In today’s technology-saturated marketplace, consumers are bombarded with e-mails, robo-calls, text messages, twitter updates and more virtual junk mail every day. But unless Grandma’s getting out the good stationery, an honest-to-goodness hand-addressed thank-you note nestled in the daily stack of credit card offers is nearly as rare as a UFO sighting!
To Marc Davis, this personal touch isn’t a marketing gimmick, it’s just how he does business.
“Simple little things matter,” says Davis, whose customer service mantra is infectious as he talks about his philosophy of doing business. “The biggest thing is customer service,” he reiterates. “You do good to one person and that person tells their neighbor and that person tells their neighbor … The next thing you know you’ve got the whole neighborhood coming down.”
Nestled on the outskirts of Cambridge, WI, an idyllic, Rockwellian village of about 1,500 just 30 minutes east of the state capital of Madison, Marc’s Garage and its owner endear themselves to the local population through community roots.
Trained at the Madison Area Technical College (MATC) as a technician, hometown-boy Davis setup shop in a two-stall Quonset hut in 1995 after stints at two dealerships and a salvage yard. “I always had my own little garage at home that I played in,” explains Davis, “so finally I just started to do my own thing. I always had people bugging me to do work for them, and I had more work than I could handle.”
The pace of growth didn’t stop and by 2001, Davis was hunting for land so that he could build and establish a shop that would let him service his growing customer base. Davis was deeply involved in the design and layout of the shop and its surroundings. From a large garage door that can accommodate a semi truck to the in-floor heat both in the garage and on the outside pad, all eight bays of Marc’s Garage are stamped with his efficient design.
The shop isn’t just designed to work as a well-oiled machine (which it does), it’s designed to be a home away from home for Davis’ clientele. “I created that front waiting room so they could walk in there and feel comfortable,” he says. “I wanted it to be just as pleasing as it is at home.”
The shop layout is also appealing to employees, complete with a staff lunchroom, and is conducive to an efficient workflow, continues Davis.
His efforts have paid off — a late August afternoon saw his waiting room home to two guests who interacted with Davis and the receptionist more like neighbors over a cup of coffee than service-providers and their customers. Davis joked with one gentleman while signing off on one of the eight loaners on hand, while the receptionist inquired, by name, about a grandmother’s daughter and her children. This sort of service isn’t built off of notes in a CRM — it’s about being a genuine part of the community.
Due to injuries sustained in an auto accident, Davis has had to retire his wrenches, so he acts as service manager and depends on his crew of four techs to deliver consistent performance for his customers.
“I’ve had as many as 10 people working here, and I’ve been down to two people working here,” says Davis as he explains that he’s found that having four techs, each with two service bays at their disposal, works best for his business.
Nick, Ryan and Chad have been with the garage since 2002, 2003 and 2004, respectively, while newcomer Jeff, a recent MATC grad, has been with the shop for just a few months.
“I usually have one younger person as a trainee who does oil changes and basic repair as he learns the trade,” explains Davis.
The crew works on everything from late-model domestics to classic imports to the family camper. Due to low turnover, Davis knows everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and builds the schedule to maximize productivity.
“I have tried every single pay scale that’s out there,” quips Davis as he relates his compensation strategy. While the techs do receive productivity bonuses, an hourly rate decreases tension in the shop and increases productivity.
In addition to well-strategized scheduling and compensation, training is also key to bolstering the productivity of the team at Marc’s Garage. “As far as I’m concerned, there’s not enough,” says Davis of regionally available training programs. He and the crew take advantage of any and all training that is available to them including programs offering by Bumper To Bumper and ACDelco, all on the company dime.
Bringing It All Together
Davis’ location within eyeshot of the local NAPA helps overcome a portion of his parts sourcing, however working on such a wide range of vehicles keeps Davis on his toes.
“Parts availability is always an issue,” says Davis who relates that the garage sources parts from 10 to 15 different suppliers as well as the OEMs. He balances timing with pricing, and while he may prefer a hand-written note to an e-mail, Davis is no technical troglodyte as he manages the daily flow of operations behind a bank of three flat-screen computer monitors, while chatting with customers and suppliers on his wireless headset.
While spreadsheets help Davis decide which parts supplier to source an ignition part from, when it comes to profits, he returns to his customer service mission statement. “Charge a decent price, take care of the customer and the profit margins will fall into place,” says Davis. “The profit is in the customer returning time and time again.”
That philosophy has paid off so far as Marc’s Garage has a database of 1,500 customers — roughly the same as his town’s population. With what equates to every man, woman and child in town pulling into Marc’s Garage for service, this locally run shop has cranked up a winning formula.