Repairer Profiles

How I Work | Brian Meyer

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Since Brian Meyer started in the industry at 8 years old, he has always loved the repair business for the same reason—people. And it’s still those daily interactions he gets to have with folks in his community that keep him motivated.

Currently, Meyer wears multiple hats, working as the general manager and service manager at Waterloo Automotive, his family’s second location in Waterloo, Ill. In his role, he spends much of his time each day writing service. His leadership skills and fact-based sales approach have helped increase the shop’s revenue by 10 percent each of the last four years, demonstrating that a high-caliber service advisor drives growth.

This is a family-owned business. I’m third generation. My grandfather owned an Amoco standard station that had gas pumps, and we fixed cars in the back. When I was 8 years old, dad dragged me to the gas station. Well, at first he dragged me, then I went voluntarily, because it was just awesome to be at work all day.

I would pump gas at the full-service gas pumps and sweep floors. He really wanted me to focus on talking with people and being a people person. That was my first introduction into the business.

I worked at the shop until I was 18 years old. I then went to school to be in radio and worked as a DJ in Ohio for three years. It was an incredible experience, but it just wasn’t what I was put here to do.

“It’s important to remember that not only are the technicians and service advisor on the same team, but the customer is a part of that team as well.”
—Brian Meyer, general manager, Waterloo Automotive

In October of 2004, we opened our facility in Waterloo, Ill. I came back here to work full time in May of ’05, and now know that this is the job I was meant to do. 

I like being a service advisor for the same reason I liked pumping gas when I was 8. I honest to goodness love the interaction with people.

I’m an early riser. I’m up at 5 a.m. whether I like it or not. I’m never at the shop any later than about 6:15 in the morning. Before the shop opens, I sit down and look at what’s left over from yesterday and what kind of time commitments or restraints I have today—appointments and parts availability.

My two technicians come in at 8 a.m. My guys are great. We are a team, and we only talk on team terms. There are no individuals anywhere in our company.  Within the team, the No. 1 quality of a good service advisor is leadership.

The service advisor is a liaison between the customer and the technician. And it’s important to understand that not only are the technicians and service advisor on the same team, but the customer is a part of that team as well. I stand there in front of the technicians in place of the customer to relay what that customer wants. I’m there to help guide the repair process and leadership is crucial to this.

I think that if you don’t have a service advisor who can lead folks, your shop will tend to struggle.

Mornings are usually the busiest with everybody dropping off vehicles. Between 8 and 10, we usually do about two or three wait appointments, which are your typical oil changes or tire rotations.

If a new customer walks in, that’s when I crank it up another notch.

With brand-new customers, I always show them our place, taking them on a quick one- or two-minute shop tour. I open the door to the shop and let them take a look at the shop floor. I holler at my two technicians, Patrick and Brad, and have them give us a quick wave, just so that person can put a name with a face.

We have all-stars here as far as employees go. I want everyone to know the technicians. I want everyone to know us advisors. I want them to know everybody. That familiarity makes a new customer a returning customer.

A BETTER CHOICE: Meyer says the key to earning a customer’s trust is offering them options for their repairs. Photo by Dennis Bullock

We’ve been very fortunate in the fact that a lot of the customers we had when we first started are still coming in today, and now we’re working on their neighbors, family and friends’ cars. We’ve started a shop rewards program here to encourage those kinds of referrals. If a woman comes in and says her son referred her to the shop, I would call the son right away and say, “Hey thank you so much. I got $20 on this reward card for you. You have no idea how much we appreciate the referral.”

It’s pretty special that we have a lot of customers who keep coming back, so we must be doing something right.

Our technicians examine and test drive vehicles in the morning. By lunchtime, I’ve called all those customers about the recommended service. I lay the groundwork for this call when the customer drops off the car. I’ll say something like, “OK, I understand you have a coolant leak, but I also want you to understand that we’re going to look everything over, because it’s only fair for you to know the entire snap shot of your car before you make any financial decisions.”

It usually makes it a lot easier to call them about everything you see with their vehicle. During that call, I never help the customer decide. What I do is lay out the facts, using a benefits list.

For example, on our benefits list for brakes, we’ll go through a list of options with them. Everybody loves options. Our top option includes a 30-month, 30,000-mile warranty on parts and labor.

That is the option that I always recommend. I tell them honestly that other customers have had the most success with this option. However, if the customer can’t afford the top option, we’ll provide another option that may carry a little bit less of a warranty, but still provides a good quality component.

I don’t ever want to force or scare customers into fixing their cars. I want them to completely understand their options and our recommendations. And if they are having difficulty wrapping their arms around what I’m saying or the point I’m trying to drive home, I’ll schedule a time for them to come out, and we’ll have the car in the air so I can show them. A lot of people are visual people, and when you can see it, the problem makes so much more sense.

Being open, honest and not withholding any information, I feel has allowed our sales to increase year after year.

In the afternoon, the technicians are focusing on repairs. So I make sure they have everything they need, ensuring that all the parts are in their stalls, so they can keep on going from car to car.

I work every day until about 5:30. A lot of times it quiets down after 4:30 when the guys go home, and that gives me a chance to get everything dialed in for the next morning.

Even when the day ends, I still want to be accessible to my customers and to my employees. That means having a phone on me at all times, so customers can get a hold of me whether I’m in the shop or not.

It’s just letting customers know that I’m here for their best interests. I’m in this for the long haul.

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