The concept for Maintenance Chronicle is simple: We ask one shop to record their maintenance sales for a two-week period, and then we see what we learn from the results. This edition of Maintenance Chronicle also proved to be valuable for the shop we profiled.
The shop we chronicle this month is 3A Automotive Service, an 11-bay shop located in Phoenix, AZ. After charting sales for two weeks, Shop Vitals and after really thinking about the numbers, owner Jimmy Alauria found what he called a “black hole” in their approach.
The ‘Black Hole’
We asked Jimmy if the results from these two weeks seemed higher or lower than what he’d typically expect, and he said they seemed to perform more oil changes than normal. This fact revealed two important things.
One: This uptick in oil changes can be traced directly to their marketing efforts, which is good.
Two: The uptick in oil changes did not lead to increases in other categories, which indicated some missed opportunities — the “black holes.”
“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,” Alauria said. “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.”
Oil Changes Lead The Way
During the course of the two weeks, 3A Automotive saw 154 vehicles and performed 150 maintenance service jobs. The majority of those jobs (81) were oil changes. Of the 81 total oil changes over two weeks, 10 were walk-ins, 45 were prescheduled due to a notice or a coupon, and the other 26 were performed when the vehicle came in for another service.
“We really promote coming to our shop for oil changes, and then we do most of the other vehicle maintenance recommendations in person.”
3A is maybe most successful recommending transmission service. “It’s probably the easiest to communicate because everybody can relate to a $250 flush versus a $2,500 transmission,” he said.
The shop performed three transmission flushes during the two weeks.
Adjusting For Climate
3A Automotive recorded its sales from Feb. 9 – Feb. 20, and unlike many other areas of the country that suffer through freezing winter temperatures, coolant service isn’t as in demand in February. 3A performed 11 coolant flush/fills during the two weeks.
“Only 25% of the cooling system service was because of maintenance,” Alauria said. “The rest came as a result of doing other repair work. In the summer, people here are much more concerned about their coolant, unlike in colder climates where the coolant is one of the main services in the winter.
So, what is coming up for seasonal maintenance in Phoenix?
“We are heading into spring right now, so we are promoting A/C services,” Alauria said. “This is the time of year when people will get in their car, and if it’s been sitting in the sun they will turn on the A/C for the first time in a few months. If it’s not blowing cold or the air ‘smells,’ we want to remind them that we can fix those issues.”
3A also keeps its standard oil change at 3,000 miles (with some exceptions) because of Arizona’s “extreme heat and dust during eight to nine months of the year.” This extreme heat affects wiper blade replacement, too.
“Wiper blades are not a big seller in Phoenix because it doesn’t rain that often,” Alauria explained. “That being said, the wipers are often very bad because the heat just ruins the rubber even though they don’t get much use.”
As a result, 3A often offers a free wiper blade install just as it would a light bulb or an air filter. During the two-week period we looked at, seven sets of wiper blades were sold.
Inspection, Education, Communication
A vehicle inspection is basically useless unless you can relay that information to the customer in a way that helps them understand what was found and why it matters. This helps to avoid any “black holes.” At 3A, the team provides a copy of the inspection to all customers and goes over what should be serviced next and why.
“At that time we schedule that next service appointment,” Alauria said. “If it is a service item, we have promotional material that explains the service in a little more detail, like a transmission flush, brake fluid flush, etc.”
Those inspections then form the foundation for their maintenance promotion, with reminders set to blast out at specified dates following the visit.
“After that ‘due date,’ if they don’t come in, we send out monthly postcard reminders for up to 18 months,” he said. “The service advisers also call on those every month.”
That followup matters, as does the variety of the communication, as different customers respond to different methods.
“Only about 1-2 customers per week come directly from the website, but a lot of people confirm the appointments sent by our CRM program. Those are based on the dates we set during their last visit. I think we average 5-10 appointments per week digitally, but most people still call,” he said.
Keep in mind, 3A’s “black holes” aren’t noticeable issues, and they won’t be at your shop either. They can be small things, like a lack of customer communication or education, that reveal themselves only when you take the time to dive into the numbers.