybody involved wins — the customers, the company and the employees,” says Jimmy, who has handled day-to-day operations of the shop since 2002. “Our commitment to our staff is to ensure that their standard of ­living is improved by working with our company.”

High Morale, High Profitability

So, how do they achieve a positive work environment and high employee morale? First and foremost, Jimmy says, special ­attention is paid to ­productivity.

auto2“The only happy ­environments I’ve ever seen are productive ones,” he says. “We spend a lot of time ironing out any stops or bottlenecks in our shop flow process, which starts from the scheduling all the way through to the customer picking up his/her car when it’s completed. That process is essential for allowing each person on the team to be really good at what they do, and they can count on their teammates to be really good at what they do.

“When that process is dialed in, you get high production, high quality, happy employees and happy customers. That’s the makeup of a championship team, and winners like to be a part of a championship team so they aren’t likely to leave.”

3A Automotive currently employs six ASE-certified technicians, four of whom have earned Master Technician status, and it’s not only the techs who attend training, but managers and service writers as well.

“I think that we, as an industry, need to up our game a lot when it comes to training,” Jimmy says. “With new technology like electric and alternative-fuel vehicles, as well as telematics, this game is going to change a lot over the next five years. It’s not just training the techs either: Owners, managers and service writers are all going to need to be educated on how to market and sell as an ­independent repair shop.”

auto3Satisfied Customers

While marketing is important at 3A Automotive Service, constituting about 8% to 10% of the shop’s income, word-of-mouth can’t be discounted.

“Word-of-mouth still dominates and is even more prevalent today with the Internet,” Jimmy says. “It used to be that people would ask a neighbor or friend for a referral to a mechanic. Now those referrals happen on the ­Internet through review sites like Google Reviews, YP.com, Yelp.com and Angie’s List.”

The result is that the shop’s organic marketing efforts online support more traditional paid marketing tactics.

“When we send a direct mail piece out, that potential customer is likely going to go to the Internet to check us out before they call. They will be greeted by well over 200 customer reviews on our company. Then, when a new customer calls, they have a lot of confidence that we are their best option.”

Those new customers are greeted by an inviting shop appearance, both inside and out. The building has been professionally painted and landscaped, and customers ­appreciate the relaxing environment in the waiting area.

“It’s not uncommon to hear comments about how clean it is, and that it’s not what customers expected,” Jimmy says. “Our building definitely looks like a shop, but we’ve tried to make it about as appealing, warm and welcoming as possible because image is everything — especially when 70% of your ­customers are women!”

auto4Customer Appreciation

In an effort to not only educate but also show their appreciation for the customer, Jimmy says the staff hosts an annual Women’s Car Care Clinic that’s always a hit with customers.

“This year, our NAPA store sponsored the event and provided goody bags, beverages, tables, chairs and even a pop-up shade so our team could just focus on the event ­details,” he says. “The customers love it, and it’s a great way for them to see a more personal side of our staff, while also getting a chance to learn a little more about their cars.”

Getting to know the staff is key, Jimmy says, as service writers and front office personnel have the most direct contact with customers and, therefore, the most opportunity to ­interact with them during the repair process.

auto5“I believe retaining ­customers has everything to do with who is running the office,” he says. “The shop manager, service writers and receptionist are the ones dealing with that customer, and they either have a good experience, an OK experience or a bad ­experience. We try and give them a ‘wow’ experience: We want to make sure we have agreements on the problem, solution, price and time all along the way, and when they come to get their car all they can say is, ‘Wow! That was the best automotive repair experience I have ever had.’

“Nobody likes spending money to fix or service their car,” Jimmy continues. “But the right people with the right training in the office can take the mystery and fear out of that experience for the customer. The best customer retention strategy available is a happy, well-informed customer.”

Part of ensuring customer ­satisfaction at 3A Automotive Service is providing each vehicle and repair with the utmost ­attention to detail. A system of checks and balances ­ensures that each vehicle leaves the shop fixed right the first time. And if there is a problem, customers need to know it will be corrected.

auto6“When the economy crashed in 2008, we had car counts drop 30% to 50%,” Jimmy ­explains. “We knew we couldn’t drop our prices ­because that would only make things worse financially. So, we decided to really take a look at our quality and improve the perception of value that the customer felt when dealing with us.

“Now we make sure every car gets checked out by another technician ­before it leaves. Every car gets a car wash. Every new customer and all ­repairs over $500 get a phone call within a week after pick up. And every customer gets a comment card sent home with them at checkout. The idea is that they know we are 100% committed to their satisfaction, and if there is a problem, they have no reason not to inform us and allow us to fix it.”

Expansion Plans

Currently, two more bays are being added to the existing 10 at the shop to handle the influx of mostly American, Asian and light-duty diesel vehicles that the shop services on a regular basis. But in addition to physical work, the shop is also expanding ­virtually. Every shop owner, Jimmy says, has to make web marketing a ­priority.

auto7“We are always working on our website (www.3AAutomotive.com),” Jimmy says. “But it’s not just the website as much as it is a web presence. A website is one location. A web presence means that you are a part of the conversations that are going on with regard to auto repair. Email open rates are going down, so being a part of ­social media is becoming more and more important. We’re currently working on the production of videos that will serve as free information for ­anybody to use, but they will position us as the experts.”

Overall, Jimmy says staying ahead of the curve when it comes to marketing and training is essential to remaining profitable in today’s social media-­driven society.


“There’s a generational and technological swing happening right now that I believe is crucial to the success of shops today,” he explains. “We need to ­become better at the marketing and sales of our product — automotive ­repair and service.

“There are also fewer young professionals coming into this industry,” he points out. “At the same time, the qualifications necessary to work on the modern car are getting tougher and tougher. The only shops that will make it will be the ones that can offer this younger generation the things they want and need. Studies show they want good pay, benefits, retirement plans, vacations and continuing education. The shops that will attract this new qualified workforce will be the ones that can fill the bays, profitably sell the work and create enough of a positive effect with their customers to survive a social media-­driven world.”

With an eye on the future while maintaining a track record of honesty, integrity and customer appreciation and satisfaction, 3A Automotive ­Service is poised to remain profitable for many years to come.

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