The owners of Integrity Automotive make one thing very clear on their website: Integrity isn’t just part of the shop’s name; it’s the basis of everything they do. That was the mutual goal when Charlie and Julee Baxley, and Don and Barb Meeker decided to open an automotive repair business in Tucson, AZ, more than seven years ago in February 2006.
The phrase “Family Owned and Operated” creates a warm flow of positive emotions when you talk about your company to your customers, especially your female customers. But having family as a part of your business creates a whole new dynamic of which most people are unaware.
Ever notice how in upscale neighborhoods, even the fast food restaurants are nicer? Instead of a bright red roof and the famous golden arches, the McDonald’s in ritzy Aspen, CO, for example, boasts a second-floor fireplace and is housed in a sedate red brick building that blends in seamlessly with the surrounding architecture. The fancier digs reflect McDonald’s understanding that its target market in Aspen is far different than its target market in Akron, OH. The same idea holds true in the automotive repair world, but, unfortunately, too many shop owners fail to realistically identify their ideal market or customer.
The numbers are mind-boggling: 134 million smartphones are used in the U.S. alone and every quarter 8% more Americans select a smartphone. If that doesn’t surprise you, maybe the following facts will: 59% of auto service customers under the age of 35 want to be communicated with via mobile applications and 31% of American mobile Internet users say that’s the primary way they access the web.
Executive Interview: Fran Labun, Vice President, Sales Group, DENSO Products & Services Americas, Inc.
Fran Labun is vice president of the Sales Group for DENSO Products and Services Americas, Inc., the Long Beach-based affiliate of Japan-based DENSO Corporation. He oversees automotive aftermarket and OES sales for the Americas; U.S., Canada, Mexico, Latin and South Americas. Labun also oversees the product development and sales for Heavy Duty OES and aftermarket channels and directs the DENSO non-automotive product lines for robotics, heat management and hand scanners.
By all accounts, if you walked into Certified Express Lube & Auto Service in Crestwood, KY, you’d probably think it was owned by a former technician who decided to venture into shop ownership. The waiting area is inviting and features AAA-approved signage. The shop’s four technicians have ample room to work in the shop’s 13 service bays, and customer service is priority number one for each and every repair.
Just a few short decades ago, when Terry Flaherty was in his early 30s, he set a goal to retire at age 55. “I also set targets for what I wanted to make and my net worth at that age. So when I had been in the auto service business for 35 years as the business got tougher and tougher all the time, for me it was the right time to exit.”
We all know that there are many things you can do when it comes to customer retention. The list includes follow-up calls, sending out service reminder notices, ongoing advertising campaigns that keep your name at the top of the customer’s mind and scheduling the next visit at the time of car delivery, to name a few.