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Carquest Technical Institute (CTI), founded in 1999, is part of the Advance Auto Parts’ suite of services available to auto repair- shops. CTI’s core mission is to properly prepare technicians to diagnose and service vehicles correctly the first time. Al Wheeler, Advance’s Senior Vice President, Commercial Sales, explains how CTI works with shop owners to make this happen.

What is CTI’s role in the industry?
CTI’s role in the industry is always evolving. Our core mission is to make sure that technicians are able to service vehicles correctly the first time. That means a focus on preparing technicians to repair today’s complex vehicles, but also providing training to help owners and managers strengthen the skills needed to successfully run a business. We have a great deal of respect for what today’s technicians are faced with and understand how critical it is that they stay up-to-date with the changing systems and CTI can play a critical role in helping shops keep their technicians on the cutting edge.

Our industry has an ongoing challenge of attracting young people. While this is an industry-wide opportunity, we believe we have an important role to play, and that role is articulating why young people should choose a career in the aftermarket. CTI’s involvement in the industry presents an opportunity to help get the message out. We recognize training requires commitment to continuous improvement in order to successfully engage and teach today’s technician. When it comes to our training content, CTI develops all of its own curriculum, so we can customize for our customers’ shops and build personalized training around what they need.

What do you think is one of the biggest obstacles in the mechanical industry today, and what is CTI doing to improve this?
One of the biggest challenges is keeping up with vehicle technology and understanding what vehicle owners are expecting–at Advance we call that Service Readiness. CTI understands consumers’ expectations for how they want to experience maintenance and repair and can effectively translate that message to the shop. The service industry is a race for trust, and CTI helps shop owners build trust with their customers. It’s important our company is regarded as both a supplier and a partner. We partner with shops and take a holistic approach to looking at their business flow. Advance engages with our customers to create a map of the consumer’s journey throughout the repair process and pinpoints specific moments of trust. We explain to shop owners what he or she can do to gain their customers’ trust at those points in the process and maintain their Service Readiness.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to shop owners to
improve business?

Find a way to differentiate. What are you doing as a shop to break out from the pack and create something extraordinary out of an experience that most people see as a disruption? Shop owners need to create a positive experience that allows them to gain trust with customers. Follow a simple formula for doing this. Start with a clear purpose. Define how you as an owner will differentiate your shop. After you’ve created your purpose, create a vision around it. Focus on how you can make life easier for your customers to do business with you. Owners need to communicate the purpose with the rest of their team and make sure everyone understands it. Success is centered on creating trust as I mentioned before. CTI helps shop owners build trust on the capability and repair side of the business and our Virtual Vehicle MD tool is a great way to bring more consumer understanding into the process using customer-facing repair animations and video.

What’s on the horizon for CTI as far as new products or services?
CTI understands how important it is to listen to our customers and identify the needs of today’s shop and also anticipate their needs tomorrow. We recently opened a research and development center in Raleigh, N.C., which is exciting as it allows us to effectively develop solutions to stay ahead of the curve in bringing solutions to our customers. As CTI develops, we are also looking at the young men and women coming in and what different ways they learn. For example, CTI is creating practical simulations for technicians. This gaming aspect is critical to training the next generation of technicians. We are excited about the future opportunities being generated by the aftermarket. Being a technician is no longer just about turning wrenches. It is about critical thinking skills applied to a complicated piece of technology. At Advance, we are excited to ensure that CTI continues to be an integral part of the continuing education successful technicians and shop owners require.

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