Most every motorist with a responsible job and a family to take care of – and many other things on their mind – usually relies on the expertise of their automotive service provider to keep their car or SUV running smoothly.
More so, owners of sophisticated high-end vehicles know that they have little time and even less mechanical inclination to decipher, let alone repair, some of the problems with their vehicle. So the choice for the Mercedes-Benz owner is either the dealer or a qualified independent repair facility, like Austrian Motors in Atlanta.
Austrian Motors’ owner, Josi Waldschuetz, has been in business for more than 30 years. Her shop is a seven-bay, three-technician facility that specializes in the repair and maintenance of Mercedes Benz vehicles – known for being some of the finest engineered cars in the world.
“Mercedes vehicles and their owners can be very demanding,” says Waldschuetz. “I’ve learned that being able to keep them happy, though difficult at times, is eventually rewarding.” According to Waldschuetz, there are two main aspects to consider when running a Mercedes-Benz repair shop – the technical manufacturer-related side and the customer service side, both of which demand “plenty of attention.”
Managing the Technical Side
While Austrian Motors is focused on delivering safe, well-repaired vehicles to its customers, keeping up with the latest service and repair information and equipment needed for the purpose is a continuing challenge for Waldschuetz and her staff. Supplementing what’s available from the OEMs, Waldschuetz covers her technicians’ time and expenses for technical classes conducted by various manufacturers and vendors, and sessions sponsored by automotive associations at trade shows at the national level.
Information Sources:Parts Supplier Program
Austrian Motors is an authorized Bosch Car Service facility – one of 700 such facilities around the country that has met Bosch’s rigorous requirements for service proficiency, cleanliness, equipment and other attributes to qualify as an elite authorized shop. Bosch is one of the largest suppliers in the world today of automotive parts to OEMs and uses this experience to keep its Car Service facilities at the top of their game.
Key advantages of belonging to the Bosch Car Service program include the availability of multiple factory training courses that lead to the Bosch Master Technician status at no charge except travel costs, access to a toll-free service information line, and participation in the “Service Excellence Program” in which Bosch Car Service shops are evaluated and earn incentives toward the cost of products and training. The subscription service information system is now available in DVD format.
Once selected, shop owners like Waldschuetz can purchase Bosch equipment (ESI [electronic service information] testing equipment and cables) for a nominal price as well as a lighted sign, and use Bosch’s name and logo in their marketing/advertising material.
Additionally, Austrian Motors is authorized to have a two-way Internet link to its Web Site directly from the Bosch Service Web Site. And, thorough, extensive training on various important automotive systems is available at Bosch’s training facility near Chicago, as well as training manuals and videos, all of which are designed to help make an authorized Bosch Car Service shop a highly proficient service facility. International in scope, the highly visible Bosch Car Service program has signed up, to date, approximately 11,000 shops worldwide.
For shops that install Bosch aftermarket parts but do not qualify for the Bosch Car Service status, Bosch offers the Bosch Auto Parts Specialist Program (BAPS). BAPS shops receive point-of-purchase merchandising material, a Bosch identity program, and service information and technical courses plus additional support.
“As vehicles get more and more sophisticated with each subsequent model year, repairing them is becoming an equally complex process, involving sophisticated testing equipment,” says Waldschuetz. “And sometimes, not even the manufacturer’s dealer knows enough to unravel the codes and diagnose the problems. Then there are problems that are specific to particular models.” In addition to information and training from parts suppliers like Bosch and other industry sources, Waldschuetz downloads repair information from the Mercedes-Benz Web Site (www.StarTekInfo.com) for a fee. This Web Site is designed especially for independents.
Handling the Mercedes Customer
All customers are not alike, especially those who own Mercedes-Benz vehicles, says Waldschuetz. Typically demanding, they come to her with high expectations but, oftentimes, limited information.
“It is not unusual that a customer does not understand the complexity of his or her vehicle,” Waldschuetz explains. “First of all, these cars are highly engineered – more than most people realize. Second, since they’ve paid top dollars for their vehicle, customers expect it to function seamlessly. This is the challenge we are constantly trying to meet. For example, there is no single reason why the ‘Check Engine’ light can come on.
“Overall, our goal is to keep our customers informed about any service that is due, any systems that are leaking and any repair work that is urgent so they can enjoy driving a safe and reliable car,” Waldschuetz says. “Helping people … that is what we really do.”
The current customer base at Austrian Motors cuts across both genders, with vehicles ranging anywhere from 25 years old to those that were purchased only two years ago. Naturally, this model range and difference in engineering also demands extensive technical knowledge to provide customers with explanations about the repairs needed and related expenses.
“Some customers price-shop and may want cheap parts installed, not considering the change it brings about in driving experience and the fact that it lowers the value of their vehicle,” Waldscheutz explains. “More important, the quality of the diagnosis and the proper installation of quality parts can impact the safety of the driver. A factory-trained or experienced Mercedes technician brings altogether a far superior set of technical skills than a minimum-wage mechanic.”
According to Waldscheutz, “Our standards are so high that sometimes we have to communicate this to our customers even at the risk of losing them. It’s in everyone’s best interest to use the best parts.”
Other areas of the business that need attention, according to Waldschuetz, are marketing, human resources management, inventory control and business development. Advertisements in the Yellow Pages, the Atlanta Business Chronicle and other publications, and on the Web, as well as seasonal specials, are some of the methods she uses to draw in existing and potential customers. Periodically, parts suppliers and equipment manufacturers offer merchandising support in the form of banners, promotional and sales literature, and other creative “vehicles” such as customer response/reminder cards printed with their name, which are handy and inexpensive ways to get the message across.
As far as her employees are concerned, Waldschuetz proudly announces that one of her techs recently celebrated his 29th anniversary. An experienced service manager, parts manager, office manager and an associate make up the rest of the team at Austrian Motors.
Without such excellent behind-the-scenes help and support, Waldschuetz acknowledges, she would not be able to “take the bow” every evening when the curtain is ready to fall and customers come in to pick up their vehicles after the services are done.