As a customer, having peace of mind when dropping off a vehicle for service is crucial. And, knowing that the shop’s staff and technicians will repair your vehicle right the first time will most likely keep you coming back for future service.
It’s that kind of customer satisfaction that Winners Auto & Cycle is known for in Brownstown, MI. So, while many shops continuously advertise, owners Tony Moore and Dan Berris rely on word-of-mouth referrals to keep their shop at capacity — and it’s working.
“Integrity and relationship building are the driving factors in operating any service business today,” Tony says. “A vehicle is likely the second-biggest investment besides a home that most people will make. It represents personal freedom and, for some, a way to earn a living. Helping our customers get the most out of that investment in an honest, friendly way is what makes us a success.”
The shop’s level of success also comes from its owners having a history of living and working in the community they serve. Both Tony and Dan were previously employed by the local Chrysler dealership, and when Winners Dodge and Winners Powersports closed in 2009, the two decided to open their own automotive repair shop.
“The dealership that was the foundation for our current operation was open for more than 20 years before Chrysler’s bankruptcy,” Dan says. “But rather than focusing on one brand family of vehicles, Winners Auto & Cycle offers service for all domestic and import cars, light- to medium-duty trucks, motorcycles and ATVs. We do everything from maintenance to a complete overhaul. Diesel repair has become our most popular specialty area.”
As an ASE master-certified technician and diesel specialist, Tony, along with the shop’s four other certified technicians, provide diesel and fleet repairs when the specialties are hard to find in the Brownstown area.
“Our fleet and diesel service programs are the rising stars here,” Tony explains. “Fleet customers enjoy their preferred status, happy that we understand that these vehicles work for a living, and sitting waiting for repairs is lost revenue for them. Our diesel repair program has customers coming from many miles away, as there are not that many shops that do this type of work locally, let alone proficiently.”
Also a Certified Auto Repair, or C.A.R., shop, Winners Auto & Cycle has met a stringent set of guidelines to hold the designation, including employing certified technicians; having the latest diagnostic equipment; offering a 1-year, 12,000-mile warranty; and using premium parts such as those from NGK Spark Plugs. While the program helps instill confidence in customers, it also impacts the shop’s bottom line.
“If you do good work at a fair price, keep material waste under control, and keep detailed books, shop profitability takes care itself,” Dan says. “Taking advantage of loyalty programs from parts and materials suppliers helps in this regard, as well.”
For an independent automotive repair shop to run efficiently, a strong team must be built — but that can be difficult when technicians are hard to come by.
“Finding new people is one of our biggest challenges,” Tony says. “We have learned that finding young people, and teaching them from the ground up, has been the best for us.”
Tony and Dan have taken a unique approach to training, providing a combination of in-house training, online instruction and area classes.
“We hold in-house training classes, taught by our own ASE master lead tech,” Dan says. “The techs seek online training of their own, and we send them to local classes sponsored by one of our parts suppliers when the subject matter is in our interest.”
In addition, the shop also instituted a mentoring program that trains a young technician from the ground up.
“We recently created a ‘mini team’ concept/mentoring program where we place a younger tech with a veteran one,” Tony explains. “This gives the veteran the advantage of ‘young hands’ and the younger tech the wealth of knowledge that only experience can bring. This has helped everyone involved and made us more productive as a result.”
Other area businesses can also provide insight into improving your own business, and Tony and Dan appreciate the benefits of belonging to the local small business association.
“It’s been helpful from a networking perspective,” Dan says, “and some business-to-business customer relationships have developed.”
Oftentimes, a good first impression can mean the difference between a one-time customer and a lifetime client. That’s why Winners Auto & Cycle maintains a clean, professional exterior, as well as an inviting waiting area.
“We don’t have a bunch of point-of-sale material to bombard the customer,” Tony says. “Too often, small- to medium-sized repair shops like ours will try to upsell via multiple posters and displays. We have a low-pressure environment. People say that they like that about us.”
Customers also like that the shop maintains an active presence on Facebook. The social platform, Tony says, is just as important as maintaining a website for the shop. From the repair of a classic vehicle to a pizza lunch provided by a customer, pictures shared on Facebook help the shop connect with customers.
“Our website is valuable as a way for new customers to find us, but it’s only one part of our presence on the internet,” he says. “Our social media presence allows us to interact with our customer community in an instant. Many of our customers begin to feel like part of the family and enjoy being able to communicate with us via social media. We evaluate our presence online regularly, tweaking it as needed for maximum exposure.”
Whether it’s face-to-face through the web or via social media, Winners Auto & Cycle knows how to connect with customers and provide the quality repairs necessary to keep an independent automotive shop busy well into the future.