Remodeling For a Complete Customer Pivot
What makes for a luxury shop atmosphere? Maybe amenities like sparkling water, a top-notch espresso machine, or free Wi-Fi come to mind, but Ryan Blair, owner of Blair Automotive in Carrollton, Texas, is focused on the bigger picture. For Blair, the key is in creating a holistic experience customers can see and feel the second they walk through the door.
That was Blair’s top priority throughout a recent three-month shop remodel. While unique features like a VIP cigar and whiskey lounge have been highlighted in past Ratchet+Wrench coverage, Blair set out to update the shop’s customer experience with a slightly new angle (and ideally, without spending a fortune).
Blair’s decision to remodel came soon after an initial loss of business due to COVID-19. As a VIP-focused shop, many of his shop’s customers lived more than 20 miles away, and as the world stopped commuting and started staying home, “half of our business turned off overnight,” Blair says. After losing almost half of his customer base, Blair knew he needed a new strategy and leaned in on a more family-focused approach while other shops hunkered down and tried to wait out a return to normalcy.
“We’re going for family-friendly with a high-end luxury twist,” Blair says. “While everyone else was running scared during COVID, we doubled down,” he says. “We are coming out of COVID stronger than we’ve ever been.”
Blair focused the renovation on creating a new identity for the company. The shop previously specialized in Audi and Volkswagen repairs, but added additional lifts and hired a new technician and additional support staff to expand with a specialty on all Euro models. Blair also moved his parts company to its own building.
Blair also retrained his team on customer service best practices, repainted the shop’s interior, added a glass wall that looks out onto the workfloor, and widened the shop’s waiting room by extending its entry hallway and decluttering the customer lobby.
Before the renovations, the room was closed off from the shop floor and the front desk staff were hidden behind a wall. Now, the second the customer walks in, they see staff members who are ready to help them, free snacks and beverages, they see into the shop floor where their car will be worked on and generally, they feel comfortable.
“We made these moves to separate our identity from the old Blair Automotive from the new Blair Automotive,” he says.
The renovation opened the door to new customers and new business, bringing the shop’s previous $2.5 million revenue on pace to reach $4 million by the end of this year. Better yet? The entire project fell under Blair’s initial $50,000 budget.
“It shows you can make a big change without a lot of money,” he says. “I want this to be something different, for people to be blown away by the experience.”