Autoscope Perfects The Art Of Automotive Repair: Training, Customer Service Are Key Elements To Shop's Success -
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Autoscope Perfects The Art Of Automotive Repair: Training, Customer Service Are Key Elements To Shop’s Success

According to Autoscope President Nerces Mavelian, “Superstar Technicians” are “built, not born.” It all starts with what can’t be avoided and what is usually a lengthy and arduous task: finding the right candidate in the first place.

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By Debbie Briggs
Contributing Writer

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According to Autoscope President Nerces Mavelian, “Superstar Technicians” are “built, not born.” It all starts with what can’t be avoided and what is usually a lengthy and arduous task: finding the right candidate in the first place.

Since opening his shop 1982, he has found the best way to find the right candidates is by word of mouth; how he believes most shops should also grow their customer base. He then looks for attitude and also tests for aptitude; both are paramount to technician retention.

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“I would like my ‘Superstar Technicians’ to be a shining example of what a modern-day mechanic should act and be like,” Mavelian explains. “Technicians have to possess an incredible variety of knowledge and skill nowadays. These are not your father’s mechanics; they are a very bright and competent in complicated automobile maintenance and repair. Over the years, I’ve had very little luck in attracting good technicians through advertising in the paper or any other form; the best technicians are already working, and most likely are happy.”

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Autoscope started out as a three-bay Exxon full-service station in Dallas. Three years later, Mavelian got out of the fuel business entirely when he actually purchased the property and added seven bays. A second location in Plano, TX, followed in 1993, with 10 bays and an attractive customer lobby. In 2008, Autoscope opened the doors to its newest location in the Park Cities area of Dallas. With its 22 bays, hand-wash station, detail area, side-by-side 4-wheel-drive dynamometers and 26 total working stations, it’s the company’s most advanced independent repair shop yet.

Training’s Competitive Advantage
Autoscope currently employs 15 certified technicians and three apprentices. When Mavelian does find the right technician to help repair the European car lines in which Autoscope specializes, he makes sure they are up to date with current technology with routine training, which has become an important of the shop’s culture.

“Autoscope requires all of its technicians to attend a minimum of two training classes a year; this takes a great technician and ensures that they stay great,” he says. “So much so that the new facility has a full-time training room, with state-of-the-art white boards that also act as computer screens, as well as high-definition video screens; a catering area within the room to accommodate for longer training sessions; and a comfortably bright environment enabling focus and concentration on the topics being discussed.”

In addition to onsite training sessions, Mavelian will also send techs “anywhere that courses are offered, from coast to coast.”

“Our technicians attend courses offered by Bosch as well as third-party European Car System Instructors, such as LMV’s Marty Vellozzi and other courses offered through WORLDPAC,” he explains, adding that “Autoscope also has been approved to host Bosch AED (Automotive Electrical Diagnostics) courses at our new training facility in Dallas, by Love Field Airport.”

Mavelian and his team of managers also ensure that technician needs are addressed promptly; he ascribes to the philosophy that a happy technician is more productive and efficient.

“Our job is to make sure our technicians are happy by offering them a clean and comfortable environment to work in and to be proud of,” he says, “and by offering them all the benefits possible, such as health insurance and retirement programs. This is good for their peace of mind as well as their well-being. We continuously communicate with them throughout the day, track their efficiency and verbally reward a job well done.”

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In addition to a full lineup of repairs on such car lines as Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Jaguar, Volvo, Land Rover and Mini, Autoscope also offers high-performance modifications to BMW, Audi, VW, Porsche, Mini, Mercedes-Benz and Bentley automobiles. The BMW and Mini performance lines are enhanced using Dinan parts and software, while the others use GIAC, Kleemann, RennTech, Stasis, JRZ and others. To ensure the accurate repairs they deliver, Mavelian says each technician at Autoscope has a dedicated computer at his bay, including diagnostic, parts inventory and communications software, which allows messaging with anyone in the company without leaving his station.

“They also have the use of two bays with lifts per tech, giving them better efficiency, as they may be waiting for parts on one car, while they start working on another,” he explains. “Having a parts person is also crucial as it improves the flow of parts to the technicians, keeping them more productive and efficient.”

Advertise With Multiple Mediums
While word-of-mouth is the best – and most cost effective – way to attract new customers, Mavelian points out that he advertises continuously “through as many mediums possible.” The key is to concentrate advertising dollars in the areas that work best for your shop.

