We first profiled Phoenix-based 3A Automotive Service in our March issue of Maintenance Matters. Through its two-week assessment conducted Feb. 9-20, the 11-bay shop discovered there were some “black holes” in its approach to service.
“We have been running a lot of promotions to keep the car count up, and the numbers definitely indicate that we are seeing more cars,” 3A owner Jimmy Alauria said in the March issue. “But we aren’t converting them into as much maintenance as I’d like to see. This will be an area we need to address with our team.”
With this goal in mind, Alauria sought to refine some of his shop’s practices to better educate both his technicians and his customers on the benefits of preventative maintenance.
“We’ve always had a pretty thorough inspection process, but our techs and service advisors were missing some key maintenance items based on a lack of education,” Alauria said. “We are getting more educated on things like shocks/struts, fuel injection services, brake flushes and how to sell through educating our customers. Weekly, we discuss preventative maintenance in our meetings so that we keep everybody thinking about how we are responsible for keeping our customers’ cars reliable, safe and valuable.”
One of the main takeaways Alauria discovered is that the industry is constantly evolving, and that strategies that worked last year might not be the best ones to implement now or in the future. Most shops have a team of seasoned techs that have been perfecting their skills for decades. But even though these professionals have ample experience, it doesn’t mean that they can’t add new wrinkles to their service repertoire.
“Because we have seasoned technicians, the only training they want to do is the highly technical/diagnostic courses. We are great at fixing broken cars! But this industry is moving more and more into a preventative maintenance game. We need more substantive information about maintenance for both the techs and the service advisors,” Alauria said.
The way Alauria has approached providing this information to his technicians and service advisors is to press the parts representatives who come into the shop for more pertinent information on how their parts can benefit incoming customers. Rather than just listening to the deals these reps have to offer, Alauria asks them to list how these products are going to help 3A’s customers save money by keeping their vehicles reliable, safe and valuable. His techs and service advisors can then pass this information on to the customer. Essentially, this information has given 3A’s staff the tools to explain the “why” behind their maintenance suggestions to the shop’s customers.
“I’m amazed at how easy it is to sell preventative maintenance by educating the customer,” Alauria said. “We weren’t selling very many shocks and struts before, yet they are probably the most tangible maintenance item you can put on a customer’s car. Just drive a car with struts that have 90K miles on them, and then drive that same car after a new set of struts. The customer will think they are driving a new car!”
It’s not just how Alauria has gone about training his employees that has helped boost sales; 3A has also revamped the way it inspects incoming vehicles. The shop now uses digital inspection software that features pull-down tabs for each area and category of the inspection. This technology has made it easier for techs to recommend maintenance due to mileage concerns or because a part appears to be original.
Alauria has also made changes to how the shop focuses its marketing efforts, with a current emphasis on explaining the fiscal benefits customers can realize by keeping their vehicles longer.
“It has helped us align our main purpose as a company, which is to help our customers save money by maintaining their vehicles so they don’t ever have to go buy a new one,” Alauria said. “It’s really important that the customer understands what they are buying, and that even though they are spending a lot of money with us, we are, in fact, helping them save tens of thousands of dollars by keeping their cars maintained. They have to get that kind of value and peace-of-mind every time they are at the shop.”
After implementing these enhancements to 3A’s service initiatives, Alauria decided to put his strategies to the test via an apples-to-apples comparison of the “before” period (Feb. 9-20) versus the “after” (April 27-May 8).
So, what exactly was the result of Alauria’s training efforts? (See the Stats chart to see which categories experienced an uptick).
While 3A’s sales are up 12% overall this year (putting the shop on pace for its best year yet), Alauria hopes to continue to refine its preventative maintenance marketing in the future as a way to remove the guesswork from its sales efforts.
“I want to get our business to a level where we can predict our income several weeks in advance. Currently, only about 25% to 50% of the work coming in our shop is prescheduled, and I hate the uncertainty,” Alauria said. “Working out preventative maintenance plans with our customers and getting those services on the schedule throughout the year is how I think this can be done.”
How can your shop realize a similar jump in sales to those experienced by 3A? According to Alauria, all it takes is a closer look at what’s actually pulling in money for your shop — and what is not.
“Do this drill in your shop for two weeks,” Alauria said. “Look at what preventative maintenance your shop is selling and where it can improve. For us, it wasn’t that we weren’t selling any preventative maintenance, but some of the things we weren’t selling are very profitable and really good services for the customer who wants to keep their car a while.”
As 3A’s newfound success goes to show, sometimes what you don’t know can hurt you!
“Numbers don’t lie.” That’s the idea behind Maintenance Chronicle. By taking a closer look at a shop’s maintenance sales during a two-week period, the hope is that it can fine-tune its marketing efforts, amplify its opportunities and make more money. This is an exercise every repair shop can undergo, but one shop in particular has taken this strategy to heart and is reaping the financial benefits as a result.