With a name like Knight’s Automotive Repair — and a logo to match — it’s only fitting that a full suit of armor in the shop’s waiting area greets customers. In fact, owners Peyton and Nancy Knight have received quite a few medieval-themed gifts over the past 34 years of providing automotive service in the Ledgewood, NJ, area.
From knight figurines to battle shields, all the collectibles are a testament to the relationships Peyton and Nancy have built with their customer base over the years.
“We have an ice bucket that looks like a knight’s helmet, which we use for raffles and giveaways, more than one coat of arms, framed prints, shields and so on,” Nancy explains. “These continue to be a topic of conversation — and sometimes we even loan them out for events.”
But beyond the fun memorabilia, the Knights pride themselves on providing customers with a clean, comfortable and friendly atmosphere that starts when a customer first walks into the shop.
“We have resisted putting a television in our waiting area,” Nancy says. “Instead, we play music and provide our customers with coffee, water, cookies and snacks, along with laptop tables and free Wi-Fi. You would not believe how many of our business customers like to park themselves in our comfortable chairs with our laptop tables and hang out long after their vehicle is done! We’ve been told that they get more work done at our shop than back at work.”
Nancy says that they “aim to please” customers with every aspect of their car repair, which all starts with the shop’s appearance. “Our shop, built in the early
’70s possesses a welcoming appeal,” she says. “We have an old-style park bench out front that many customers take advantage of in the pleasant weather. We like to plant seasonal flowers and include many plants in the waiting area. We provide a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere.
“Our property is also well lit, and we offer a night drop box for before- and after-hours customers,” Nancy adds. “We are all about convenience and fast, accurate communication.”
A big part of that communication process is educating the customer about necessary repairs to their vehicle.
“We go out of our way to educate the customer and make the whole service experience smooth and pleasant,” Peyton says. “We use visual aids and take digital pictures to illustrate the problems with the vehicle. We text and email these if the customer isn’t present; otherwise, we take them out to the garage and show them in real time what’s wrong with their vehicle. Safety and reliability are our biggest concerns. Creating understanding with the customer is imperative.
“Again, at Knight’s, we take the viewpoint of protecting the customer and their vehicles,” Peyton continues. “We offer a free vehicle condition inspection with every service. This way, we keep our customers informed of any current or potential issues with their vehicle.”
Peyton and Nancy also want a customer’s experience with Knight’s Automotive Repair to be a convenient one, so they offer free local shuttles to and from work or home. But they don’t stop there.
“We pick up and deliver vehicles to and from the train and bus station with prior arrangements,” Nancy says. “We also have some customers who leave us their extra keys so we can pick up their car from the bus or train station while they’re at work. We service it and return it to the same spot before they return home — cleaned and vacuumed, as well.”
To keep in touch with customers, Nancy says they employ a variety of marketing techniques, some tried and true and some that undoubtedly appeal to an online generation.
“We do a great deal of marketing and PR and track the results of our efforts through our shop management software,” Nancy says. “We always ask new customers, ‘How did you hear about us?’ We send out approximately 2,000 to 4,000 EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail) postcards every week on a rotational basis to 80,000 households in our area. And, we change these up according to seasons.”
While shop management software automatically generates recommended repair and service reminders for mailing, Nancy says the staff still follows up with a phone call. That personal touch can go a long way in creating a “customer for life.”
“I hand write personal thank you cards every week to new customers,” Nancy says. “I also personally call every customer to follow up on their service and to thank them for trusting us with the care of their family vehicle.”
Adapting to today’s best practices for reaching customers has also resulted in greater attention to the shop’s website.
“One of the most important marketing tools we have is our SEO-optimized website,” Nancy explains. “When we send out a marketing piece to new customers, we always notice a spike in visits to our website. The public always follows up and checks us out on the Internet.
“That being said, our online reviews are also very important,” she adds. “A good online reputation is vital.”
Nancy says they are constantly updating and improving the shop’s website, which is optimized for search by automotive consulting group Management Success.
“We change our online specials monthly,” she says. “We are always searching for fresh content and sharing important information. Our goal is to inform and educate the public about car maintenance and repair.
