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Get Back to Basics

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Right now, it seems everyone’s got their sights set on the future. 

Sure, electric vehicles are in the headlines constantly and there are tons of talking heads trying to forecast the next big shift that could define our industry for the next several decades, but on the shop level I’m seeing plenty of owners thinking ahead to expansions and acquisitions and finally getting serious about financial planning. 

I’m also seeing shops rushing to buy the latest software or build an entire fleet of loaner vehicles. They’re chasing digital inspections, and video software, and everything else under the sun. They’re in a hurry to do what they think will help them keep up and stay ahead of the competition.  

Here’s the thing: I know these shops and their customers aren’t complaining about not having a photo of their car or the repairs. Do you know what they have complained about? Not getting a call back. It’s that simple. 

I’m not saying you shouldn’t adapt with the times. But I am seeing a lot of skewed priorities. These shops are chasing trends or the next shiny thing and ignoring what’s most important: the basics

I know it’s nothing new, or revolutionary, or rocket science, but somehow a lot of us still haven’t found a way to master the cornerstones of our business: fix the car right the first time, call your customers back, charge a fair price.

From what I see day to day in my business, a lot of shops struggle to do both and they end up with tunnel vision. They’re so busy trying to fix the car that they forget about everything else, and I’ll give it to them, it is hard to master the vehicle repair piece and the customer service piece. But, let’s be honest, we all know the shops that are great at customer service (they’re quick with a call back and they’re taking plenty of photos) but can’t even fix their own sandwich and we know the shops that can fix a car perfectly but they’re still writing up handwritten invoices surrounded by furniture from the '70s. 

They’ve got their blinders on and they’re focusing on just one piece of the puzzle, rather than seeing the full picture. It’s not ideal and in these shops there’s plenty of work to be done to address the principles they’ve been glossing over, but what’s worse is seeing shop owners try to throw money at the problem rather than drill down to the root. Investing in the latest and greatest DVI is not going to fix the basics. If you’re struggling with the basics now, you’ll still be struggling with them after you’ve dropped $10,000 on the new gadget you were sure would be a fix. 

You may (but most likely won’t) be surprised at how often it’s the number of little missteps and lazy mistakes made throughout the day that I’m seeing slow down service and ultimately bring down the customer experience in these shops. It’s the stumbling on things like confirming a customer’s address at check-in, or grabbing the vehicle VIN in advance so the tech doesn’t have to mess with it in the middle of a job, or checking customer history before calling a customer and trying to sell them on on a repair the shop just did a month ago, that add up and make an impact that your new app or platform won’t mask. 

When I’m working with a new client, we’ll track how many phone calls that shop gets versus how much revenue they’re bringing in and if we’re seeing a disproportionate ratio there we know those customers aren’t getting calls back. New software might help alleviate some of those calls, but it’s not going to solve bigger issue behind it. 

At the end of the day, the basics are what make you money. I’ll say it again: fix the car right the first time, call your customers back, charge a fair price. Those three are everything. It won’t be enough to plan and strategize for your future if you can’t face facts and fill the gaps in your present. You’ll be spinning your wheels ‘til you do. 

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