The 2020 Ratchet+Wrench All-Star Awards: Becky Merlini
When coming in the door, female customers of Adams Autoworx in Castro Valley, Calif., are always surprised by what they see. Instead of a shop full of tall, husky men towering over them, they open the shop’s door to see a petite, 4-foot-11-inch mom with a welcoming smile on her face.
“Becky is the consummate professional with the love and care of a mom,” says Bill Adams, owner of the shop. “She is a beacon for our women clients looking for a sympathetic ear that speaks their language and understands their concerns.”
And, to everyone’s surprise, Merlini came to the shop with no automotive experience whatsoever. Before Adams Autoworx, she worked as a manager with a major supermarket chain. When her department was eliminated from the operation, Adams hired her in an administrative role. But soon, Adams realized Merlini had potential in a different role. Ten years later, she’s one of the most successful service advisors in the shop, averaging over $1.5 million in sales each year on her own—that’s over half of the shop’s $2.7 million total in sales, and $300,000 above the other service advisors in the shop.
“She’s not in any book, she’s not in any, ‘this is how you’re going to be a successful service advisor’ guide,” Adams says. “I don’t think Safeway made her that way; I think she’s what made Safeway great.”
Adam’s Autoworx had its best month ever in May, amid the coronavirus pandemic, hitting an ARO of $960. Adams says Merlini was a huge part of that. To achieve this, Becky and her team cold called all of their customers with deferred work to bring them back in for the services.
Where Merlini really shines is customer relationships. Adams says she stuck out to him as the perfect service advisor because she knew how to talk to and read people—and make them feel special. Adams calls her the “shop mom” because everyone—staff and customers included—feels comfortable going to Merlini.
“She’s another ‘it’ factor for us,” Adams says. “There’s that old show from the ’90s, Everybody Loves Raymond. Well, in Castro Valley—our town—it’s Everybody Loves Becky.”
Adams says when hiring Merlini, he didn’t need her to know how to diagnose a vehicle. What he needed was her to build relationships with customers that don’t know anything about cars either.