“Management Success built our website on a responsive platform, making it easy to access on mobile phones and tablets as well as desktop computers,” she continues. “A website is very important to the business. Today, the consumer is very savvy. Everyone does his or her research online. Having a great website with helpful automotive information, as well as personal information about us and our employees, allows the public to get to know us. This, coupled with social media interaction, creates an affinity with potential customers.”
In addition to the website, Peyton also represents the shop with a column called Iron-Clad Car Advice that runs in the local “Tap Into Roxbury” online news source.
The shop also has an active following on social media, where Nancy says they can have a little fun while also promoting special events. “We have a customer referral program in place where we reward those who refer with a $20 gift card,” she adds.
Peyton and Nancy originally owned a Shell gas station with three bays prior to moving to their present location in 1996. The shop’s eight bays are housed in the 5,000-sq.-ft. building the couple purchased in 2001. Having a well-run, clean, organized shop with great online reviews and an awesome website has been Peyton and Nancy’s best recruiting tool when it comes to staffing.
“Potential employees do their research online, as do potential customers,” Nancy says. “We advertise on Indeed and ACT AutoStaffing, and have been known to post a job offering on Facebook, but in the end, it’s our great reputation, website and reviews that garner us the best candidates. The last technician we hired walked in with his resume in hand and said, ‘You guys have great reviews, a beautiful shop and a fantastic website. I want to work here!’”
Peyton and Nancy say the shop currently employs three technicians, including their youngest son, Justin, who is in training, and one service advisor — all of whom are ASE certified. It is the couple’s top priority to make sure employees are happy and work in a positive environment.
“We are known as one of the friendliest shops in the area to work for,” Peyton says. “It’s important to us that our employees have a happy, efficient and safe work environment. We make sure of that. We provide paid vacations, paid health benefits and paid holidays. In addition, we provide ongoing training, uniforms and a Monday-Friday workweek. We do not work weekends or holidays.”
Work-life balance is also critical, and pay is competitive and includes bonuses and incentives.
“We make sure we acknowledge a job well done and promote teamwork during our weekly meetings,” Peyton explains. “Our employees know they have an open line of communication with us. We welcome their input and value their opinions in regard to making improvements at the shop. This positive work environment is a big reason why we do not have a large turnover rate.”
With the ever-changing world of vehicle repair, Peyton stresses the importance of staying ahead of the technology curve.
“We are constantly training on location, online or at offsite classes,” he says. “We also make sure to take advantage of all the classes offered by our parts vendors, when available.”
Peyton and Nancy also feel strongly about giving back to the community that supports their business. Peyton is a past president of the Roxbury Kiwanis, and Nancy is a past president and currently serves as an ex-officio board member for the Roxbury New Jersey Area Chamber of Commerce.
“People know us and trust us because of our interactions with them outside of our auto repair business,” Nancy says. “This certainly has helped us in business, but, more importantly, it’s the right thing to do to help better the community.
A multiple AAA Approved “Auto Repair Shop of The Year” winner, Knight’s Automotive Repair is also a part of the Wheels to Prosper national car giveaway and gets their customers involved in an annual toy drive.
“Every year, we refurbish a used vehicle to make it safe and reliable for a local community member who gives back to others and is in need of a car,” Peyton says. “Every November/December, we assist the Marines in collecting toys for their Toys For Tots program, and we help load them on the train that stops next to our shop. We have very generous customers who contribute each year to this worthwhile program.”
At the end of the day, Peyton and Nancy say they simply love what they do. Their positive attitude spills over and sets the tone for the whole shop, which goes a long way in running a successful business today.
“Peyton and I have a lifelong passion for the automotive repair industry,” Nancy concludes. “Cultivating good employees who are also passionate about the industry is important. We are blessed with a great team of employees, including our youngest son, Justin. He brings a fresh perspective to the shop and enthusiasm for new technologies.”
Peyton and Nancy are confident that with his help, Knight’s Automotive will continue to provide friendly, honest automotive repairs for many generations to come.