Running a Shop Technology Customer Service

Master Your CRM

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Hi Jamar, it's Mike at Fox Run Auto Inc. letting you know that your 2014 Dodge might be due for its next oil service. Give me a call or text to schedule an appointment! Show this text message and get a FREE TIRE ROTATION with any Oil Change Service. One offer per customer. Not valid with other offers. Reply STOP to unsubscribe.


This is an example of one of the automated messages that Mike DeFino sends out on a daily basis through his customer relationship management (CRM) system. Today, he’s got 17 in the queue but some days it can be upward of 100, he says. While chatting on the phone with Ratchet+Wrench, one round of the messages, which blast off daily at 8 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., were sent. 

“By the time this conversation ends, someone will respond to that,” DeFino says with confidence. 

Sure enough, seconds later, he laughs and says that one of his customers just texted back. 

DeFino, the owner of Fox Run Auto Inc. in Bear, Del., began using Kukui’s CRM system in 2016, to keep up with the changing times. Before, he wasn’t connecting with customers on the personal level that he is today; it was time consuming and he didn’t have the capabilities that he does with his CRM. Now, he says it takes him roughly 15 minutes per day to connect with his customers. 

 “After you sip the Kool-Aid, you realize how easy it is,” DeFino says to those who haven’t yet invested in a CRM. 

Many shop owners today have a CRM system, but not all use it to its full capability. DeFino says his CRM has definitely contributed to the growth and success of his shop because he knows how to use it to his advantage. His 12-bay, 10,000-square-foot shop generates just over $2 million in sales, saw close to 6,500 vehicles in 2021, and welcomed 1,689 new customers. 

Whether you use Kukui, Mitchell 1, Mechanic Advisor, Shop-Ware, or another one of the many CRM systems out there, here are keys to making the most of it. 


Take advantage of support.

CRM systems have many features that can help streamline processes in your shop, as well as help you better communicate with your customer, but it can be overwhelming—especially if you’re not tech savvy. 

Most CRM systems offer some type of support. Whether it be a one-time training, a helpline to call or a dedicated support person, you’re not alone when it comes to navigating the ins and outs of your CRM. 

DeFino has a monthly call with his support person. During the call, the two discuss what the messaging should be for the month. It’s helpful because the support person deals with shops all over the country and has an understanding of trends and what’s working well in other shops. 

“He holds my hand and helps me through it,” DeFino says. 


Take time to save time. 

A couple hours per week is all it takes for DeFino to maintain quality communication with his customers. Before, he says he really didn’t connect with his customer base as often as he should. With CRM text and email blast features, he can automate messages and quickly send out appointment reminders, appointment follow-ups, and upcoming maintenance reminder messages. 

Dedicating a few hours per week—or even per month—to set up automated messages, such as promotions you’re running, will make communication with customers as easy as pressing a button. To make the most of it, though, you need to make sure that you're updating your CRM with your customer information and staying on top of it so you know when, exactly, Mr. Smith needs to come in again for an oil change, for example. Dedicate time each week to stay on top of it and it will pay off in the long run.     


Get your staff involved. 

DeFino’s front desk staff and his service advisors all have access to the CRM. This takes all of the responsibility off his shoulders and gives the staff who are customer-facing an easy way to reach out. 

DeFino designs and sends out the message. Then, the service advisors and front desk staff respond to the customer replies and also send out pictures and provide updates on the repair. 

Mike Accursi, general manager at Fox Run Auto, says the staff tries to reply to as many texts as possible. 

“If there’s even remotely a question, or something along the lines of, ‘Enjoy the weather’ or, ‘Have a great day,’ we respond; that relationship building is key to the whole program,” Accursi says. 

Accursi opens up the messages first thing in the morning—the CRM can be programmed to send out an automated text message letting the customer know it’s after hours—and continues to check throughout the day. 

DeFino says when he started using the CRM, his staff who required access were involved in training and if someone new starts, they have access to that training as well. 


Common CRM Features 

Customer relationships management systems may feature the following … 

  • Customer contact information storage 
  • Lead generation data 
  • Automated text and email blast capabilities 
  • Website updates
  • Campaign management 
  • Customer analytics 
  • Phone call tracking 
  • Shop data dashboard 


Study the data. 

Many CRM systems provide data that compares how you are performing to other shops using the system. You can find helpful information, such as whether a first-time customer called from the website or from Google AdWords, DeFino says. DeFino takes advantage of this information, which helps him see areas in which he may need to work. For example, he knows right now he is in Kukui’s top 20 percent for both new customers and car count, so he can feel confident in those two areas. There’s information on pretty much everything you’d want to know about your shop—from car count to gross parts profit to parts per sales. 

“If you want a quick snapshot for the month, it’s available for everyone,” DeFino says. 

Another feature that DeFino commonly uses is the ability to listen to phone calls. He can critique the conversations and have a dialogue with the front office on how to improve and bring in more customers. 


Communicate with customers the way they want. 

Having a CRM allows you to reach customers the way they prefer. For most, that’s texting, says DeFino. His website landing page allows customers to opt into automated texting and there’s a large sign in his lobby that lets customers know about the texting program. By collecting a phone number from the customer and getting authorization, CRMs can store that information and put customers on a text blast list, so sending out deals and appointment reminders is as simple as pushing a button. 

Not everyone wants to give his or her phone number and be on a texting list. CRMs also allow you to collect email and home addresses so, if customers prefer, you can send emails or postcards, DeFino explains. 


Customize your messaging. 

CRMs allow automated texting, and the amount of time and personalization you put into those texts is up to you. But, the more customized, the better. Using customer names, vehicles and a friendly tone can help customers feel like they’re interacting with a real human, rather than a robot. 

DeFino says that the monthly calls with his support person have been a huge help. His support person gives advice on what’s working with shops around the country and, every month, they change up the ad and pictures on the website. They then take the time to write out the email and text blasts. DeFino is sent the wording and has final approval. 

One instance where this helped was during the pandemic when Fox Run Auto had an outdoor waiting room. DeFino added this to his messaging so customers would know about some of the safety practices he was taking.

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