“In Autoscope’s case, we use social media, Pay-Per-Click (Google and other search engines), direct mail, as well as the occasional radio spot,” he says. “Obviously, the in-house customer retention methods offered through our shop-management software is used to send reminders and scheduled maintenance work to be performed. Constant Contact and Mail-Chimp are utilized to send mass e-mail promotions.

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“We have even successfully boosted our traffic using Groupon,” he adds. “You have to experiment on many things and see what works.”

Once a customer is retained, various customer service programs, in conjunction with expert repairs, keep them coming back. For example, Mavelian explains that Autoscope’s “Rewards-Program” gives a percentage of the total spent back to customers to spend on anything the shop offers, from repairs to merchandise.

“Our hand wash of every car after every service is a great hit,” he says, adding that “everyone wants a clean car back, no matter what they came in for. Every car also gets Nitrogen in its tires, no matter what service was performed. Free pick-up and delivery of customers cars from their office or home is also very popular.

“Autoscope offers a 3-year warranty on most repairs, and a 5-year warranty on all batteries. These are the best warranties in the business, as I know it. It ensures our clients a peace-of-mind that a job done at Autoscope will be done correctly.”

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Also popular is a monthly Ladies’ Night Empowerment course, where Mavelian says the attendees have a little cheese, wine and education on safety and how things work, along with a bag full of goodies to take home. Mavelian says perhaps most important in attracting and retaining customers is appearance of the entire facility and his number one focal point.

“I think there is no reason whatsoever to work in a dirty environment,” he points out. “If I didn’t think it to be haughty or over-the-top, I would have everyone working in a white coat. There is no other factor that can communicate professionalism to our customers than a spotlessly clean facility. “When asked by customers, ‘How do you keep your shop so clean?’ I reply, ‘I make my technicians eat off the shop floor once a week.’”

Everything Really Does Count
Mavelian’s philosophy is that “everything counts;” from the cleanliness of the facility, to the first smile when greeting customers, to the delivery of a fixed and washed car. And belonging to such industry associations as AAA, Bosch, ASA and ATI only bolsters the company’s image.

“To operate a successful shop in today’s environment, you need great employees, client referrals and proper margins on your services,” he says, adding that “profit” isn’t a dirty word. “Everyone is thinking of getting more and more traffic through the door these days, which means, giving away coupons or offering discounts to everyone to seduce the owner or driver of the car to come in and have some work done. What I think most shops need to concentrate on is offering more value to our clients, not discounts. By discounting your services, you’re reducing your already low profit margin that you need to survive, as well as conditioning your clients not to come in until they receive the next coupon or discount from you. Most of your already “trained” clients will tell you this if you asked them.”

Mavelian explains that his company must maintain profitability to stay in business, to buy the tools they need to diagnose and repair the cars correctly, to offer technicians the proper healthcare for them and their families, and to make sure customers are comfortable at the facilities. As a result, Autoscope technicians are given a checklist of things to check and measure during any service they perform.

“I am surprised at the number of deferred repairs on cars that come into our shop from another independent or dealer,” he remarks. “They simply didn’t take the time to look the whole car over for additional, necessary work; they only fixed the client’s complaint and let them go. In most cases, we found the client would’ve repaired the additional problems if he or she were told about them.

“Nowadays, the frequency of visits by our clients have diminished due to extended service plans, which can be detrimental to both the client and car if we miss something crucial,” he adds. “We must use the frequency of visits in factoring our recommendations for necessary repairs. I would hate to get a call from my customer in the middle of the weekend regarding a blown radiator hose or a broken belt one month after their visit.

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“We, as responsible shop operators, should know our client’s cars’ health better and recommend upcoming repairs now, not when they’re stranded or require a tow truck.”

Mavelian also stresses that shop owners shouldn’t go it alone; everyone can benefit from a coach or mentor.

“I was fortunate enough to have a great mentor – my father, Ohannes Mavelian – while starting the business, and later a good friend and a friendly-competitor, Steve Louden, during the middle stage of my business life,” he explains. “Now, I have the pleasure to be coached by one of the best in the business, Elite Worldwide, Inc., an absolute must if you plan to be profitable and successful.

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“World-Class athletes have coaches, why shouldn’t we? By examining our businesses from a distance and with the proper tools, we can understand our weaknesses and strengthen them.”

 

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