Creating a team atmosphere is sometimes easier said than done in a repair shop setting. Not so with Repair One Automotive. Since opening in January 2003, owners Brent and Brenda O’Neal have made every effort to build not only a team atmosphere, but a positive environment where “employees know their ideas are both listened to and valued.”
“We want everyone to feel they have a voice, and if they present a good idea, we will implement it,” Brenda says. “Most recently, one of our general service technicians suggested a better way to easily determine which cars in the parking lot are finished by backing in the finished vehicles. This is just a simple change, but an example of how our employees feel that their ideas are valued and we are all part of a team with the same end goals in mind.”
As a full-service repair facility, in The Woodlands, TX, this shop handles repairs on all makes and models, boasting 10 bays and 6,300 sq.-ft. of shop space. Repair One Automotive employs two ASE Master-certified technicians, one of which is also L1 certified. Three general service technicians also perform maintenance procedures and light-duty mechanical repairs. In addition, Brent and Brenda employ two service advisors, one of which also serves as a general manager.
“As owners, my husband oversees daily operations, which includes some service writing, systems implementation and monitoring, performance reports and weekly meetings,” Brenda explains, “while I handle bookkeeping, payroll, marketing and advertising.”
“We strive to be the ‘one-stop shop’ to meet all of our customers’ service and repair needs for their vehicles,” Brenda says.
Although employee turnover has at times been a challenge for Repair One, Brent and Brenda have worked very hard to find a solution. Brent and Brenda work with Universal Technical Institute (UTI) to recruit their general service technicians, ask parts suppliers for referrals and recently began using an assessment test provided by Elite Worldwide for recruiting service advisors.
In keeping with their focus on a positive team environment, Brenda says they offer employees competitive pay, paid holidays and paid vacation based on tenure, and bonuses for their service advisors.
“We also pay our general service technicians flag time (according to industry standard book time), in addition to their hourly pay, while our ASE Master-certified technicians are paid based on flag time,” she says. “Also, if we meet our quarterly goals, we plan an evening out that includes dinner and an activity. For example, last time we went out to eat and then watched one of the Rockets playoff games. Some future plans we’ve discussed are going to an indoor rock climbing place or playing Top Golf.”
While employees appreciate these benefits, Brenda says they’ve learned that remaining successful is about more than just money. While important, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee productivity.
“We keep everyone in the shop aware of our monthly goals,” Brenda says. “That way, it is a team effort, and they are rewarded through our group outings. Offering competitive pay alone is not enough to keep productivity up. We feel that employees are more productive when they are part of the overall success of the shop and feel valued for their contributions.”
Also important to remaining productive and profitable is up-to-date training for the entire staff, something that Brenda says they are placing even more emphasis on with the rate at which the world of automotive repair is constantly evolving.
They’ve used ACDelco online training, as well as some in-house training on new equipment and have attended WORLDPAC seminars. General service technicians benefit from apprentice-type training, and they’re also working on implementing a more concise, detailed apprenticeship program with their service advisors.
“Enhancing our continued training is one of our top goals this year, as we believe it is crucial to stay up-to-date with the ever-changing technology and advancements in the industry,” Brenda says. “Not only are we focusing our training on our technicians, but also our service advisors and ourselves as owners.
“Elite Worldwide and our business coach, Kevin Vaught, have been key components in our continued training and education,” she continues. “Just as we hold our technicians accountable for being certified, we expect our service advisors and ourselves to continue to improve and learn better and more efficient ways of running our business. We utilize Elite’s ongoing webinars and podcasts for ourselves and our service advisors. Brent and I also consult with Kevin on a weekly basis, which holds us accountable for our progress and continued development as owners.”
As with many successful shops, word-of-mouth cannot be overlooked when pinpointing the reason for the high retention of customers. But just as the way automotive repair has changed, so has the vehicle for word-of-mouth recommendations. Brenda says online reviews serve as a type of word-of-mouth advertising now, with the ability to reach “innumerable prospective customers.”
“We have focused heavily on our online presence over the last several years and have seen positive results,” Brenda says. “We use Demand Force for our email campaigns, thank-you’s and requests for reviews, as well as Angie’s List, Google, Yelp and Facebook, along with local online community sites.
“We also focus on our internal marketing with follow-up phone calls, thank-you cards for every new customer, thank-you cards for referrals, and complimentary car washes,” she continues. “These types of marketing tactics have proven to attract and retain customers better than traditional ways, such as direct mail and print ads, although we still do use some of that. Ultimately, we feel that paying attention to each and every customer and developing an on-going trusting relationship is what really retains our customers.”
Built in 2002, the shop needed a boost in appearance the O’Neals felt. They recently updated and remodeled the facility to meet their employees’ needs as well as their customers’. While iPads didn’t even exist back in 2002, they’re a part of daily life now. Brent and Brenda decided to include what they call an “iPad Bar” in the waiting room. Customers, and their children, can use the two tablets while waiting for their vehicle to be serviced — and even after their car is complete in some cases.
“Feedback from the customers about the ‘iPad bar’ or workstation has been great!” Brenda says. “So many people can work from wherever they are, so they don’t mind the wait if they can be productive and keep their little ones occupied. We even had one customer who asked if he could stay and work a little longer even though his car was ready. He said his kids were home from school and he could get more work done at our shop than at home.”
In addition to amenities for customers, Brent and Brenda also wanted to make sure the redesign allowed employees to be more organized and productive.
“Each service advisor has their own station with customized drawers designed precisely for our ROs, paper, supplies and so forth,” Brenda says. “This has created a more organized and functional workspace that helps with productivity and efficiency. We also rearranged our office and put in new office furniture. It’s a great feeling to be organized and have a place for everything.”
A better organized office isn’t the only strategy the O’Neals employ to ensure continued success. A weekly performance report keeps them apprised of every aspect of shop profitability and productivity.
“By monitoring it weekly, it allows us to correct areas that may fall below our goals, such as closing ratios or technical average repair order and gross profits on parts and labor,” Brenda says. “If any of those areas fall below minimum standards, we can correct them before it affects an entire month of sales. A slow week can be an aberration; a slow month can become a trend. We try to correct problems by monitoring the performance report each week before they become a trend.”
The O’Neals have also found that having a website that’s up-to-date and easy to navigate has served the shop well, as more and more clients are choosing to book appointments online.
“We’re noticing more and more appointment requests from our website,” Brenda says. “It’s also mobile friendly, so customers can access and use our site easily from their phones. Our web provider also performs search engine optimization regularly for our site, which keeps us as one of the top searches for repair facilities when doing a web search.”
When asked to pinpoint which aspects of shop ownership are most important to longevity and success, the O’Neals are quick to point to honesty and integrity, as well as “going the extra mile and beyond in customer service.”
Combined with well-trained technicians and staff, Repair One Automotive is poised to remain a profitable shop well into the future.